by Andre Wessels, MA, DPhilAssociate Professor, Department of History,
Due to an almost total inadequacy in preparations for war, in addition to shortages in weapons and other equipment, South Africa was unable to properly defend herself, let alone make a contribution to the Allied war effort, on the eve of the Second World War.(1) Since 1934, when an elaborate five year expansion plan for the Union Defence Forces (UDF) had been announced, various efforts had been made to improve the UDF's state of preparedness.(2) However, the consequences of the severe depression of 1929 to 1933 had cast a blight on the UDF. For example, forty-nine Active Citizen Force units were disbanded and all three of the South African Naval Service's vessels were decommissioned,(3) and the little money that was available was justly rather spent on nonmilitary development. Furthermore, some of the politicians did not realise how important the defence of the country was. Even Defence Headquarters had no properly conceived plan for the future defence of the country; the Union was located far away from the traditional European theatres of conflict and the presence of the Royal Navy at Simon's Town made many South Africans overcautious when it came to defence matters. Many of the schemes put on paper were overambitious and what was done was not always very practical.(4) However, most other Allied countries were also caught unprepared for war, and the planning and reorganisation that had been done in South Africa, albeit on a small scale, did enable General J C Smuts, the new prime minister, to put the country on a war footing very quickly.(5)
This article has a two-fold purpose. In the first place, the development of the UDF during the first two war years is analysed in an effort to ascertain to what extent this period can be regarded as decisive, not only for the UDF, but also for the South African war effort in general. Secondly, the deployment of the UDF during the first two years of the Second World War is analysed.
The building up of the South African Army and Air Force, September 1939 to September 1941
When South Africa declared war against Germany on 6 September 1939, there were apparently 352 officers and 5 033 other ranks in the UDF Permanent Force (PF), and 918 officers and 12 572 other ranks in the Active Citizen Force (ACF).(6) The commando units had a strength, on paper, of about 122 000, but only about 18 000 men were properly armed. Many of the latter, however, were not properly trained.(7) Furthermore, it must be borne in mind that not all PF, ACF or commando members were in favour of the Union's participation in the war.(8)
Throughout most of the war, the UDF suffered a shortage of white manpower. A calculation of manpower available in October 1940 showed that, out of a white population of just over two million, there were about 251 519 men in the military age group, 18 to 44.(9) In the same age group, there were about one million black South African men, plus coloureds and Indians, but on the eve of the war there were no 'non-whites'(10) in uniform. Because of political considerations, it would take some time before 'non-whites' became involved in the Union's military war effort, and then mostly only in a noncombatant capacity. This was in shasp contrast with the situation during the First World War, when 'non-whites' were actively involved not only as auxiliary troops, but also as soldiers in German South West Africa (Namibia), German East Africa (Tanzania), Palestine and France.(11)
Another problem facing the government was that the South African Defence Act (Act No 13 of 1912) was vague in its description of where members of the UDF could be deployed. The act was to a large extent drafted by Smuts, accepted by parliament on 13 June 1912, and led to the formation of the UDF on 1 July 1912. All white citizens between the ages of seventeen and 60 (both inclusive) were liable to tender personal service in the defence of their country in times of war.(12) Smuts anticipated Italy's entry into the conflict, regarded Kenya and Uganda as South Africa's strategic boundaries, and was determined to deploy UDF units 'up north'. However, in the light of the prevailing tense political climate, and because the act could be interpreted as not making provision for active service by UDF units beyond the Union's borders, Smuts announced that he would not press a single man to go beyond the country's geographic borders, and would create a fighting force of volunteers. These volunteers were accordingly acquired to sign a document known as the 'Africa Oath', in which they declared that they would be prepared to fight anywhere in Africa. Members ofthe UDF who volunteered were distinguished from the others by orange-scarlet shoulder tabs on their uniforms, commonly referred to as 'red tabs'. The wearing of these tabs caused a lot of resentment, by stigmatising both those who were prepared to fight and those who opposed active involvement (depending on one's political outlook), and was one way of exerting pressure on UDF members to volunteer for active service.(13)
General J C Smuts, Commander-in-Chief of the South African
forces and Prime Minister of the Union, inspects his troops
during a visit to East Africa. (Photo: SANMMH)
In 1939, South Africa was ill-prepared for large-scale, prolonged warfare.
