We wrote about the family of Charles Stentiford and Sarah Warren
in Issue 44 and briefly mentioned that his eldest son, another Charles,
had made the Army his career.
The 1891 Census shows young Charles at the age of 18 as a
regular soldier in the
Devonshire Regiment, stationed at the Higher Barracks in Exeter. At that
time, the Regiment consisted of a mixture of Regulars and Volunteers.
Small groups of volunteers met regularly in their local area for drill and shooting
contests then the groups came together at annual training camps to show
off the skills they had acquired and to learn to work as a cohesive unit.
They were paid a retainer for the remainder of the year, during which they
followed their normal occupation. The theory was that in times of trouble
they could be drawn upon to support the Regulars but this was only to be on a
strictly voluntary basis.
When the Boer war broke out in the October of 1899, the regular
soldiers of the Devonshire Regiment were ordered to embark for South
Africa under the command of their General, Sir Redvers Buller VC. These
were not battle-hardened troops but soldiers who had mainly seen service
in India and other parts of the Empire in times of peace. Everyone
expected that what was seen here as a few farmers making a nuisance of
themselves would soon be put down and
the troops would be home for Christmas but everyone was wrong. The war
dragged on for nearly 3 years with very heavy loss of life on both sides.
Both sides took many prisoners and at first, most captives received
reasonable treatment in compounds offering some shelter but as food and medical supplies ran
out, and rumours began to circulate of atrocities, many captured men
received short shrift from their captors with some being shot out of hand.
were sent as far away as Bermuda where they were kept in such harsh conditions
that many prisoners did not survive their captivity.
Stentiford was captured in the early
stages of the war at the Battle of Colenso along with other members of the Devonshire
Regiment. They were taken to a railway station called Waterval not far from Pretoria in the heart of Boer Territory.
There, some 4000 British prisoners were housed in sheds in the sidings.
Officers were held separately in Pretoria.
From the Anglo-Boer War website:
"The hospital at the Racecourse was used for wounded and sick
prisoners until the fall of Pretoria. The officers remained at the
Staats Model School until 16 March 1900 when they were moved to
their new quarters known as the Birdcage at Daspoort.
The welfare of the prisoners was controlled by a board of management
consisting of four persons. They were Louis da Souza, Commandant
Opperman, directly responsible for the safe custody of the
prisoners, Dr Gunning, who was Opperman's assistant and Hans Malan.
Opperman was replaced by a Mr Westerink in March 1900.
The 129 officers and 36 soldiers detrained at the Staats Model
School were released on the 5th of June 1900. On the 6th of June
Colonel T C Porter's Brigade was ordered to affect the release of
the men confined at Waterval. A squadron of Greys under Captain
Maude finally released some 3187 men.
It was found that 900 prisoners had been removed by the Boers from
Waterval on the 4th of June. These men were now detained at
Nooitgedacht. They were eventually released by the Earl of Dundonald
on the 30th of August 1900.
When General French entered Barberton in September 1900, he released
the final group of prisoners namely twenty-three officers and
fifty-nine soldiers whom the Boers had removed from Nooitgedacht.
Most of them had been confined in a barbed wire enclosure while some
were housed in the local goal."
There was no agency like the Red Cross which could act over and
above the combatants to safeguard the interests of those captured on the
field of battle. As the war in South Africa descended into chaos, the
British became involved in another war half a world away in China and
you can tell by our newspapers of the period, how that replaced the
Boer War as an object of public concern. And now the atrocities really
did occur. Both sides shot the wounded on the field of battle because
dealing with them seemed too difficult to arrange . . . . . and the
British, and it may surprise you to learn that it was the British, invented
the concentration camp.
women and children in a British concentration camp
And the worse thing for both sides was that no-one
back home had any idea what was happening to their loved ones. In
Britain, The War Office published sketchy casualty lists on a weekly
basis but these were usually inaccurate. Initially, Charles Stentiford was
posted as "missing" so that no-one knew if he was dead or
alive - he simply had not answered to his name at the roll call.
On 5 Jun 1900, Lord Roberts with some 50,000 men
made a triumphal entry into Pretoria and captured it. It was only after the release of
the prisoners from their camps that anyone could know the names of those
who had survived imprisonment. It was another 3 - 5 weeks before lists
of names began to be issued to the press in London and further time passed
before this information filtered through to the provinces - an agonising period
of waiting for the families of the men involved.
From The Devon Weekly
8 Jun 1900
to which place the British prisoners were removed some months ago, is
the second station on the railway line to Pretoria. The prisoners, to
the number of about four thousand, were housed here in sheds, with the
exception of the officers who were kept in Pretoria. It is reported that
they have been released and since General French was to the north of the
town on Monday, it is probably by him that they have been liberated.
total number of missing and prisoners, according to the latest official
return, was 4,348 non-commissioned officers and men and 178 officers,
excluding those who have been recovered or released, but many, we know,
are in hospital.
officers and 3,500 non-commissioned officers and men are now safe in our
camps. However, the retreating Boers have carried off some 900 men. They
had intended taking away all the prisoners but the arrival of the
victorious British Army frustrated their plans.
From The Devon Weekly Times
13 July 1900
The War Office on Tuesday
issued the fourth instalment of the lists of prisoners recovered at
Pretoria. It included the following men:
|1711 Colour Sergeant C. Smith
||4872 Private W. Heale
|4441 Sergeant Boyd
||2001 Private C. Heard
|1947 Sergeant W. J. Wade
||2752 Private F E Hemming
|3210 Corporal W. Frost
||5049 Private G Kitson
3861 Corporal Channon
|2006 Private H Kelly
|2385 Lance Corporal R. H. Arbury
||2025 Private P Murphy
|4737 Corporal J, Longdon
||3241 Private G Hobbs
|4493 Drummer G. Ellacott
||2033 Private J Richards
|1863 Private A. Allen
||3129 Private H Slade
|2633 Private J. J. Billing
||3671 Private J Snook
|3741 Private W E Bobley
||3171 Private C. Stentiford*
|2015 Private Breadmore
||2938 Private W Sweetland
|2854 Private A. Bulley
||4966 Private G Batstone (in hospital)
|3463 Private C. G. Hancock
||2371 Private H. Tennant
|1094 Private M Hayes
||2206 Private J Wren
|* Charles married Mary Cobley in 1902 and died in Exeter in the December
Quarter of 1938 aged 65.
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