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Boer graves in Ambala

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OUR CORRESPONDENT Chandigarh Published 09.04.07, 12:00 AM

Chandigarh, April 9: The Haryana archaeological department has stumbled upon a 19th-century European cemetery in Ambala.

“The discovery of the cemetery is significant as some British soldiers and even prisoners from the Second Anglo-Boer War are buried there,” said numismatic officer Madhav Acharya.

The Second Boer (farmers) War lasted over two years — from October 11, 1899, to May 31, 1902. It was fought between the British Empire and two independent Boer republics — the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (Transvaal Republic). The two republics were subsequently absorbed into the empire.

Although the war was fought in South Africa, the British transported their ever-increasing prisoners of war across its colonies, including Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Bermuda and India.

The archaeology department realised the cemetery’s importance only after they were told about the graves by a British officer, Brigadier Collied.

The brigadier had visited the cemetery as he wanted to pay tribute to the British soldiers there. He, too, had been unaware that Boer prisoners of war were buried there.

Department officials say that apart from British soldiers, there are graves of 18 prisoners of war. The department has decided to clear the bushes from the area and preserve that portion of the cemetery.

At least three graves of British soldiers — Corporal Arthur William Bailey, Private Sydney Proctor and Private John Hutt — who were part of the 1st Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment have been identified.

Other names on the tombstones, presumably of the prisoners of war, include Ew Von Joger, H.J. Varasewgan, L.P. Boshff, P.C. Cellierr, R.J.J.V. Vuran, F.J. Cronje and C.J.V.D. Merwe.

The cemetery — situated on Jagadhri Road in the Ambala Cantonment area — is managed by the Roman Catholic St Paul’s Church. Spread across 23 acres, it is the biggest burial ground in the northern region with more than 2 lakh graves.

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