Within two years she was able to supply armaments and other war supplies to
her own troops in the field, as well as to the armed forces of other Allied countries.
(Photo: By courtesy, SA National Museum of Military History
Far away from enemy air force bases, South Africa's air space was ideally suited for training purposes. On 11 April 1940, Smuts announced that the British government had accepted his offer of facilities for training British airmen, a scheme with far-reaching consequences for both the RAF and SAAF.(25) The Joint Air Training Scheme (JATS) virtually commenced its existence on 1 June 1940, when the 'Memorandum on the expansion of training facilities in South Africa' was signed by Sir Pierre van Ryneveld, Chief of General Staff for the Union, and Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham on behalf of the Air Ministry.(26) The JATS in the Union was one of the great success stories of the country's participation in the Second World War,(27) and played a major role in the rapid development and the efficiency of the SAAF. Until 31 December 1945, the JATS passed out 33 347 aircrew at 57 flying schools and depots: 20 800 for the RAF (including about 15 000 pilots and navigators), 12 221 for the SAAF, and 326 for other Allied air forces. At one stage, at least 36 flying schools were in operation, and several new airports and air-strips were built. (After the war, some of these were taken over by the SAAF, whilst others were put to civilian use). By the end of the war, more than 50 000 persons had served in the SAAF, and it had in its service at one stage or other about 2 500 aircraft.(28)
Seaward defence, September 1939 to September 1941
When war broke out, the Union - with a coastline of 4 828km(29) to defend - had no naval vessels.(30) The South African Naval Service still existed, but with only three officers and three ratings.(31) The only real local naval activities were confined to the South African division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR[SA]). In September 1939, the RNVR(SA) had at least 600 members, and although they were not mobilised, the Smuts Government gave them permission to join the Royal Navy on a voluntary basis to help to defend South Africa's coasts. Members of the RNVR(SA) also manned port war signal stations and examination vessels.(32) As far as the Coast Artillery was concerned, there were a few 9,2-inch and 6-inch guns at Cape Town, Simon's Town, East London and Durban,(33) but the defences were not adequate.
The government and UDF's first priority was to ensure the safety of the country, its inhabitants, its coastal waters as well as the strategically important Cape sea-route. The SAAF took over all 29 South African Aiiways passenger aircraft (ironically all German-built aircraft): eighteen twin-engined Junkers JU-86Z-ls, now used as maritime patrol aircraft, and eleven three-engined Junkers JU-52l3Ms, used as transports. Of all the dominions, South Africa was the only one to suspend all civilian flights.(34) In conjunction with the Royal Navy, the SAAF commenced patrolling the coasts, intercepting enemy merchant vessels trying to return to their home ports via the Cape sea-route, rescuing survivors of ships sunk by enemy submarines, and attacking submarines whenever possible. In 1940, the JU-86s were replaced by British Anson patrol aircraft. By the war's end, SAAF planes - in conjunction with British and Dutch aircraft stationed in South Africa - had intercepted seventeen enemy ships, helped in the rescue of 437 survivors of sunken ships, and attacked 26 (72,2%) of the 36 enemy submarines that operated within 1 852 km (1 000 sea miles) of South Africa's coasts (i.e., from the mouth of the Kunene River in the north of what is today Namibia, to Ponta do Ouro in the east, on the border with Mozambique). By August 1945, the SAAF had flown about 15 000 coastal patrol sorties.(35)
The Second World War once again proved that the Cape of Good Hope provides a classic example of a focal area which demands a zone of control, all the more because naval operations in the two oceans meeting there always tended to crystallise around this point.(36) In an effort to maintain control over this zone, the South African Naval and Air forces worked in close liaison with the Royal Navy, which used Simon's Town as an operational base.(37) The vulnerability of the Cape sea-route was illustrated by the cruise of the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee that sailed unchallenged from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean and back again, sinking nine Allied ships. This was the first enemy warship to visit the area.(38) In the meantime, whalers and trawlers were converted into minesweepers and anti-submarine vessels and, by the end of 1939, fifteen vessels were in service, manned by volunteers from the RNVR(SA). On 15 January 940 the new Seaward Defence Force (SDF) was formally constituted, with as its firsr director, Rear-Admiral C W Hallifax, a retired British officer who had settled in South Africa.(39)
A Hawker-Hartbees in training off the Natal coastline (Photo: SANMMH)
The SDF grew steadily and by August 1940 had 183 officers, 1 049 other ranks, twenty minesweepers and four anti-submarine vessels. At the request of the British Admiralty, the SDF sent four of its large anti-submarine whalers to the Mediterranean. They arrived at Alexandria on 11 January 1941 and were almost immediately put to work along the exposed sea-route to Tobruk. There, on 11 February 1941, the SDF suffered its first war loss when HMSAS Southern Floe sank after hitting a mine. Although the South African ships were scheduled to return home in May 1941, their time of service was renewed time and again. Another nine South African ships were sent to the Mediterranean. Three were sunk after September 1941, but the South African ships and crews did excellent work. Two of the vessels sank an Italian stibmarine. A few of the ships only returned home in December 1945.(42)
HMSAS Southern Maid leaves Alexandria, Egypt for the Union.
