ROAD TRIP – Sodwana Bay (12)

War Museum of the Boer Republics (Bloemfontein, Free State Province)

Welcome to our road trip of December 2021. We are travelling by car across South Africa (from the west coast → north coast → KZN south coast → back to the west coast). The distance we will cover, will be around 5,000km (3,106 miles).

Our main purpose for this trip, besides seeing places we have not seen before, is for Berto to scuba dive in Sodwana Bay and then to be a little more adventurous … diving with sharks in the ocean in Umkomaas on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal. We hope to share lots of pictures to show you our beautiful country.

Museum Visit – Day 20:

War Museum of the Boer Republics, Bloemfontein

We only had to travel 450km (279 miles) today to our next overnight stop and thought, while in Bloemfontein, we have time to visit a bit of our own heritage. A visit to the War Museum of the Boer Republics was actually a great way of concluding our road trip.

But before any such excursions could take place, we had to make sure our tummies were filled with a delicious breakfast at the City Lodge Hotel where we stayed for the night.

We were very happy that the sun was shining – it was actually quite hot – and the perfect day to visit the museum and to wander in their beautiful gardens.

War Museum of the Boer Republics:

The War Museum of the Boer Republics (also known as the Anglo-Boer War Museum) was established in 1931 and display items relating to the Anglo-Boer War of 1899 – 1902.


One of the most significant events in the history of South Africa was the Anglo-Boer War of 1899 – 1902. Although the protagonists were Britain and the two Boer Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, the population of South Africa as a whole became embroiled in the war, either directly or indirectly. (Source: Website of War Museum of the Boer Republics).

At the entrance of the museum, there is a sculpture of a ball of wool and knitting needles – a craft the Afrikaner women practiced in the concentration camps.

The wool was made from barbed wire

Unfortunately, the taking of photo’s are not allowed inside the museum. The unique art collection and exhibitions are wonderful and one can see how the course and development of the war unfolds as you progress through the museum. It took us more than an hour to walk through the museum, but I presume it can take you much longer if you read all the amazing material supplied at the exhibitions.

National Women’s Memorial:

President MT Steyn (1896 – 1902) felt strongly that a memorial dedicated to the women and children who suffered during the war had to be erected.

Statue of President MT Steyn

An obelisk of 35.5m (120 feet), with a group of sculptures at its base is prominent in the garden outside the museum … a monument dedicated to the 26,370 women and children that died in the concentration camps.

National Women’s Memorial
Aan onze heldinnen en lieve kinderen – “To our heroines and dear children”
Blue sky above the monument
Both President Steyn and his wife are buried at the foot of the memorial

The story of Emily Hobhouse:

Emily Hobhouse was a British welfare campaigner and anti-war activist. She came to South Africa during the Anglo-Boer war and immediately addressed the terrible conditions in which women and children were held in the concentration camps.

She had persuaded the authorities to let her visit several of the concentration camps and do deliver aid. As a result of her reports on conditions at the camp, a team of investigators was sent to investigate the camps. Overcrowding in bad unhygienic conditions were the causes of 26,370 deaths (of which 24,000 were children under sixteen and infants). After Emily’s report, conditions began to improve, but it was too late for the many women and children who suffered and died. (Source: Wikipedia)

Emily became an honorary citizen of South Africa for her humanitarian work. Although she died in Kensington (UK), her ashes were ensconced in a niche at the National Women’s Memorial.

Resting place of Emily Hobhouse

Garden of Remembrance:

After our visit to the National Women’s Memorial, we turned our attention to the beautiful “Garden of Remembrance”.

Garden of Remembrance
Concentration camps in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer war

Although the garden is beautiful, I was overcome with sadness. We were confronted with the hundreds and hundreds of names of women and children on the walls who died in the concentration camps … some of those children barely saw daylight before they died due to a war that they knew nothing about.

Just one of the many walls with names of women and children who died in concentration camps

We also walked over to the wall with the men’s names who died during the war. It was interesting to see that there were far less soldiers who died than the women and children in the concentration camps.

The names of South African soldiers that fought and died during the Anglo-Boer war

There are quite a few monuments in the Garden of Remembrance. Here are just a few of them depicting scenes from the war.

