Concentrated Death and Destruction II
New stories about Ouma Lampen surfaced during some fascinating phone conversations I had with family. At one stage I thought, jislaaik, these stories could come straight from a book, “Murder by Beskuit”! Boer women took their beskuit (rusks, biscotti) very seriously! You risked your life if you messed with their raw dough still in the ovens. Remember Emmie’s story of the dough fight that I wrote about last time? Ouma Hannie apparently also tackled a man with a pan of raw beskuit, and she did so violently enough to stuff a good helping of the hot dough down his shirt/pants. He must have tried to mess with her in a bad way!
After her sisters Ousus, Nakkie and Emmie and their kids were rounded up by the Kakies and escorted out of Rustenburg, Ouma Hannie gave birth to the littlest Lampen, Hendrik de la Rey, on November 29, 1900. We know Emmie and the others spent about another seven months in the area before finally being taken to Mafeking concentration camp, but I lost track of Ouma Hannie’s precise whereabouts at that last November 1900 roundup. Since there does not seem to be any other written account of Hannie’s life, I can only try put together a possible journey for her based on oral history from us grandchildren, and the camp & death data found on the Heystek Stamboom.
With a new baby and four other young children, Hannie was taken captive sometime between December 1900 and April 1901. Some of her children/grandchildren remember Ouma Hannie being taken to “Rietfontein”. The two oldest boys, Geert and Jan, were eight and six years old now. Did Oupa Wijtse take them with him on commando at this stage? If so, they would have become “agterryers”, riding behind the commando and taking care of the horses during skirmishes. Remember, the men had some contact with their wives in town every now and then, and even tried to intervene in the captures of their families by the English when they could. They could not support their families while on commando, and often had no choice but to see them go to these camps. Even so, within months of Ouma being taken captive, the three youngest Lampen children had died. Illness, on top of malnutrition, claimed the lives of all three within the spate of about ten days. Johannes Lampen was a little over three years old; Anna Maria was two; Hendrik de la Rey was less than six months old.
Add to Hannie’s grief a situation where she had to defend herself against a man’s harrassment by hitting him over the head with a lead pipe wrapped in newspaper—obviously a planned self defense! Maybe he had harrassed her before, or maybe she felt the need to be on the defense after others had been harrassed? It makes for a funny annecdote to talk about our fiery “vuurvreter” Ouma now, but put yourself in her shoes then! This incident apparently necessitated the Dutch Embassy and the church in Holland (Wijtse’s family?) intervening on Hannie’s behalf, as she was being sent to another concentration camp (the details are very sketchy here, if we can dig out more I will follow up on this story.) Did Ouma end up in Merebank, where the children died as a result of illness picked up at Rietfontein? The Heystek Stamboom website lists their names and dates of deaths, but we are not sure where the info came from originally. Ouma Hannie was released from the concentration camp and travelled to Holland with the Lampens’ surviving boys, Geert and Jan. If the boys had been with Oupa Wijtse all this time, I wonder how they met up with Ouma again? Hopefully we will be able to find ships manifests for them, giving us more clues about their timeline.
Ouma and the two boys stayed with family in Holland for ten months before returning to Oupa Wijtse in South Africa. A while back I had posted a photo of Ouma Hannie in her tradidtional Zeeland dress, wondering where she got the dress from. Now it makes more sense – it must have been while she was with our family in Holland. I presume Oupa Wijtse’s sister, Fenia de Koning and her family, were the ones taking care of them? It made me look at Ouma’s Zeeland-dress photo again, this time with the understanding that this was a young 29-year old mother, traumatized by the war and grieving for her babies.
Finding Rietfontein Camp:
I have searched like crazy, and others have kindly joined in the search, but none of us could find any official concentration camp record for any of the Lampens anywhere. The concentration camp records are known to be incomplete, sadly. Rietfontein does not exist as a known concentration camp, but an archeological article mentions a “Rietfontein Camp” as the British military headquarters for Gen. Baden-Powell, just south of Hartbeesfontein. It also mentions the responsibility of the Lincolnshire Regiment to round up women and children from nearby farms, after which they were brought to the Rietfontein camp and then sent on to other concentration camps.
There is another mention of a Rietfontein farm near Irene too, but nothing that would suggest the farm was turned into a concentration camp. (https://samilitaryhistory.org/vol113dp.html )
Previously published on: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Lampens/