Friday, 25 March 2011

The Boer in the Box, 1901

Andries and his box

Andries Smorenburg was one of the over 5,000 Boer Prisoners of War sent to St. Helena between April 1900 and February 1902. In December 1901 he made a crate for himself marked "Curios”, ”Handle with Care” and “This Side Up” and "mailed" himself from Saint Helena on the north-bound Union Castle Mail Ship SS Goth.  He prepared his crate by labelling it with a false address in Stroud, Gloucestershire and then packed it with clothing, matches, and enough food and water for 20 days.  Armed with a rough map of Southampton dock, he climbed inside and was loaded aboard.  Despite his labels the crate was tossed about and overturned on board Smorenborg was concussed and lost most of his water.  Having failed to appear at roll-call his disappearance was linked to the mysterious crate and the recent departure of the Goth.  The telegraph cable from St. Helena to Ascension had been laid the previous year so Ascension was warned to look out for him.  In the event  he was discovered by Captain John Attwood on Christmas Day when the ship was out at sea, landed at Ascension, handed over to the authorities and returned to St. Helena.
Photograph courtesy of: 
Accession Number KO1466/10-077 other details from:

Andries under Escort outside Jamestown Goal

The New York Times of 27 December 1901 reported as follows: Boer tried to escape in a box.

ASCENCION, Dec 26 - The British steamer, Goth, from South African ports, arrived here today. A Boer prisoner, who was smuggled on board the vessel in a box at St Helena, was handed over to the British naval authorities here.

I believe that the box was taken from St. Helena and the Smorenburg family gave it to Miss Anna Smith of the Johannesburg Museum, now Museum Africa, but I have been unable to confirm this.

A cropped version of the goal picture appears in Emily Jackson's "St Helena The Historic Island" London 1903.
The two lower photographs are taken from:

1 comment:

BOEREBOY said...

I remember as a child my Gran talking us to the museum, called the Africanna museum then to see the crate that Andries escaped in, so can confirm that the crate was donated to the museum.