#Writephoto – No shade or anything else

The children and their mothers walked through the camp gates.

Their eyes widened in shock as they gazed at the sea of white, bell-shaped tents pitched in straight lines at equal intervals all over the large and dusty field. It had once been veld but the grass had been hacked away leaving barren, exposed earth between the tents and in the cooking area. There was not a single tree in sight to provide welcome relief from the sun which shone down harshly, even during the winter months.

There are so many tents!

A small number of defeated looking men and large numbers of thin and raggedy women and children sat or lay listlessly in the dirt among the tents. Marta could see a few black house servants and farmworkers scatted among them. None of them seemed to have any sort of useful occupation.

Marta was shocked at the filthy state of the people. Did they not have soap and water to keep themselves clean?

A tannie [respectful term for an older woman] roused herself and came over to them.

“I’m Mrs De Wet. Come this way”, she said, leading them towards one of the tents. As they walked, Marta noticed a number of tree stumps, like keloid scars on the earth.

“Where have all the trees gone?”

“They were cut down and their wood used for fires to cook food and boil water. There are none left now.”

The woman approached one of the tents. “There is space for you in this one,” she said. “Mrs Odendaal and her son are currently the only people living here.”

She looked at Ardrina and Dorthea. “It will be a tight fit as you have brought your servants with you. No extra rations or blankets are provided for servants,” she said. “Did the Khakis tell you that?”

Sannie nodded that they had.

The front flap of the tent was tightly closed. The tannie opened it and gestured to them to enter. Marta’s first impression was of neatness despite the dim lighting and stuffiness inside the tent. A smell of sickness and impending death hung in the oppressive air.

A women in her thirties knelt on the floor next to a makeshift mattress. Her small son lay on the mattress, weak and frail. His flushed face and the bright, red rash that marred his white skin indicated his illness.

“He can’t bear the light,” the mother said, by way of explanation for keeping the flap closed.

“What is wrong with him?” asked Marta. She already knew but she needed to be sure. Her whole being shrank away from what she already feared.

“He has measles. It is rife here in the camp.”

Marta looked at Sannie, aghast. Their two families and their house servants had always lived a rural life and had little immunity to such illness. It was bad enough to deal with the multitude of biting insects and vermin but how could they deal with this?

Discouragement filled Marta’s heart as she walked around the camp, stopping to speak to the other women. She averted her face in disgust from the few men who had clearly deserted their commandos. She was proud of the fact that her husband was a bittereinder [bitter ender].

She quickly discovered that water was in short supply and some of the pumps were broken and had not been repaired. Animals, both dead and alive, had polluted the scanty water resources. Other prisoners quickly confirmed that all the available fuel had already been stripped from the area inside the camp so making a fire to boil water had become impossible. Very few inmates had utilities to hold the water for boiling even if fuel had been obtainable.

Written for Sue Vincent’s weekly write photo challenge. You can join in here: https://scvincent.com/2019/04/25/thursday-photo-prompt-shade-writephoto/

38 thoughts on “#Writephoto – No shade or anything else

  1. You’ve touched on some relevant issues, Robbie. We have an outbreak of measles (something long thought eradicated) here in Canada and I’ve heard horrible stories about refugee camps.
    A thought-provoking piece ❤

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I feel weird liking your comment 🙂
        Were you immunized, Robbie? I remember getting a slight case, but nothing serious. When I was going through the invitro process to have my daughter, the specialist warned me to get a booster against German Measles which can be dangerous for babies.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I was not inoculated against measles. I don’t think there were measles vaccinations in the UK in 1972. Both my boys have been inoculated. Some people are scared of the MMR vac (measles, mumps and rubella) as it has been linked to autism in children. I had German measles when I was 17 years old. I had that really badly too.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. You must be wriitng about concentration camps during the Boer War, another terrible chapter of history swept under the carpet; even more easily forgotten with WW1 taking over everyone’s thoughts. What a nightmare it would have been for any mother.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A period often depicted as totally evil, but in fact mainly due to bungling incompetence on the part of the British. One can’t really blame them for trying to eliminate this source of succour and support for the enemy commandos, but the way they went about it was incompetent and inhumane.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it is true what you have said here but war often degenerates into mistreatment of others. The concentration camps in Europe and Japan were also terrible. Unfortunately, the boers also made some strategic military errors it seems. Otherwise the war may have ended differently.


  4. Interesting that you didn’t know about the measles outbreak here in the US. They’ve closed a number of schools where parents still refuse to get their children vaccinated. It’s a huge issue here in New York.
    This also reminded me of refugees everywhere, fleeing violence and ecological disaster and getting turned away over and over again. Harsh and sad. (K)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The overspill from war to civillians ravages families, strips communities of resources and brings disease. The Boer war was the first reported one; sure enough we know it happened before as it has in one form or another in every war since. Another superbly evocative write Robbie, war serves no man well … it time it was learnt.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. powerful writing, you took us there … the British also used Australians as canon fodder, what happened at Gallipoli was criminal and inhumane … but karma has turned full circle on them!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. yes I’ve only heard one story about that … Breaker Morant … we rush off wherever HM or big brother send us, no brains to think or act for ourselves we simply obey without question!

        Liked by 1 person

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