In the foreground is the Protea, her successor in the Mediterranean.
(Photo: By courtesy, SANMMH)
The South African Army and Air Force in action, June 1940 - September 1941
When Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940, that country had about 95 000 white and 160 000 'non-white' troops in East Africa,(51) plus 35 226 naval, air force and other personnel, supported by about 400 pieces of artillery, a few tanks and 383 modern aircraft.(52) The Italians conquered British Somaliland without encountering much opposition and penetrated northern Kenya, at some places as deeply as 100 km. Three SAAF squadrons had been sent to Kenya during the first few months of 1940 and when South Africa declared war against Italy on 11 June, these units immediately attacked Italian positions, air and ground forces, petrol and ammunition dumps and lines of communication in an effort to offset the Regia Aeronautica's numerical superiority in the air and to prevent Italian land forces from gaining more ground.(53)
In the meantime, 1 SA Infantry Brigade was mobilised on 20 May 1940 and left the Union on 16 July under the command of Brig D H (Dan) Pienaar.(54) In due course, the other brigades of 1 SA Division, plus artillery, the Engineer Corps, Medical Corps and other units followed. Before the end of 1940, about 30 000 South Africans were deployed in East Africa under the overall command of Lt-Gen Alan Cunningham. On 16 December l940,(55) the South African Army took part in its first noteworthy action of the war when it helped in capturing an Italian post at El Wak. It was one of the first Allied land successes of the war, albeit not much more than an operational training exercis
e, but greatly exaggerated for propaganda purposes.(56)
A South African Armoured Car, Mk II, at El Gumu,
where the South Africans captured an enemy outpost.
Amidst setbacks in other operational areas, the East African Campaign was the first large Allied success of the war. For Smuts and the UDF, it was also a noteworthy triumph, with the UDF playing the biggest role in the Allied victory. The Italians lost about 170 000 soldiers and vast amounts of military material, The South African Army lost only 73 members killed and had 197 other battle casualties, while the SAAF flew 6 517 sorties, destroyed 71 Italian aircraft in the air and many more on the ground, and lost only 79 members killed and five reported missing.(59)
Although the UDF combat units performed admirably throughout the East African Campaign, the various UDF support units perhaps contributed even more to the final victory. The chief problems of this campaign were more of an adininistrative, technical and logistical rather than purely military nature, Improvisation was called for and enthusiasm and individual initiative overcame all disadvantages. The East African Campaign might well be described as the UDF's dress rehearsal for the struggle which followed farther north.(60)
While the South African soldiers marched on Addis Ababa, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel arrived at Tripoli on 12 February 1941 and built up his Afrika Korps into a formidable fighting machine. By mid-1941 the UDF transferred its attention to North Africa. Once again, it was SAAF units that first saw action, lending support during the Allied withdrawal from Crete, and helping in relieving the garrison at Tobruk during the first siege of that town. In the course of 1941, the SAAF flew 5 727 sorties, shot down 102 enemy aircraft, and played a significant role in gaining air superioriry for the Allies.(61) On 10 June 1941, 2 SA Division left South African shores for Egypt, where they joined the 1 SA Division's units already deployed there and underwent strenuous training in desert warfare. Before the end of 1941, more than 100 000 UDF personnel were deployed in Egypt and Cyrenaica.(62)
By September 1941, no South African land forces had yet gone into action in North Africa. Having weathered the East African Campaign with almost negligible losses, the UDF - as well as the folks hack home - were psychologically ill-prepared for the inevitable shocks they would experience once battle was joined against the Afrika Korps.(63) The most notable of these shocks were probably the battle of Sidi Rezegh in November 1941, during which the 5 SA Brigade was virtually annihilated, and the fall of Tobruk on 21 June 1942, which saw the capitulation of Maj-Gen H B Klopper with a force of about 33 000 soldiers, including 10 722 South Africans (nearly the whole of 2 SA Division).(64) South Africans took part in the capture ofBardia, Sollum and Halfaya, and fought with distinction during the first and second battles at El Alamein.(65) After September 1941, the UDF also took part in two other campaigns, namely the capture of Madagascar June - November 1942)(66) and the Italian Campaign (April 1944 - May 1945).(67) Although the Union was soon ready to counter a Japanese threat, the UDF only planned to become actively involved in the Far East after the war had been won against Germany and Italy, but Japan was defeated before any soldiers and airmen could be sent.(68)
