South Africa

Full Name 50 Union of South Africa
Alliance Allies - Minor Member Nation or Possession
Possessing Power United Kingdom
Entry into WW2 4 Sep 1939
Population in 1939 10,160,000
Military Deaths in WW2 11,900


ww2dbaseAlthough there was unanimity between Premiere J. B. M. Hertzog and General Jan Smuts about the right of South Africa to remain neutral in war, their views were not identical as to what would happen if Britain were to be attacked. In a fateful Cabinet meeting of 2 September 1939, Hertzog declared that he was going to remain neutral, and under no circumstances would he allow South Africa to enter the war. Two days later, in the Assembly he repeated that South Africa would not be plunged into a war unless the circumstances of the country itself demanded such action. But by 80 votes to 67 the Prime Minister's neutrality motion was defeated and, consequently, South Africa would, on 6 September, join Britain, France and the other Commonwealth nations in declaring itself to be in a state of war with Germany. Hertzog resigned and Smuts became Premiere.

ww2dbaseOn the outbreak of war Smuts organised an army, and sent it to man Kenya's northern border to defend the Union against any southward movement from Abyssinia (Ethiopia) by the Italians. A central and other flying schools were soon established for the training of pilots and in the south Atlantic and Indian oceans the Union maintained a large number of small craft which were mainly engaged in mine-sweeping, anti-submarine searches and other general patrol activities. In harnessing her industries to wartime manufacturing South Africa had several valuable assets, including the heavy engineering industries which had been created to serve the needs of the mining industry and the railways and harbours administration, as well as plenty of electric power, an established iron and steel industry, and unlimited supplies of coal, iron, manganese and other raw materials.

ww2dbaseThe Union had, by the beginning of 1941, raised an army of 120,000 men, fully armed and equipped. This force was soon considerably augmented and it played an historic part in the Abyssinian and Libyan campaigns. The air force and the small naval force were also equipped in the Union. In June 1942 two brigades of the 2nd South African Division with two composite South African battalions and four batteries of artillery, were trapped in Tobruk and made prisoners of war by the Germans but, under Major General Daniel Pienaar, Springbok armoured units would contribute to the Eighth Army's great advance under General Harold Alexander through Libya and into Tunisia. Then in early February 1943 the House of Assembly and Senate approved a Prime Minister's motion to permit Union troops to serve outside the African continent. Later, in 1943, at the general election the Smut's Government was given a clear vote of confidence by the electorate which surprised even its most sanguine supporters; for it was a vote recorded after 4 years of war and in the face of some bitter and relentless opposition.

Last Major Update: Oct 2015

Brand, QuintinJackie MoggridgeSmuts, Jan

Marmon-Herrington Armored Car


Basuto workers cleaning a Master aircraft at No. 23 Air School at AFB Waterkloof, Pretoria, South Africa, Jan 1943

South Africa in World War II Interactive Map

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. ravhura justice takalani says:
30 Oct 2015 03:45:32 AM

can you pls help me with my grandfather information rergerding warld war 2 becouse he was one fo soders who fight .i need to claim his fund
2. Merriam Mokoena says:
28 Jun 2017 07:20:55 AM

My Uncle Peter Ndoda Khumalo.We are unveiling his tombstone on 23Sept 2017.I like to make a speech about him. He worked for African Life. He lived in Dune village JHB.I need any information about him concerning world war II
3. Bruce Gordon says:
4 Sep 2017 02:38:52 AM

Please change the South African flag on this page. It was not in existence in WW2 and is considered an anathema by South Africans today.
4. Commenter identity confirmed C. Peter Chen says:
11 Sep 2017 05:27:36 AM

Bruce, we had contacted you in private on this topic last week, but just want to note the summary here as well. WW2DB uses the tricolour (established by the Nationality & Flag Act of 1927) on its page for South Africa and all dominions, rather than the Union Jack, in order to give each dominion a distinct identity as far as vexillology is concerned. Thanks for visiting WW2DB and hope we will continue to receive your support.
5. Anonymous says:
5 Oct 2017 11:37:03 PM

Please keep the existing flag. It was the flag between 1928 and 1994. As the new and old flags mean different things to different people, it's best to be historically correct, and not necessarily politically correct.
6. Kgwadi Thobane says:
17 Aug 2018 09:11:00 AM

My grandfather, JM Thobane force N/224 served in NMC Italy and died in there from Tuberculosis. His middle name is misspelled as it is written Mothubatse in place of Mapalakanye. His wife's name is written Siteng in place of Reneilwe Mohube Thobane.

How can we correct that and get his photos?

