|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|
Contributor: Alan Chanter
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, Quintin||Jackie Moggridge||Smuts, Jan|
|Marmon-Herrington Armored Car|
South Africa in World War II Interactive Map
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939