The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 1 No 5 - December 1969



In this age, when the personality cult is apparently despised, as is the individual whose character blazes forth like a beacon in the murk of nonentity, it is possibly worth recalling the giants of the past. South Africa has been particularly fortunate in its men of vision and action. Lord Tedder considered Field Marshal Smuts to have heen the greatest man of his time. Writing in ‘With Prejudice’ (Cassell), Lord Tedder recalled: “I was deeply impressed by the speed and thoroughness with which Smut’s (sic) agile, comprehending mind grasped the essentials of the situation, and by his capacity to get to the root of the matter by short, well-directed questions. He was always kindness itself to me, and I thought of him then, and still think of him, incomparably the greatest man I have ever met, possessing Churchill’s versatility and vision without his vices. To those whom he deemed to have failed in their work or their duty, he could be ruthless and hard. A steely glint would come into his eyes as he probed each problem to the bottom. But generally he wore an aspect of wisdom and understanding. My wife, who had now joined me in Cairo, said after this meeting with Smuts (in May, 1942, shortly before the first Lady Tedder was killed in an air crash - Editor): ‘There is something Christ-like about that man.’” Whether one agrees or not, the fact that Smuts was one of the foremost statesmen of the century would seem beyond question.

Lt.-Gen. George Brink said recently that in his 80 years he had “lived South African history.” The pages of that history are the brighter for the flame of Smuts, and for the devotion to duty, and constant kindness, bravery and integrity of men such as ‘Uncle George’ Brink. By the efforts of such pioneers has this great Republic been founded; let us ensure that we lesser mortals keep it in trust for them, in unity and strength, no matter which tongue we love as our first language.

General (later Field Marshal) J.C. Smuts, PC, OM, CH, DTD

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