If there was a model camp in the ORC (Orange River Colony) system, it was Norval's Pont. It was located on the banks of the Orange River, South Africa’s longest river, which ensured an ample water supply and plenty of wood from the bush on the river banks. As the name suggests, Norval's Pont was a crossing on the Orange River but the camp, although on the railway line, was isolated from any towns.
If anyone could be described as the hero of the camps, it was Lieutenant St John Cole Bowen, the first civilian superintendent. Norval's Pont was one of those camps, like Aliwal North, Kimberley and Orange River Station which was in the Cape Colony, although it formed part of the ORC complex.
It was not that Norval's Pont lacked the problems of the other camps. On the contrary, the measles epidemic struck early and was followed by scarlet fever and diphtheria. Families poured in without warning and tents and blankets ran out. And, with all these struggles, Cole Bowen had to contend with an unpleasant medical officer. Some people deserted and Cole Bowen was forced to fence in those who were a ‘bad influence’. Nor did Cole Bowen show overt sympathy for the Boers. When Miss Malherbe was sent to run the hospital, he considered her a troublemaker.
‘Immediately on her arrival, she at once took up the cudgels on behalf of the refugees, and insisted on the fact that they were most cruelly treated in all Refugee Camps and went out of her way to go down the lines to persuade them of this fact. She used her influence to persuade people not to allow their children to come to hospital, and to have no confidence in the Medical Officer. She even informed Dr Scarlett upon her arrival that she had better take great care of how she treated her (Miss Malherbe), as she said that she (Miss Malherbe) had power to make the people love her or hate her (Dr Scarlett) at will. Further, she did everything in her power to insult and annoy Miss Broers, and I felt that some strong decisive measure was necessary.’
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