All told, 211 193 white (including 24 075 women) and at least 123 131 black, coloured and Indian South Africans took part in the war as full-time volunteers, and 63 341 persons of all races as part-time volunteers. More than one out of every ten of the white population - men, women and children - took part; one out of every three of the white population in the age group 20-60; and about 62% of the white male population in the military age group, 18 - 44, took part. As time went by, many Afrikaners responded to the call to arms, not because they necessarily agreed with the war policy, but in many instances because of economic considerations.(69)
Total casualties amounted to 12 046 dead (including 4 347 killed in action or died of wounds), 14 363 others wounded, and 16 430 captured or missing.(70) More than 7 000 South Africans were decorated or mentioned in despatches.(71) Far away from enemy bases, the Union suffered no civilian casualties or physical damage.
Women of all races played a significant role during the war, both in the services and at home by releasing men from industry and other sectors to fight. They served in, inter alia, the South African Women's Auxiliary Service, Women's Auxiliary Air Force, Women's Auxiliary Army Services, Women's Auxiliary Naval Service and the South African Nursing Service.(72)
Although, owing to political considerations, 'non-whites' were not used as combatants during the war,(73) many played a very important non-combatant role nonetheless, for example as drivers, stretcher-bearers, hospital orderlies, batmen and servants. The (coloured) Cape Corps was re-formed as a volunteer non-combatant unit of the ACF in May 1940, and the following month the Native Labour Corps was established. This unit was later known as the Native Military Guards Brigade and still later as the Native Military Corps. There was also an Indian and Malay Corps. Regardless of their loyalty and devotion to their country, however, these men remained subservient to the whites beside whom they were called upon to serve. The standard of training in the various 'non-white' services was poor and the pay low. In 1940, for example, a black sergeant-major (if any such existed) could expect payment of 2s 6d a day, while the lowest paid white rank began at 3s 6d a day.(74) The black, coloured and Indian servicemen also often found themselves under the command of whites who were not always very sympathetic toward them and there were many frustrations and disciplinary problems as a result of this.(75)
Throughout the war, a number of South Africans also served in the Royal Air Force,(76) and about 4 000 served in the Royal Navy.(77)
All this points to a metamorphosis in the strength of the UDF and in the role which South Africa played during the Second World War. South Africa was ill-prepared for war in September 1939. The UDF was in a sorry state and South Africans were not only divided along racial, ethnic and language lines, but were also in a state of transition, with an ever greater proportion of the population moving from rural to urban areas. The country had not yet completely recovered from the devastating depression of 1929 to 1933, and it was an open question whether the economy would be able to sustain a war effort. Politically, the Union was probably also more divided than ever before in its troubled history. Afrikaner nationalism, which reigned supreme in these years, gave rise to the founding of several organisations and thus complicated the political scene. In the meantime, black consciousness also grew, placing the government's race policy under more pressure. However, it can be concluded that the first two war years were, in fact, decisive in the development of the UDF and in South Africa's continued participation in the Allied war effort. By September 1941, the UDF had been transformed into an efficient battle-trained fighting force, poised to play a significant role during the rest of the war. Within the space of two years, the South African economy had been transformed into a war economy with a vibrant armaments industry, which was not only able to satisfy most of the needs of the UDF, but also to export military material to other Allied countries.(78)
After two years of war, South Africa was fully committed to and involved in the struggle against the Axis powers. Smuts had not only laid the sound economic and military foundations for the success which was to follow during the rest of the war, but had also consolidated his political position in the country, and had emerged as a leading figure amongst the Allied statesmen and commanders.