He was in Unit 2: Transvaal Regiment
7. John Neilson says:
27 Dec 2018 09:05:15 AM

My dad and mom both served in the 2nd world war in Africa and Europe.
I would love to know more about their rank and area served.
Father: Ernest James Neilson
Mother: Susarah Jacoba Carolina Davel
Many thanks
8. Paul Hannah says:
1 Jan 2019 04:08:51 PM

Hertzog was not Premiere (sic) He was Prime Minister Smuts was his deputy.
9. Grand Son says:
2 Jan 2019 02:25:29 AM

My Grand grand father was last seen when he was took by apartheid police to join force for world war 2 please help with the informantion
name is Tikane Sebokwane
10. Frank says:
11 Jan 2019 12:03:38 PM

My dad was a paratrooper in WW2. He ended the war as a Major and was twice wounded during his deployment in Europe and Egypt. He was involved in the opening ceremony of Jan Smuts airport. How do i find out what his roll in the opening ceremony of the airport was.
11. Tantaswa Ntswam says:
17 Jan 2019 01:46:23 PM

My Great Grandfather Pearce Reve was a soldier at the WW2 but we never hear about the role played by Africans in the war specifically how it benefited this country. Why our history doesn't have such information. What has been done for the families of the former soldiers in this day in history. Who did they fought for , history can't be buried. Why do we have to ask about this information? why is it not available?
12. Colin Bosman says:
3 Mar 2019 06:42:30 AM

I'm looking for the campaign records of my late father ABEL ALBERTUS BOSMAN who served in Egypt and North Africa during WW2 around 1940 to 1943
13. Ben Modieginyana says:
4 Mar 2019 08:02:17 PM

I am looking for my grandfather Nkole Modieginyana who participated in ww2 in italyo
14. Candice Porter says:
11 Mar 2019 05:12:14 AM

I'd like to find records of my Grandfather, John Hamilton Rennie. He was in the air force during WW2
15. Ellen says:
17 Mar 2019 04:37:22 AM

I would like to inform about my grandfather. John Alfred Burton
Records that he served during WW2
16. Juan Coetzer says:
2 Apr 2019 03:19:40 AM

Looking for any details on
Johannes Jacobus Isak Stephanus Coetzer in Ww2.
I know he was involved in repairs on tanks.
17. Ellen says:
3 Apr 2019 04:38:47 AM

My late grandfather served during World War 2...I do not have any info, would just like to confirm this.
Where do I start..
18. Carol Gower says:
22 Apr 2019 08:18:08 AM

Looking for information about
1. James Melville Sweetman
2. Aiden Sweetman
Both served in the war - from South Africa.
I am looking for the Military History on them, or any other Sweetnam/man
19. Vals says:
23 May 2019 06:54:00 AM

I am looking for information on my late grandfather, Emil William Arbuckle. He served in WW2 and was a prisoner of war but I don't anything else about him
20. Fiona Lee says:
23 May 2019 10:45:41 AM

my Grandfather ran away to war at 16 years old under the pseudonym Eric Jones. His real name was Alan Charles Watson DOB 26 Jan 1924. He was injured in Italy with the 6th aarmoured division B squadron. I would like any info on him
21. Dale Stroebel nee Miller says:
6 Jun 2019 12:12:42 AM

Clayton Stanley Miller served in WW11 in RAF under Montgomery up Africa into Italy. I know he loaded aircraft with ammunition...born 19/6/1922 - died 21/4/1986. Many thanks
22. Lucas Sebokwane says:
13 Jun 2019 11:30:09 PM

23. Gab says:
4 Jul 2019 03:31:46 PM

Mr W Wallace information please I only have a picture of him with Philip Bochie at the Cenotaph in Johannesburg
24. Anonymous says:
12 Aug 2019 08:15:51 PM

Madimetja Drievoet Tlala WW2 Transvaal area
25. Mark Schwartz says:
16 Sep 2019 07:40:30 AM

Hi there

I am looking for information related to volunteers during WW2. Was there a maximum age for would-be volunteers, and is there a searchable database for these volunteers.
26. Yvonne van der Merwe says:
14 Nov 2019 12:47:52 PM

I am trying to find info and possibly a photo of my grandfather and father who fought in WW2. My grandfather was on a boat that was bombed outside Durban harbour his name was Reuben Arthur Young. My father Stanley Arthur Young was a rear end gunner. If you have any details on this I would be so grateful if you could let me know.
27. Clayton Ronald says:
11 Jan 2020 10:25:46 AM

We are trying to find out more about my great grandfathers death or grave site in El alamein ww2, his name was Attie de Klerk.
28. ulanda says:
16 Jan 2020 11:02:14 PM

mr tom sereno
29. Charl Scheepers says:
19 Jan 2020 08:32:11 AM

I would like to find out any information about my grandfather Albertus Arnoldus Scheepers who was in the " Hoeveld Masjien Geweer Kommando", in 1940 who went to fight in Nort Africa during WW2 as well as any information about the Hoeveld Masjien Geweer Kommando.
30. Anonymous says:
20 Jan 2020 10:04:17 AM

We are looking for more info regarding Rj van staden service number 60883
31. Anonymous says:
23 Feb 2020 06:11:15 AM

