I wrote this book while a prisoner-of-war, fettered, as it were, by the strong chains with which a British parole is circumscribed. I was, so to say, bound hand and foot, and always made to feel sensibly the humiliating position to which we, as prisoners-of-war on this island, were reduced. Our unhappy lot was rendered unnecessarily unpleasant by the insulting treatment offered us by Colonel Price, who appeared to me an excellent prototype of Napoleon’s custodian, Sir Hudson Lowe.
We Boers experience similar treatment (as Napoleon did under his custodian) from our custodian, Colonel Price, who appeared to be possessed with the very demon of distrust and who conjured up about us the same fantastic and mythical plans of escape of Sir Hudson Lowe attributed to Napoleon. It is absurd suspicious about our safe custody that I trace the bitterly offensive regulations enforced on us.
While engaged upon this work, Colonel Price could have pounced down upon me at any moment, and having discovered the manuscript, would certainly have promptly pronounced the writing of it in conflict with the terms of my parole.
I have striven as far as possible to refrain from criticism, except when compelled to do so, and to give a coherent story, so that the reader might easily follow the episodes I have sketched. I have also endeavored to be impartial, or, at least, so impartial as an erring human being can be who has just quitted the bloody battlefields of a bitter struggle.
But the sword is still wet, and the wound is not yet healed.
I would assure the readers that it has not been without hesitation that I launch this work upon the world. There have been many amateur and professional writers who have proceeded me in overloading the reading public with what purport to be true histories of the War. But having been approached by friends to add my little effort to the ponderous tomes of War literature, I have written down that which I saw with my own eyes, and that which I personally experienced. If seeing is believing, the reader may lend credence to my recital of every incident I have herein recounted.
During the last stages of the struggle, when we were isolated from the outside world, we read in newspapers and other printed matter captured from the British so many romantic and fabulous stories about ourselves, that we were sometimes in doubt whether people in Europe and elsewhere would really believe that we were ordinary humans beings and not legendary monsters.
Ben Viljoen, 1902