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South African Forces in the med

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While looking for more info on CMAK.............came across this articile .......which is short but interesting...........and they may be in CMAK!


The South African Army had many things in common with the armies of the United States and Canada - including sizeable opposition to enforced military service (as was found in Canada, especially Quebec) and institutionalized racism (as found in the United States). Nonetheless, South African soldiers also matched the bravery and skill of their allies - and enemies - and earned for themselves many hard-fought Battle Honours in North Africa and Italy.

South Africa could boast only 3,300+ regular serving soldiers in September 1939, with 14, 361 more in the Active Citizen Force. The ACF was organized into brigade groups, nine in number, and trained to fight enemies in southern Africa.

After the outbreak of war, the formation of a Mobile Field Force was suggested, to number two infantry divisions reinforced by a mounted brigade and armoured regiment, with supporting forces such as artillery and coastal defence troops - in all 140,000 men. South Africa at the time had a population including 2,400,000 white skinned people, only 320,000 of whom were males of military age (20 - 40 years). Enlistment of black skinned troops for combat units was not considered; they were relegated to driving and engineering tasks to free up whites for combat. Of this small white population, conscription was not considered acceptable - the war against Germany was supported only by a narrow majority in the South African government, and was not popular among many of the civil population.

As the South African Army began to equip itself, the prospect of combat against the Germans did not seem likely. In March 1940 a brigade was promised by the South African government to provide troops to Kenya, to defend British territory against the Italians. The oath taken by South African soldiers, however, did not permit their employment outside southern Africa, and a new oath was administered on 29 March, permitting those that chose to swear by it to be employed anywhere on the continent of Africa.

In June 1940, war was declared on Italy, after that nation invaded France in the last days of the German invasion there. Fighting in East Africa followed in which the South Africans distinguished themselves. The First Division moved from East Africa to Egypt in May 1941, to be joined by the Second Division.

Fierce fighting in North Africa punished the South Africans; an entire brigade was destroyed in November 1941 at Sidi Rezegh, and an entire division less one brigade would surrender at Tobruk in June 1942. The remaining division fought at El Alamein and was played a role in the 8th Army's final victory there.

The First Infantry Division was withdrawn from service after the victory in North Africa, and a long desired plan to field an armoured division began to become reality. In February 1943, the Sixth Armoured Division began to form; after a year of training in Egypt - and yet another oath to be taken by men, freeing them to serve outside of Africa - the division move to Italy. The British would have preferred another Infantry formation, but with the loan of a second infantry brigade, the Division served first with the 8th Army and then from August 1944 with the United States Fifth Army.

Manpower shortages would plague the division in action throughout the war. By war's end, some 132, 194 men had volunteered for full time service with the South African Army; of these close to 3400 were killed, over 7200 wounded, and over 12,000 were captured or went missing.

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Hmm. Moving away from the splendidly amsuing analogies being trotted out ...

Does anyone know if any of the SA Official Histories, or similar material, is available online?

I haven't been specifically looking for SA stuff, but then I haven't come across any by chance either.



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I did a long search for finding any history on the South Africans. I finally got someplace when I got to www.militarymuseum.co.za as they were very helpful. Winecape MAY know of more sites, but the people there wee very helpful.

Also, here is a list of helpful books:


As you k now, the Battle of Sidi Rezeg is owned by me and was a rare catch, but a most excellent book on the subject.

I also have one of Nafziger's books that cover the South Africans at a higher level. If interested, I will dig it out and give you the information on the regiments.


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I wish the SA history were online, but no it isn't. It is one of the best military histories ever written. It is by Agar-Hamilton (and some other fellow iirc) and was called the Sidi Rezegh Battles. (There may be another volume too, I forget - but that is definitely the one to look for).

I believe Rune has a copy. I've read it, using a library copy. (To give you an idea how sought it can be, the University of Chicago copy has since been "lifted lol). A few used ones are typically available from military history bookstore sites.

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While we're on the subject ... the NZ OH on CRUSADER ain't half bad either, IMHO ;)

Incidentally, I just ordered Agar-Hamilton via Abebooks from an bookshop in England ... you guys are expensive to be around, recommending all these books, dagnabit! ;) It should be here in time for some lazy-days-on-the-beach-reading this summer. w00t! :D

[ November 13, 2003, 09:12 PM: Message edited by: JonS ]

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Originally posted by Nelson 1812:

The South African Army had many things in common with the armies of the United States and Canada - including sizeable opposition to enforced military service (as was found in Canada, especially Quebec)

Just as a point of order, Canada had enforced military service from 1940 onwards. The objection (and political hot potato) was to military service overseas. Even when a brigade of Canadian troops (many of whom were draftees) went to fight the Japanese in the Aleutians (part of North America), there was very little objection (except of course for those actually in the brigade, more than a couple of whom deserted).

When conscripts finally went overseas in late 1944, it was a bit of an anti-climax, as the Canadian government had actually asked permission of its constituents to release them from their promise of "no conscription". The people voted, and despite the majority of Quebecers voting against it, Canada-wide the people voted in favour of sending conscripts into European combat.

Consequently, there were no massive protests when the first draftees starting arriving in combat units in early 1945.

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The South Africans are indeed in the game, and are featured in fighting both at Sidi Rezegh and in the Po Valley. You can look for Winecape in one of the scenarios. Rune
Aye gents,

if it was not for Rune in(per)sistence in researching SA Army and TO&E -- online/offline sources are quite scarce -- there probably would have been no South African forces to speak of in the forthcoming CMAK. Eternally obliged for your efforts Rune! The jury is still out naming me as commander in one of your CMAK ill-fated battles…

Soccer PS:

Thanks Rune for sending me FIFA’s more detailed interpretation of Law 11: Offside. We had a PSL (Premier Soccer League) discussion here in South Africa regarding FIFA’s interpretation of when a player is "interfering with play" to be penalized for offside, i.e. the offside player now, according to FIFA, has to actually PLAY OR TOUCH the ball passed/touched by his team-mate. Thus physical contact with the ball seems mandatory, and not merely being in the close vicinity of ball to be called offside.


Charl Theron




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[ November 15, 2003, 07:57 AM: Message edited by: WineCape ]

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Are there figures on South Africans serving in British Army units? A friend from high school, whose family came from SA, had a grandfather who served in 5 RTR. At the time he may have only been living in SA (i.e. had moved there from UK). How did this work? That is, how could a Commonwealther join the British Army as opposed to his local army?

BTW, my friend used to wear his grandfather's uniform at halloween. A tad geeky perhaps, but I thought it was pretty cool.

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