Die Banneling – “The Exile”
Die Bittereinder – “The Die Hard”
Afskeid – “Farewell”
Agterryer – “Attendant”
Symbolic cemetery

Children’s Memorial Labyrinth:

For our final visit, we entered the Children’s Memorial Labyrinth. I was really overwhelmed when walking around here … in my opinion, wars are unnecessary and no child should suffer due to the disagreements between adults.

The entrance to the Children’s Memorial Labyrinth

Approximately 83% of the casualties in the White and Black concentration camps were children aged 16 and younger. This memorial signifies the tragedy of war and children – testified by the boy and girl standing guard at the entrance of the labyrinth.

Children at the entrance of the labyrinth

The indigenous tree in the centre of the labyrinth is a symbol of life and also a representation of our connectedness with our forefathers. The black on the inside of the surrounding wall represents mourning.

The indigenous tree and black walls

When I walked the labyrinth and saw the words, I was overcome with emotion… the suffering that these children (or any child at any war for that matter) were going through, is just heart breaking! They say to walk a labyrinth brings inner peace and the opportunity to pay tribute … walking this labyrinth was our tribute to thousands of children suffering due to wars in this world!

Here are the words spoken by children (the languages are Afrikaans, English and Sesotho – 3 of the 11 official languages in South Africa – Sesotho being the indigenous language spoken most in the Free State Province):

After walking the labyrinth, I looked towards the wall and the words left me so sad (I have loosely translated it for our English speaking friends) …

“Seen a child today … two months sick. Petite, skinny hands lying in a bundle. Does not want to die because his father is in Ceylon and he has to take care of his mother”

The cruelty of war was truly evident here at the War Museum and we left quite emotional. I am extremely grateful to see how well maintained this place is and urge our fellow South Africans to pay this museum a visit whenever you’re in Bloemfontein.

In our next post (the last one of our road trip series), we will take you to an amazing place in the small town of Vosburg in the Northern Cape – this was the best place to celebrate the end of our road trip! See you guys there!


72 thoughts on “ROAD TRIP – Sodwana Bay (12)

    1. Ek het met rooi gehuilde oe daar weg gestap Tannie Frannie … mens leer van oorlog in Geskiedenis op skool, maar wanneer jy dit so sien – soos hier in die museum – dan is dit ‘n werklikheid! Alhoewel dit vreeslik hartseer was, is ek bly ons het gegaan (en ek’s bly jy was ook daar). En ja, opreg dankbaar dat so mooi is daar!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. It is a matter of some shame that it was the British who first thought up the idea of concentration camps. I am not sure that it’s a widely known fact. A friend of mine who died 2 years ago was in a Japanese concentration camp in WW2. She was a very young child and the experience scarred her deeply. I don’t know why mankind is so bent on self-destruction. Sadly the people who suffer are often not those who actually declare that there must be war. It seems we have learned nothing from history. Thank you for posting this piece.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I was so saddened by seeing the impact that this war had on families (and especially on the young children). It boggles my mind to see how people just turn to war over and over again …
      Thank you for reading and your comments (I was a little bit hesitant in posting this, because I didn’t want to offend anyone …), but in the end I just felt it’s part of our heritage and not something that can be ignored).

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Dis so waar … ek is bly ons word herinner aan hierdie swaarkry (al was dit nou ook so moeilik vir ons om te aanskou … en ons het dit nie eens self ervaar nie). Dankie dat jy ook kom inloer het – ten spyte van die swaarkry 🌸.


    1. Such a horrible time indeed (not just here in South Africa, but in different time slots, also in many other places in the world). And you’re absolutely right Maggie, we need this to be reminded of the injustice of a war … I wish we could learn to be humane towards each other.


  2. I hardly know anything about the Boer War so appreciate your providing context for it. I was thinking that politicians and others who start wars should first have to visit places like this museum. On further thought, I don’t think they care how much misery they inflict.