Looking to find more Information about my Great grandfather who served in WW2 . Bruce phillip Badenhorst . He was in the Tank shop
32. Alba Letts says:
31 Mar 2020 09:22:24 PM

Greetings from New Zealand and hope you are all safe as fight COVID-19.
Can you help? On my dads ww2 record it states he served in the following unit: DD HN PARK (19/2/45 - 13/3/45). Any idea what unit that was?
Kia ora
33. ettienne minnie says:
12 Apr 2020 02:41:04 AM

We are looking for more info regarding William Andrew Erasmus service number 582437
34. Meshack kekane says:
12 Apr 2020 10:50:47 PM

I would like to find out which route to follow in regards of finding out about my grandfather's involvement in the war . His name is Meshack kekane I was named after him , Any records regarding my request will be highly appreciated . Thank you in advance .
35. Pierre Gerber says:
23 Apr 2020 01:08:33 PM

Hi. My grandfather also served in the SA Army. Round about 1941/42. He was in Egypt during WWII. Any information regarding him and his decision would be appreciated.
Thank you. Pierre Gerber.
36. Pierre PJ Gerber says:
24 Apr 2020 02:48:56 PM

Follow up info on my previous email.
Grandfather served in Egypt. Pieter Jacobus GERBER. (Koos). Any info regarding him and his devision would be appreciated.
37. Bridgette says:
25 Apr 2020 05:02:45 PM

Hi there, I'm looking for any information on my great grandfather, James Thomas:
A/SGT Thomas J.F.
4 Squadron SAAF

Found those details on a letter he sent to my Great Grandmother during WW2... hope it helps.
He also served in WW1
38. Anne Britton says:
25 Apr 2020 09:18:50 PM

Edward Gilbert Britton s/n 229797. i have campaign medals for Africa and Italy. As far as i know he was in the motor engineers. I would just like to know his unit and where they went. Thank you
39. Nkululeko Liberty Tshalana says:
27 Apr 2020 08:11:38 PM

Hi I m looking for my grandfather grave who was participant on world War 2 his goes by Robert Mqoshiswa Tshalana my father lost all the details
40. Chris Gerber says:
28 Apr 2020 07:23:46 AM

I am looking for details of an uncle who served in Italy. We knew him as Tommy Coetzee. Think it was with the 6th Amour. I would like to know more. He was wounded and cared for by an Italian family. He married an Italian. I know of a daughter called Francina.
41. Joel Meyerson says:
1 May 2020 06:25:03 AM

Im looking for info about my dad who flew bombers in the second world war inc the desert wars for israel. He was shot down over germany and captured ar the end of ww2
His name is Joseph Meyerson
42. Rhys Pritchard says:
1 May 2020 11:45:08 AM

Looking for my great grand father who participate in both world wars. Name was Brinley Pritchard. Born 25/04/1899 died 25/05/1964. Especially his war re ord and medaled awarded.
43. Eugene says:
14 Jun 2020 02:56:21 PM

My grandfather was 6th division south african fought in italy just need more info on the 6th division and him . Have photo of him sitting in chair full uniform.
44. D.B. Fulton says:
19 Jul 2020 03:05:22 AM

Looking for info on my Farther, Barend Henry Fulton. Born 1900 and died 1974.
Looking for I'd number and medals awarded to him. Would like a photo or 2 if available.
45. Anonymous says:
28 Jul 2020 12:20:39 AM

My grandfather Moses Nobula was part of African soldiers that fought in world war 2. Do you have his name in ur database
46. Elizabeth Estelle Needham (nee Amm) says:
10 Aug 2020 06:28:13 PM

My father, Dennis Austin Amm (12.11.1906 - 28.02.1966) was a Gunnery Sergeant in WW2 and stationed fought in North Africa. I have no records of what division he was in and where he did his service. I am hoping you could give me some details if by any chance this is possible. Many thanks in advance, Liz Needham (New Zealand).
47. Evangeline Jepthas says:
8 Oct 2020 01:14:09 AM

Looking for info on my father who was on the ships in 1944. Alexander Daniel Jepthas. Apparently someone wrote a book about the war and wrote about him as well. I cannot trace his Id number and also want to find out about his military pension?
48. Erica Brown says:
8 Oct 2020 06:10:46 AM

My Father served with RDLI, through North Africa and Italy.
W.L.Brown. (Walter Logan)
is it possible to find his service ID number and record? Thanks
49. Tom Stevens says:
30 Oct 2020 12:51:17 AM

How can I find out in what capacity Walter James Ellingson served during WWll. I have a photograph of him in uniform without any caption. Please can you help
50. Anonymous says:
4 Dec 2020 11:20:07 PM

Hi I just wanted to find out what rank my great grand pa had in ww1 and ww2 george Mars

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Basuto workers cleaning a Master aircraft at No. 23 Air School at AFB Waterkloof, Pretoria, South Africa, Jan 1943

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