I have had similar thoughts about South African Colonials and resistance to diseases such as enteric, and I think it may at least sometimes have been lifestyle rather than an immunity to enteric that was the significant factor.
I found some evidence for this when I was looking into the history of the Border Mounted Rifles, the militia regiment from southern Natal. No. 4 (Port Shepstone) Squadron included a relatively high number of German and Norwegian settlers, with most having arrived in the 1880's and so they were new to the country. In the official history of the Border Mounted Rifles by Goetzsche, he recorded that while "No fewer than 180 members of the Regiment were in hospital at one time during January, [strangely] enough only No. 4 Squadron remained fairly well up to strength." One of the Norwegians in the regiment reported that at the end of the Siege only 26 men were fit, of whom eight were Norwegians.
Since there was no question of immunity having built up over generations, it suggests that the Norwegians and Germans were more careful about cleanliness and other hygienic habits than the Anglo-Saxons in the regiment.
Brett Hendey wrote: Indeed, Berenice!
The high death rate from enteric during the Siege of Ladysmith was almost inevitable given the circumstances of the Siege, but I have wondered about the conditions in Bloemfontein after it fell to the British. My impression may well be faulty, but the town does seem to have become a very unhealthy place even without siege conditions. Perhaps Elmarie has facts about the death rate there?
Some 1140 men died in Bloemfontein from March to June 1900, all but 21 to disease and illness. As I understand it the issue was not Bloemfontein itself but the conditions on the march to Bloemfontein when the men drank fetid water, were on half rations in the hot sun with little rest; they bought the infection with them.
With regard to Boer hygiene I have read British accounts that comment on how filthy Boer camp grounds were. Whether this led to sickness among commandos I don't know.
When I did some research on the deaths of the soldiers I came across these info:
The manoeuvre demanded the use of every available form of transport that could be obtained. Transport for supplies, including that for the sick and wounded was kept to a minimum.(7) When it entered Bloemfontein, the British Army became paralysed by typhoid. Within a month 4 000 - 6 000 troops had succumbed to the disease. The hospitals that had moved apace with the army were field hospitals, which were only supplied with ground sheets and blankets, and a few stationary hospitals which were only supplied with stretchers.( One can imagine what would happen if 4 000 patients with typhoid were to be precipitated on Bloemfontein today!
Every available space was used for typhoid hospitals, including the Raadzaal, churches and school buildings. This was the chaotic situation which confronted a visiting British Parliamentarian, Mr Burdett-Coutts, who reported on it emotionally in letters to The Times. In addition to statements which he made about the situation which were factually correct, he also made unwarranted accusations against the R.A.M.C. which started the so-called 'Hospitals Scandal' in South Africa.( It was alleged that Britain had sent out the best of her men to fight for the Empire who, when they were in need of basic care were denied it. This resulted in the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry under the Chairmanship of Lord Romer which heard evidence before the war was concluded and published an extensive report which led to considerable improvements in British military medical organisation. (10)
Although Britain lost only 6,000 men in action, a further 14,000 had died of typhoid. In addition, of the 120,000 Boer civilians imprisoned in concentration camps, 20,000 had died of disease. It was clear from the fatalities that the army had still not learned the value of good hygiene, a lesson preached fifty years earlier by Florence Nightingale and others.
I have 212 names on my list of soldiers who have died in the Royal Victoria Military Hospital, Netley in the UK and a list of 286 names who have died at sea. Most of them died from Enteric fever contracted in South Africa during the war. Some of the soldiers were also send to the "D BLOCK" [Victoria House Psychiatric hospital in Netley due to Post-Combat Syndromes.
Thank you Meurig and Elmarie. Contributors to this forum know everything there is to know about the ABW!
I was shocked when I read about the deaths from disease in the 45th Regiment in the 1820's and 1830's, and I did think that, especially after the Crimean War and Florence Nightingale, military medical care would get a great deal better. Some facts about the ABW have shown that I was mistaken. I believe that the fault lies with the unreformed element in the officer class that were still well represented during the ABW. They clearly had little knowledge of appropriate military tactics, and now it seems the same applied to hygiene and medical care. A prime example was General Buller. In spite of often reading about how much he cared for the other ranks serving under him, which may have been unusual for men of his class, he seemed to lead his life on active service cocooned from them, sipping champagne in sanitary isolation. He did not learn from his own past experience - a courageous and successful mounted infantryman, whose army in 1899 almost by chance had only a few companies of Imperial mounted infantry, but otherwise had to rely on Colonial regular and irregular regiments to provide this essential service. Similarly, the shortage of Imperial stretcher bearers, hospital orderlies, nurses and doctors was made up for by Colonials. Even after Ladysmith the inaptly named Imperial Bearer Corps and Imperial Hospital Corps were largely made of Colonials.
There were of course exceptions to the men responsible for the situation outlined by Elmarie - but too few to make a difference.
Rimington banned water carts from his columns because they could not be adequately cleaned out. Instead men used buckets which held sufficient quantities for daily use. Of course, clean water then had to be found every day, not a bad discipline though.