1. H J Martin and N D Orpen, South Africa at war: Military and
industrial organization and operations in connection with the conduct
of the war, 1939-1945 (Cape Town, 1979), p 36; H Potgieter and
W Steenkamp, Aircraft of the South African Air Force (Cape Town,
1980),p 21; J van Wyk, 'Die Unieverdedigingsmag op die vooraand
van die Tweede Wêreldoorlog, 1939-1945', Militaria, 6(4), 1976,
p 32; J S M Simpson, South Africa fights (London, 1941), p 56;
'South Africa's role in two world wars', Militaria 17(1), 1987, p28.
2. W A Dorning, 'A concise history of the South African Defence Force, 1912-1987', Militaria 17(2), 1987, p 9; H R Heitman, South African armed forces (Cape Town, 1990), p 53.
3. L Barnard and D Kriek, Sir De Villiers Graaff (Pretoria, 1990), p31; J C Goosen (ed), South Africa's navy: The first fifty years (Cape Town, 1973), pp 17,19.
4. Martin and Orpen, SA at war, p 26; Simpson, SA fights, p 57.
5. Dictionary of South African Biography (henceforth abbreviated as DSAB), 5 (Pretoria, 1987), p 595.
6. Dorning, 'A concise history', p 9; Van Wyk, 'Die
Unieverdedigingsmag', p 32; Martin and Orpen, SA at war, p 27.
When it comes to statistics, sources often differ.
7. R J Bouch (ed), Infantry in South Africa (Pretoria, 1977), p 137; Heitman, SA armed forces, p 23.
8. Bouch (ed), Infantry in SA, p 137; Simpson, SA fights, p 101.
9. Martin and Orpen, SA at war, p 70.
10. When the term 'non-white' is sometimes used out of necessity, no negative connotation is implied.
11. C J Nöthling and L Steyn, 'The role of non-whites in the South
African Defence Force', Militaria 16(2), 1986, p47; A Grundlingh,
Fighting their own war: South African blacks and the First World War
(Johannesburg, 1987), passim.
12. Statutes of the Union of South Africa 1912 (Cape Town, 1912), pp 190-290; Hansard(1912), columns 619-56; 659-702; 741-83; 2178-215; 2227-45; 2329-31. See also C L Grimbeek, Die totstandkoming van die Unieverdedigingsmag met spesifieke verwysing na die Verdedigingswette van 1912 en 1922 (DPhil thesis, University of Pretoria, 1985), pp 80-138.
13. Opponents of the Union's participation in the war derisively referred to the oath as the 'Red Oath'. See for example Simpson, SA fights>, pp 69, 98. After the Axis powers had been defeated in North Africa, parliament passed a motion on 27 January 1943 to allow persons who signed the General Service Oath, also known as the 'Blue Oath' to fight outside Africa. See Hansard, columns 505-17, 519-71, 646-733, 820-1003.
14. 'SA forces in the Second World War', Militaria 19(3), 1989, p22.
15. Martin and Orpen, SA at war, p32; G H Nicholls Papers, File No 23 (Defence Force): Memorandum on the position of the Union Defence Forces (KCM3575a), Killie Campbell Africana Library (Durban).
16. Simpson, SA fights, p 56.
17. Martin and Orpen, SA at war, pp 30-2.
18. C J Nöthling (ed), Ultima ratio regum (The last argument of kings): Artillery history of South Africa (Pretoria, 1987), p 359.
19. Smuts Papers, Vol 132, Document 69: 'Statement of local military position on 7th September 1939 and steps taken thereafter', p 9, National Archives of South Africa (Pretoria). Depending on the nature and extent of military action, the ammunition could have sufficed for hardly one day of active service!
20. Martin and Orpen, SA at war, p 147. By the end of the war, more than 250 000 persons had served in the army. See also Militaria 19(3), 1989, p47.