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  3. The war museum tells a harrowing story of all those men, women and children who lost their lives and I would find it very saddening too. On a brighter note I like the idea of the ball of wool and knitting needles as a sculpture. Great post Corna,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes Marion, I immediately recognised the wool and needles … my mom is very passionate about knitting and wherever she goes, her little basket with wool and needles travel with 😊. It was not an easy visit, but I’m glad we pushed through – we need to be reminded of the injustice of war. Thank you for reading and your comments. Enjoy your weekend, Corna 🌸

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      1. My Mum and Grandma were both avid knitters but even though they spent hours trying to teach me I was hopeless and never progressed from scarves. Whilst Mum knitted I would read or try to solve the cryptic crossword in our daily paper. I got really into unravelling crosswords but nowadays with our papers on our iPads I rarely try! Hope you have a lovely weekend too.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Haha, the same here! I’m hopeless at knitting (my limit is a scarf as well 😊), but like you, I love doing crosswords with her … well, I cheat a little bit because I google to get to the answers. But she taught me to love books and to read as many books as I can and for that I’m grateful for. We can learn so much from our parents 💌.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What a moving post, Corna. First and foremost, museums, galleries and war memorials provide an insight into the history of humankind. They form an important part of our cultural heritage and reflect the changing face of commemoration as well as artistic, social, military and international history. And while no museum can claim to provide a complete picture, the lessons we can learn from past events, wonders and tragedies are priceless. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading this post Aiva, as well as your valued comments. You are so right that we must learn from our history, that is what ultimately forms us into the people we are today. Although it was a difficult visit, I’m glad we went – it was a way for us to pay tribute to our forefathers and the difficulties they experienced in their lives. Enjoy your weekend, Corna 🌸.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Diep treffende plasing hierdie, Corna. Dankie daarvoor. Dat n land so pragtig soos hierdie deur die jare – voor, tydens en na die Anglo-Boereoorlog – soveel bloedvergieting, twis en onderdrukking moes deurgaan. Ek wens net ons kan leer uit die verlede en beter doen in die toekoms. Maar ons politici se brode word gebotter wanneer ons vir mekaar kwaad en bang bly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dankie Dries. Ja, terwyl ons nou weer so bietjie deur SA gereis het in Desember, het ons gesien hoe mooi hierdie land en sy mense is. Dis hartseer om oorlog en onmin te sien broei … sal ons ooit leer uit die verlede, ek wonder? Soos jy se, die politici maak dit nie altyd maklik om van mekaar te hou nie – maar dalk moet ons net aanhou probeer 🙂.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It is such a tragedy to hear that so many children were casualties in the concentration camps. It seems so unfair that innocent children should be the ones to suffer for all this. Hopefully we as a society learn from our mistakes in the past and try to do better and be better people. Thanks for sharing. Linda

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your valued thoughts Linda 💌. Yes, the suffering of innocent people during a war is not something that should leave anyone untouched. It was difficult to walk through this museum without being overcome with sadness … but we should not forget and hopefully, like you’ve said, learn from our past.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I didn’t know much about this war – it seems like a struggle for dominance by colonizing powers, so cruel and terrible. I was so moved by the stories of the women and children who suffered in the concentration camps and lost their lives. Will humans never learn to live together? Thanks for this story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes Ruth, you’re right, it was much about colonising powers. It was just so ironic to read how many children and women died (and they didn’t even fight in the war). Thank you so much for reading – it was one of our most difficult posts to put together 😔.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. To be honest, history just confuse me! We do the same bad things over and over again to each other – it seems we’re non the wiser! But you’re right, the ball of wool is a brilliant structure … so typical of our Afrikaner women.


  8. Ek was baie jare gelede as ‘n kind by die Vroue museum, kan ook nie juis veel daarvan onthou nie. Dit is so ongelooflik hartseer wat almal gedurende oorloe moet deurgaan. Veral as dit kinders is wat daarby betrokke was. Ek sit hier en lees met ‘n knop in my keel. Baie dankie dat jy julle ervaring hier met ons gedeel het!
    Op ‘n vroliker noot, ek hou sommer baie van die bol wol en breinaalde!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ja Aletta, oorloe is, volgens my, onnodig en veroorsaak net hartseer. Ons besoek nie normaalweg sulke plekke nie, want ek raak tog te hartseer wanneer ek sien en lees van al die swaarkry … maar om een of ander rede het ons net gevoel om hier besoek af te le (en ek’s bly ons het, al was dit so emosioneel). Absoluut mal gewees oor daardie bol wol en breinaalde – dis nou ‘n kunsvorm wat nie sommer gaan uitsterf nie ☺️.
      Dankie dat jy kom saamlees het.


