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Published by Anton Edema
Situated in up country, Ceylon a former Boer POW camp,now a Military Training Bastian
Situated in up country, Ceylon a former Boer POW camp,now a Military Training Bastian

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Anton Edema on Jan 02, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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DiyatalawaMajor Anton Edema1
Brief history of DIYATALAWA(Literally ¥The Watered Plain¦)Diyatalawa lies in a valley between Haputale & Bandarawela,1250m or 4101feet above sea level.6.82
E.It was bare land patana & swamp before the end of the 18
century.Reverend Samuel Langdon & Mrs. Langdon two Wesleyan (Methodist)missionaries leased & set up an orphanage & an Industrial school on thisbarren land. The building complex consisted of an orphanage, Mission house,Hospital & a chapel. This Wesleyan Missionary settlement was named as¥Happy Valley¦. Only other building in the vicinity was ¥Clubhouse¦ on Wilson¨splains. Prettily situated Methodist Chapel was erected on a site off today¨sPolo Grounds.Reverend Samuel was a very hardworking person & he was the first principalof Richmond College Galle. He started the Kandy High School.Soon the tea plantations grew around this barren patana. Government landsurrounding the Happy Valley was given on lease to open up Holidaybungalows.
In 1900 Britain went to war with South African Dutch farmer settlersknown as BOERS. Colonial government selected the Happy Valley asone of the places for the internment of the Boer POW. In April 1900 theWesleyan mission was asked to move out of Diyatalawa. Prisoner ofwar camp was designed & then constructed by the Public worksdepartment under the supervision of District Engineer Kurunegala.
It was in a 5 acre land & meant to hold 2500 POW.PWD completed thework within 3 months. The whole camp had been encircled with doublebarbed £ wire fencing & trenches.4735 POW were held in the camp.
DiyatalawaMajor Anton Edema2
Arc & Flare lamps had been provided to light up the barriers in thenight. Electric lights also had been provided to all the military & staffbuildings. A firewood shoot had been provided & ran parallel with anaerial tramway raised on pylon like structures for conveying stores overa distance of a mile from rail head to QM¨s stores.
A metalled road was also constructed from the railway station to thecamp by the PWD. The first batch of Boer POW landed in Colombo onthe 9
of August 1900 from the ship ¥Mohawk¦ The last batch arrived inJune 1901.The total number interned in the island was 5089.Since thecamp was not originally planned to afford accommodation for quite thislarge number of POW, additions had to be made. Some were sent toUrugasmanhandiya, Mount Lavinia, Hambanthota & Ragama. ThePOW were not all Afrikaners or Boers. There were highly educatedprisoners & Farmer families also held captivity in the POW camp.
The lower road connecting Diyatalawa & Bandarawela was namedBOER road. Many prisoners died here due various reasons & therewas a well kept Boer cemetery with White crosses, but it is no more.
The circling barrier of entanglements increased in course of time acircumference of nearly two miles. The camp was originally planned toaccommodate 2500 POW, with 1000 to guard them, including Staff & labour.Water for the camp was obtained from streams on the hillside flowing throughRoehampton & Kahagolla estates .Pressure break tank above the railway & 4other service tanks were also constructed in close proximity to the camp. It issaid that present Government ¥A¦ bungalow was a Methodist Missionary
DiyatalawaMajor Anton Edema3
Institute with a Medical Dispensary & a dormitory.¦B¦ bungalow was laterbecame the Hospital for the Boers.Present Post Office was earlier known as ¥Rose Cottage¥& was also a Holidaybungalow.
After the Boer war the prisoners were sent back to South Africa in1902.After the departure of Boer prisoners Diyatalawa became aGhost town. Many proposals were made to the government but theGovernor Sir West Ridgeway authorized the abandoned POW camp tobe used as a Rest camp for the Military &
avy: an encampment forthe Ceylon Volunteers £ Later Ceylon Defense force (CDF) & for theCeylon survey Department.
In 1903 Volunteers Annual Camp was transferred fromUrugasmanhandiya to Diyatalawa & the period of the camp extendedfrom 8 to 15 days.Detachments from Ceylon Mounted Infantry, Ceylon Planters Rifles, CeylonLight Infantry, Ceylon Artillery Volunteers, Royal
avy & a British Regiments(West Kent & 98
Infantry) which was stationed at that time participated in thefirst camp.
With the establishment of the Military,
avy & Survey campsDiyatalawa developed into a Garrison town. Civilians who did businesswith the military sometimes named their institutions with military names.¥Happy Valley¦ Stores, ¥Army &
avy Stores¦, ¥Emden¦ Saloon are fewexamples.

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