21. André Wessels Private Document Collection, SAAF (file): A
Wessels, 'Die Suid-Afrikaanse Lugmag: Verlede, hede en toekoms - 'n
kort ktitiese evaluering' (henceforth referred to as Wessels, SAAF
manuscript), p 10; Militaria 19(3), 1989, p22; Smuts Papers, Vol
132, Document 69: 'Statement of local military position on 7th
September 1939 and steps taken thereafter', pp 1-2; J A Brown, A
gathering of eagles: The campaigns of the South African Air Force in
Italian East Africa, June 1940-November 1941, with an introduction
1912-1939 (Cape Town, 1970), pp 23-4.
22. Potgieter and Steenkamp, Aircraft of the SAAF, p 22. Figures for the end of 1941.
23. By September 1940, there were 219 operational and training aircraft in the country and by the end of 1940, 394 aircraft. Potgieter and Steenkamp, Aircraft of the SAAF, p 22; Martin and Orpen, SA at war, p 78; Dorning, 'A concise history', p 14.
24. Dorning, 'A concise history', p 14; Potgieter and Steenkamp, Aircraft of the SAAF, p21.
25. Martin and Orpen, SA at war, p 51.
26. The scheme subsequently took the form embodied in the
Memorandum of agreement, taking effect from 1 August 1940.
Militaria 19(3), p 44.
27. Dorning, 'A concise history', p 14; Militaria 19(3), 1989, p 44; Martin and Orpen, SA at war, pp 126, 348; Potgieter and Steenkamp, p 22.
28. Wessels, SAAF manuscript, p 22; Martin and Orpen, SA at war, p 354.
29. This included the South West African (Namibian) coastline of about 1 800 km.
30. The trawler Crassula and whaler Kommetjie referred to in Jane's fighting ships 1939 (London, 1939), p 113, were, in fact, chartered by the Ministry of Defence in June 1939 for training in minesweeping and then handed back to their owners. André Wessels Private Document Collection, SA Navy (file): H R Gordon-Cumming, Unpublished official history of the SA Naval Forces, 1939-1945 (photocopy supplied by WM Bisset), p19.
31. Goosen (ed), SA's navy, p 37.
32. Goosen (ed), SA's navy, p 37; I C Little, 'The navy that altered course' in Militaria 15(1), 1985, p 23; Martin and Orpen, SA at war, p30; Simpson, SA fights, p 100; S H C Payne, SAS Inkonkoni 1885-1985 (s.l.s.a.), pp 121-4.
33. Nöthling (ed), Ultima ratio regum, pp 343, 345.
34. Martin and Orpen, SA at war, pp 28-9,137.
35. Militaria 19(3), 1989, p 39; Dorning, 'A concise history', p 14; Martin and Orpen, SA at war, pp 28-9, 137; L C F Turner et al War in the southern oceans (Cape Town, 1961), pp 15-16; Potgieter and Steenkamp, Aircraft of the SAAF, pp 21-3.
36. Turner et al, War in the southern oceans, p 1.
37. A du Plessis, Maritieme ooreenkomste tussen Suid-Afrika en Groot-Brittanje, 1910-1975 (MA thesis, University of Pretoria, 1978), p 93.
38. Turner et al, War in the southern oceans, pp 7-14; R Humble, Hitler's high seas fleet (London, 1972), pp 37-44.
39. Goosen (ed), SA's navy, pp 37-8; Turner et al, War in the southern oceans, pp 17-19, 263-6; Martin and Orpen, SA at war, p 56. As far as the role of South Africa's naval forces during the war is concerned, see also SA National Defence Force Archives Depot (Pretoria), Union War Histories (UWH), Vol 14, H R Gordon-Cumming, 'Brief naval history', and Vol 340, H R Gordon-Cumming, 'Long naval history'.
40. Turner et al, War in the southern oceans, pp 25-8; Martin and Orpen, SA at war, pp 56-7; Dorning, 'A concise history', p 15. Other raiders, like the Pinguin, Thor and Komet, also operated in the oceans off South Africa. See, for eg, Turner et al, War in the southern oceans, pp 20-34, 37-85, 100-107, 144-151; AG Muggenthaler, German raiders of World War II (London, 1978), passim.
41. Jane's fighting ships 1940 (s.l.s.a.), pp xxiv, 247-292.
42. Goosen (ed), SA's navy, pp 5-70; Dorning, 'A concise history', p 15; A Wessels, 'Die Suid-Afrikaanse Vloot: Verlede, hede en toekoms - 'n kort kritiese evaluering' in Militaria 11(3), 1981, pp 10-11; C J Harris, War at sea: South African maritime operations in World War II (Rivonia, 1991), pp 34-66, 251-273.