  9. I can just imagine the sadness that you felt when you read about the hundreds of children, women and men who died under such horrific circumstances and unfortunately brought on by other humans. Thank you for your post, helping also that these souls are not forgotten ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  10. LOVED this post! I’m a history buff and I love going to war museums, memorials, wherever I travel. I get to learn so much from the wars that the countries fought, and it’s a great reminder that there is nothing glorious about wars.

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  11. As kind baie in Bfn gekom en is daar gebore. Soveel maal was ons by die Vrouemonument…..die mans was agter dip en twak aan, nes in 2020, en die vroue en kinders moes die gelag betaal. Ek skaam my soms.

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    1. So, jy is dus ‘n Vrystater … goeie mense! Ja, dis soms maar ‘n geroei en stoei tussen die mans, vrouens en kinders, ne? Ons kan nie die geskiedenis verander nie – my hoop is dat mens sal leer hieruit en dinge anders in die toekoms sal doen (maar dit lyk nie altyd of ons geleer het nie …)


      1. Mans verander nie en ek het net twee mansvriende, bietjie moeg vir “dronk witmense” as ek kamp, of op enige ander plek. En ek is mooi groot, ek drink al my kouk net so skoon.

        Gebore Vrystater, ja, weer sewe jaar daar gewoon maar het in die Noord Boland grootgeword.

        Ek weet nie wat dit met mans en veral bier is nie. Met matigheid is dit regtig oukei, maar mense vat kiste drank Weskus toe en die veld en see, ook sand, is vol glas. Wat nou as jy ‘n hoofaar afsny terwyl jy in die see rondvroetel? Jy is dood voor jy by jou kar is.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ja, dis soms ‘n steen des aanstoots, ne. Ek weet nie of ons net gelukkig is nie, maar het nog selde naby (of saam) met die dronkes kampeer … ons is in elk geval meeste van die tyd ver weg van ander kampeerders. Ja-nee, sou jy dit tot by jou motor maak met ‘n slagaar wat afgesny is, gaan jy in elk geval sukkel op die grondpad en daarna om ‘n hospitaal in die hande te kry …

        Liked by 1 person

      3. By ‘n baie bekende hospitaal in die Kaap, een van daai wat baie duisende per dag kos, het die suster oor die gang na my Pa geroep en gesê “meneer, jou vrou gaan mos nie weer huis toe nie….”

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      4. Ek kom uit daardie omgewing (het 11 jaar by bekende privaat hospitaal in die Kaap gewerk) en was soms verstom oor hoe personeellede (menende susters/verpleegsters) met pasiente en familie gepraat het … my werk was om dan die situasie te probeer ontlont … moeilik gewees!


      5. Goeiste, so jy weet waarvan ek praat! Lag nou eers lekker: die Sr kom staan en gesels moederlik met my, nadat sy my eers uit die slaap waarna ek heeldag gesmag het, gewek het. Dit was met beroerte 12. Seg die Mama vir my, seker twintig keer, ek moet die muscle memory in my brein gebruik. En ek dog: Antie, dis oorlat sy spiere in jou brein het dat jy so vrek dom is om dit vir my te sê. Waar in die brein kry sy spiere?? 😂😂😂😂😂

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      6. Op elke vakansie was daar iemand wat altyd van iewers af aangestap gekom het en dan nie nee wou aanvaar nie. Ek gun ouens ‘n plesiertjie maar as die clutch begin gly, moet hulle gaan piepie, die kat uitsit en gaan slaap. Kyk maar, daai ouens speel râgby en nie rugby nie. En met hulle sit en beplan ek heeltyd waar die beste plek is om ‘n opdringerige dronke uit te slaan. Jy kry dit tussen handwerkers en direkteure, eweredig versprei. Dink ek moet blog hieroor

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  12. Hehehehe….ek het eendag op Kaapstadstasie ‘n sekerheidswag gearresteer nadat sy ‘n straatkind summier van agter aangerand het met ‘n knuppel. Die kind was dertien jaar al honger en ek was besig om vir haar kos te koop. Toe strip ek my onderdeel vir die sekerheidswag, een van daai met ‘n 32 uniform oor ‘n 52 lyf. Haar gemarsjeer tot by SAPS op die stasie. Toe dreig haar unie my en ek dreig om hulle te beswadder omdat hulle ‘n a)swart (bruin…) b) meisie c) summier aangerand het. Hulle het wyslik besluit om dit nie verder te voer nie.

