Port Elizabeth of Yore: An Act of Kindness in a Heartless War

This is the story of a woman who, without consideration of the consequences, assisted Afrikaner women, the “enemy”, who were incarcerated in the concentration camp at Kemsley Park, near the top of Mount Round during the Boer War.

This is an extract of the account by Harry William Rose-Innes of “Miemie” Frielinghaus’ actions entitled “The Face of Destiny”. This is blog is faithful to Rose-Innes original account except that irrelevant information has been omitted.

Main picture: Concentration Camp Memorial in Lennox Road, Glendinningvale

It was the winter month of July 1901 and the tram which ran up Cape Road, in Port Elizabeth, had reached the terminus [near Mount Road], and its passengers were alighting. A slightly built woman in her early forties was the last to do so because she was carrying a napkin-draped basket.

A tram wending its way down Cape Road

“Miemie” Frielinghaus was doing what she did every Sunday afternoon; taking a supply of food to the concentration camp two miles further up the road, for the benefit of the Boer women who were confined there and were living in tents.

Born Fehrsen, the daughter of a Swedish Medical Doctor who had been furthering his studies in Bonn in 1860, she came to South Africa in 1875 and attended the Rhenish Institute in Stellenbosch. Here she met many of the members of the Cape Dutch community extending into Cape Town and environs, who themselves had relatives living far and wide; so the Boer  women herded into the Camp from farms all over the country were of special concern to her.

J.B.M. Hertzog, little Albert’s father

As she trudged to the Camp she was worrying about the Hertzog baby. The son of the Boer, General Hertzog, he had seemed listless and ill the previous week.

Arriving at the camp she went straight to Mrs. Hertzog and delivered her cooked chicken, mos-bolletjies and fresh fruit. One look told her all she needed to know; the baby was seriously ill.

Returning to the Guard House, she requested an interview with Capt. Fenner, the Camp Commandant, whom she knew well.

Albert Hertzog became leader of the Herstigte
Nasionale Party

“I have  come to see you about Mrs Hertzog, wife of the Boer General, Capt. Fenner” , she said.   Her baby son is seriously ill, and he will die unless he       is taken out of the camp.”

Watching “Miemie” Frielinghaus as she  spoke, the Captain knew that, with her medical  back-ground – including two brothers, Dr  Jim  and Dr John in country practice in the Transvaal – her opinion   was to be   trusted. He also knew that , her husband, Heinrich Frielinghaus, who had emigrated from Germany in 1870 at the age of 16, to escape from the Prussianism which he hated, was now a successful Wool broker  and a prominent citizen of the town as well as a leader of the German community.

“What would you like me to do?”  he asked when she had finished talking.

“Allow her to board the Mailboat for Cape Town on Friday and to remain in Cape Town.”

Capt. Fenner  thought  for  a  while  and  then  said:  “Very  well. No useful  purpose  will  be  served   by  allowing the baby to die, and Mrs Hertzog will not be in a position to assist any of  the Boer  Forces.”  “If  you will  sign  the   necessary papers I shall release her, and the baby Albert,  into  your custody on Friday, and provide you with an escort to the docks. “

Mrs. Hertzog  was overcome when the news was given to her by “Miemie” Frielinghaus, and wrote later from Cape Town expressing her deepest  gratitude,  and  saying  that  young  Albert Hertzog was now fully recovered .

Thirty five years later General Hertzog, then Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, passed through Port Elizabeth, and asked her son, “Chappie” Frielinghaus, who had fought for the British Forces in East Africa and France in World War I, and who was now a prominent Wool Broker himself – and a member of both the South African Rugby and Cricket Boards and an M.P.C. for Port Elizabeth – to introduce him to his mother so that he could thank her personally for her kindness to his wife and for saving his son’s life.    

Miemie’s family

HO Chappie Frielinghaus

“Chappie” Frielinghaus was a United Party M.P. for more than 20 years. During W.W.II, his son, Geoffrey, was captured   at Sidi Rezegh while his son John was killed at Gazala and his nephew Harry was captured at Tobruk.

Harry WilliamRose-Innes

The family of “Miemie” Frielinghaus had served their country well, overseas and  in South Africa, where two of their granddaughters served in the Coastal Artillery, one was in the Navy, and another served in the Canteen at 42 Air School, Port Elizabeth.

Early history of Albert Hertzog per Wikipedia

Hertzog was only three months old when the Second Boer War broke out. Initially he stayed with his mother at their home in Bloemfontein, but after four months moved in with her sister in the hamlet of Jagersfontein.[34] After the town was taken by British troops, and their house blown up by dynamite, the family was hoarded onto cattle trucks and taken to the concentration camp at Port Elizabeth. The Hertzog inmates in the camp included baby Albert, his mother Mynie, his paternal grandmother and a number of Albert’s aunts and cousins. They lived in a thin shack of eight square meters.[35] Albert’s seven-year-old cousin, Charles, died of measles only twelve days after arrival. Albert himself nearly succumbed to the disease, and was sent to relatives in Stellenbosch for care and treatment. He stayed in Stellenbosch in the house of his paternal grandfather, Charl Neethling, until the end of the war.[36] Mynie Neethling was visited by Lord Kitchener personally in the Port Elizabeth camp, where he offered her dismissal should she try and persuade her husband to lay down his arms. She refused, and was subsequently sent via ship to the Merebank camp at Durban.[37]Merebank was notorious as one of the camps with the highest fatality rates. After her internment, Mynie Hertzog was prone to illness for the rest of her life.


The Face of Destiny by Harry William Rose-Innes
Early history of Albert Hertzog- Wikipedia

Leave a Comment.