43. Turner et al, War in the southern oceans, pp 89, 262-8.
44. The first submarine victim went down on 28 October 1941. Eventually, a total of 132 ships were sunk within 1 852 km (1 000 sea miles) of southern Africa's coasts, while three enemy submarines were sunk. Turner et al, War in the southern oceans, pp 157-188, 202-215, 219-240, 242, 245.
45. Only two Allied ships were sunk and one damaged by mines within 1 852 km from southern Africa's coasts. Goosen (ed), SA's navy, pp 85-90; Turner et al, War in the southern oceans, last fold-out map.
46. Goosen (ed), SA's navy, pp 71-9; Turner et al, War in the southern
oceans, pp 89-95.
47. Gordon-Cumming, 'History of the SA Naval Forces', pp 19-23; Nöthling (ed), Ultima ratio regum, pp 343-354.
48. Martin and Orpen, SA at war, pp 238-9.
49. Martin and Orpen, SA at war, pp 114, 116.
50. Goosen (ed), SA's navy, pp 200-207.
51. In other words, Abyssinia and Italian Somaliland. For the purposes
of this article, the East African Campaign refers to operations in the
above-mentioned Italian colonies and adjoining areas.
52. Wessels, SAAF manuscript, p 14.
53. Brown, A gathering of eagles, pp 37-8; N Orpen, East African and Abyssinian campaigns (Cape Town, 1968), pp 5-15, 342-3.
54. As far as this flamboyant and controversial officer's role during the Second World War is concerned, see for example A M Pollock, Pienaar of Alamein: The life story of a great South African soldier (Cape Town, 1944), passim; DSAB 3, pp 686-8.
55. Then still known as the Day of the Covenant, commemorating the Voortrekker victory over the Zulus at Blood River on 16 December 1838.
56. Brown, A gathering of eagles, pp 38-104; Orpen, East African and
Abyssinian campaigns, pp 15-80; C Birkby, It's a long way to Addis
(London, 1943), pp 1-127; Militaria 19(3), 1989, pp 23,39; DSAB 3, p 687.
57. Dorning, 'A concise history', p 10; Bouch (ed) Infantry in SA, pp 140-43; Orpen, East African and Abyssinian campaigns, pp 224-328; Birkby, It's a long way, pp 128-297.
58. Brown, A gathering of eagles, pp 105-112, 116-286; Orpen, East African and Abyssinian campaigns, pp 224-328; Birkby, It's a long way, pp 128-297.
59. Orpen, East African and Abyssinian campaigns, pp 328-9; H Klein, Springboks in armour: South African armoured cars in World War II (Cape Town, s.a.), pp 21-141; Militaria 19(3), 1989, pp 26, 40; Dorning, 'A concise history', pp 11,14.
60. Militaria 19(3), 1989, p 23; Dorning, 'A concise history', p 11; Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa (henceforth abbreviated as SESA), 11 (Cape Town, 1975), p 515.
61. Brown, A gathering of eagles, pp 113-5; J A Brown, Eagles strike: The
campaigns of the South African Air Force in Egypt, Cyrenaica, Libya, Tunisia,
Tripolitania, and Madagascar, 1941-1943 (Cape Town, 1974), pp 12-79; Militaria 19(3), 1989, p40.
62. Martin and Orpen, SA at war, pp 68,103, 131; Militaria 19(3), 1989, pp 26-7.
63. Martin and Orpen, SA at war, p 124. In this regard, see for example Operation Crusader, during which at Sidi Rezegh (18 - 23 November 1941) 5 SA Brigade alone lost 3 394 casualties out of a brigade strength of about 5 700, i.e. more casualties than the UDF suffered during the entire East African Campaign. J A I Agar-Hamilton and L C P Turner, The Sidi Rezegh battles, 1941 (Cape Town, 1957), passim; R Parkinson, The Auk: Auchinleck, victor at Alamein (London, 1977), pp 112-133; Churchill, 3 (London, 1953), pp 435-452; N Orpen, War in the desert (Cape Town, s.a.), pp 1-74; Klein, Springboks in Armour, pp 152-186.
