A little town with with a BIG significance!
Bethulie played an important role throughout the War, as it was the first Free State town reached by the invading British forces, on 15 March 1900.
There was great drama as the Boers tried to blow up the road bridge across the Orange River, and after a three-day standoff, the Boers had to admit failure. This meant that the British forces managed to get across the river fairly quickly, and thereby bring supplies to their their starving troops who had reached Bloemfontein after an epic march across the Free State. See the Themes page, for the "Bethulie's Battles".
The town has a large concentration of sites associated with the war with the majority being readily accessible.
Concentration camp and the original cemetery
The Bethulie concentration camp was one of the largest and most notorious camps during the war. The cemetery associated with the camp was moved during the construction of the Gariep Dam. Although very little remains of the original cemetery site, it is very atmospheric, and there are several relics. The concentration camp memorial was erected directly south of the original cemetery. The memorial was never completed, but remains as an startling landmark in the austere landscape.
The laundry site ("wasgat")
Given the difficult conditions of life in the camp, even the simplest tasks became daunting. The camp inmates had to do their laundry in a waterhole (a natural rock cistern) in the camp. This site can still be visited.
Used by thousands of camp inmates ,,,
The only concentration camp memorial financed by the British
A bleak windswept site
The place to start: The Pelissier House Museum in Bethulie
This little museum contains a wealth of material, showcasing Bethulie's rich history, and includes the Anglo-Boer War. The museum is run by an NGO, and its building, erected in 1835, is a national monument. This building was erected as the residence of the reverend J.P.Pellisier, the French missionary of the Paris Mission Organisation.It is situated at 1 Voortrekker Street. The museum is not always open, but please contact the Curator, Ms Trudie Venter, at cell 083 630 8849 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here for a full description of the Museum.
Also contact Trudie for a copy of her book, Bethulie en die Anglo-Boereoorlog.
The "new" concentration camp cemetery and memorial
At the time of the construction of the Gariep Dam a decision was taken to exhume the entire cemetery and to move the remains and headstones to a location that will not be affected by the new dam. The new concentration camp cemetery was erected north- east of the town on a low hill.
Bethulie town cemeteries
The existing town cemetery contains several graves associated with the War; and the Pellissier Museum site shelters the graves of the missionary, Jean-Pierre Pellissier, and his family.
A time capsule into Bethulie's past
... by Trudie Venter
... grow naturally amongst the gravestones
Representing hundreds of children who died in the camp
Carved in the camp, from soft sandstone
One year old
The original Bethulie missionaries rest in a tranquil glade
Final resting place in Bethulie