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      1. Ek het eendag drie kapers afgeweer in Seepunt, en toe wil die blokkop van ‘n wit poliesman my toesluit. Die bleddie fool het vergeet hy het ‘n vrou en kinders wat nog moes kos kry. ‘n Vroulike beampte kon na rede luister en my aanvallers is gearresteer. Verskoon, maar ervaring het gemaak dat dokters en poelieste by my onder verdenking bly vir stjoepitgeit. Soos ek sê, ervaring.

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      2. Presies. Maar die enetjie se ma trek haar nog aan, anders hoe kom jy werk toe met poniesterte weerskante van haar kop soos ‘n driejarige. Druk met haar wysvingers dat die kneukels wit raak, onder haar ken en sê “Oom, jou adenoids sit dáár!!” Bly weg van my blindederm af, meisiekind, jy kan ‘n vreeslike tragedie veroorsaak. Maar, soos my pa altyd vir homself sê, “Meneer, hou u bek.” Veral wanneer sekere politici op die TV nuus verskyn

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Een blondie met ‘n wilgerlatlyfie en ‘n luisterkettie om die nek kom gee my haar professionele opinie, terwyl ek van naarheid my stuitjie lê en uitdroog. Basale ganglia is ‘n riller, jy ry Ratanga se Cobra op jou linkersy. Kom vertel dié kindjie mos vir my die was in my ore vorm balletjies wat soos albasters in my brein rondrol. Ek ken mos self ‘n paar uitstekende dokters, maar jy kry tappets ook op vreemde plekke. Die kind het duidelik al ‘n paar klasse gebank. Clifton 4, oftewel Imvana Beach is toe nie ‘n universiteit nie. (Imvana beteken skaap in Zulu, die rooikeppies het mos een daar gaan slag.)

        Ek mis my dokter wat verhuis het. My beroerte het begin in haar spreekkamer en sy het daardie leeuwyfiekyk in haar oë gekry, daai een wat sê: Omie, jy gaan nie vanoggend hier uitklaar nie. NOT ON MY WATCH. Haar soort is yl gesaai, maar ek dink tot die doodsengel loop maar lig vir haar.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Ja, die goeie dokters is daar, maar soos jy se, yl gesaai. En daar leer ek nou iets … ‘imvana’ is ‘n skaap (o ja, ek onthou ook vaagweg die insident van die skaap slag op Clifton) 😬.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Ons dokter in die Vrystaat, Theuns van Aswegen, sou deur vol riviere ry en drake onthoof vir ‘n keelseer agt myl buite die dorp. Oor modderige glypaaie in die nag, sonder 4×4. Drs Piet Nel, Wicht en Domisse ook, en dan sit ons heel beste een in die tronk, want hy was toe nooit ‘n dokter nie. Maar in die tronk dokter hy toe sy selmaats. 😂 Hospitaal in Bellville is vernoem na die legendariese Dr wat met kar en perd die Swartland en Sandveld deurrys het om lewens te red – Dr Karl Bremer.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. What a brilliant post and one that obviously cost you quite a lot emotionally to write. Given the subject matter I am hardly surprised. Sadly I can only understand about half the replies as I do not speak, read or write Afrikaans but I did previously know that it was the British who invented the concentration camp and I can assure you that it is something that sits rather uncomfortably with me especially in light of the way we quite rightly excoriated the Nazis for their extreme and barbaric use of the concept before and during WWII.

    I have written about some horrible places like this (S-21 and Chuong Ek in Cambodia for example) and whilst it is hard to do emotionally I really do believe it is worth doing to let others who may not necessarily know of such things to become aware of them.

    Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Fergy, good to hear from you again! Yes, this was an epic road trip at end of last year – we saw parts of our own country we have not been to before (great memories). We normally don’t visit places like war museums (it’s just too emotional for me) … but since both of us studied the Anglo Boer War so much (me in school and Berto with all his research), we just felt the need to visit this museum in Bloemfontein. It was hard, but I have renewed respect towards our forefathers … I’m glad we took the time to go there.
      Thank you for your comments, it’s greatly appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

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