64. A J Groenewald, 'n Kritiese ontleding van die faktore wat gelei het tot die oorgawe van die Suid-Afrikaanse magte by die slag van Tobruk (D Phil thesis, University of the Orange Free State, 1991), passim; Orpen, War in the desert, pp 75-325.
65. See for example Orpen, War in the desert, pp 326-453. In North Africa, the SA Army suffered 23 625 casualties, including 2 104 dead, 3 928 wounded, and 14 247 captured. The SAAF flew a total of 33 991 sorties and destroyed 342 enemy aircraft. Brown, Eagles strike, pp 12-382; Dorning, 'A concise history', p 12; Militaria 19(3), 1989, p 32.
66. See for example Brown, Eagles strike, pp 383-391, 396-400; Turner
et al, War in the southern oceans, pp 131-143; J E H Grobler, 'Die
Geallieerde besetting van Madagaskar in 1942 met spesiale
verwysing na die rol van die Unieverdedigingsmag in operasies' in
Militaria 7(4), 1977, pp 1-8; Militaria 8(1), 1978, pp 39-54;
Militaria 8(2), 1978, pp 15-40; Militaria 8(3), 1978, pp 52-72;
and Militaria 8(4), 1978, pp 69-76; Klein, Springboks in armour,
67. See for example N Orpen, Victory in Italy (Cape Town, 1975); W L Fielding, With the 6th Div: An account of the activities of the 6th South African Armoured Division in World War II (Pietermaritzburg, 1946); H J Martin and N D Orpen, Eagles victorious: The operations of the South African forces over the Mediterranean and Europe, in Italy, the Balkans and the Aegean, and from Gibraltar and West Africa (Cape Town, 1977)
68. Two South African warships did join the Allied fleets in the east. A Wessels, 'South Africa and the war against Japan, 1941-1945' in Military History Journal, Vol 10, No 3, 1986, pp 81-90, 120.
69. Militaria 19(3), 1989, p47; SESA 11, p 526.
70. Dorning, 'A concise history', p 16; SA National Defence Force Archives Depot (Pretoria): Roll of honour, World War, 1939-1945.
71. Martin and Orpen, SA at war, p 347; SESA 11, p 526.
72. See for example Martin and Orpen, SA at war, pp 54, 63-4, 285, 288-9; EM Meyers, 'Die Suid-Afrikaanse vrou in landsverdediging: Agtergrond en perspektief in Militaria 16(2), 1986, p 36; M P H Laver et al, Sailor-women, sea-woman, SWANS: A history of the South African Women's Auxiliary Naval Service, 1943-1949 (Simon's Town, 1982), passim; G Hewitt, Womanhood at war: The story of the SAWAS (s.l.s.a.), passim.
73. Exceptions were the coloured gunners stationed at Fort Wynyard in Cape Towis, Zulu gunners in Durban, and a few 'non-white' anti-aircraft gunners in North Africa, and those serving in South Africa's 'little ships'. Gordon-Cumming, 'History of the SA Naval Forces', pp 13-15; Martin and Orpen, SA at war, pp 79, 120, 190, 289; Nöthling (ed), Ultima ratio regum, p 345; Nöthling and Steyn, 'The role of non-whites in the SADF', p 47.
74. Martin and Orpen, SA at war, p 74.
75. Martin and Orpen, SA at war, pp 59, 60, 72, 74, 122, 211, 245-6; A Grundlingh, 'Kleurlinge in militêre verband: Die funksie van gefabriseerde tradisie, 1912-1985' in Kleio, 18, 1986, p 37
76. D Becker, 'South Africans in the battle of Britain' in Military
History Journal, Vol 8 No 4, December 1990, p 134; Simpson, SA
fights, pp 232-47.
77. André Wessels Private Document Collections, SA Navy (file): W M Bisset to A Wessels, 6 May 1992 (letter); W M Bisset, 'SA naval personnel seconded to the Royal Navy during the Second World War, 1939-1945' in Simon's Town Historical Society Bulletin, 12(2), July 1982, pp 55-64.
78. As far as the development of South Africa's armaments industry during the war years is concerned, see for example R Cornwall, 'South African armoured car production in World War II' in Militaria 7(3), 1977, pp 30-41, and Martin and Orpen, SA at war, pp 89, 91, 142, 177, 214, 353-54.
Return to Journal Index OR Society's Home pageSouth African Military History Society / firstname.lastname@example.org