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South African Soldiers of World War One (1914-1918)

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  • Eric Joseph Henderson (1898 - 1917)
    Capt E J Henderson of No 70 Sqn RFC was killed in action, together with his observer, Lt John Moir Sim (formerly 6th Bn, Gordon Highlanders), while flying Sopwith 1½ Strutter A2986 on 25 March 1...
  • George Lennox Brown (1887 - 1916)
  • Ronald Dunbar Leslie (1898 - 1918)
    A letter from Eleanor Leslie in Africa to her Daughter Ann and son George in England during World War 2 Darling Ann & George 21/ 7/ 42 I expect it’s hard for you to think of me as a li...
  • Leslie Herman Berlein (1893 - 1915)
    BERLEIN, LESLIE HERMANN Rank: Lieutenant Date of Death: 25/09/1915 Age: 22 Regiment/Service: Royal Berkshire Regiment 8th Bn. Grave Reference: V. D. 7. Cemetery: DUD CORNER CEMETERY, LOOS...
  • Charles Maurice Berlein (c.1888 - 1915)
    BERLEIN, CHARLES M. Rank: Lieutenant Date of Death: 16/06/1915 Age: 27 Regiment/Service: Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry 5th Bn. Grave Reference: II. A. 2. Cemetery: VLAMERTINGHE NEW MILI...

South African Soldiers in WWI




  • William Borcher, Private, South African Infantry 4th Regt., Service No.: 9970. Died in Brighton, England from nephritis, following wounds.
  • Gen. Louis Botha
  • Lieutenant Douglas Bayley de Bruyn Royal Lancaster Regiment, transferred to 35 Squadron Royal Flying Corps. Killed in a flying accident in Thetford, 27th May 1916, aged 20.


  • Alan Hains Campion, Private, 4th Regiment, South African Infantry, Service No.: 2042, killed in action in France
  • William Andrew Cary , 1865 - 1918, Rank: Private; Service No: 10668; Regiment/Service: South African Infantry, 5th Regt.



  • Leonard William Entress, Private, 1st Regt., South African Infantry, Service No.: 13483, he died of wounds as a POW aged 19 on 13 April 1918


Frank Richard Franks b. 1869. Died during battle of Menin Road , 21st September , 1917



  • Dudley George Hedding Lance Corporal 7th Regt, South African Infantry, Service No: 3639, killed in action at Telarta/Tarlela? Hill on 12/3/1916, British East Africa.
  • James Harold Hedding Service No. 1492 2/6 CYC Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment then Regiment Number: 119016 Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF)
  • James Lawrence Hedding Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment. Died of wounds caused by rifle grenade, Bethune, Pas de Calais, France
  • Sylvia Hannah Hedding Service number:14365, Rank: Chief Section Leader, Women's Royal Air Force
  • Glynn Rupert Hitzeroth, enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force on 5 Nov. 1915; killed in action in France on 19 July 1916; Private, 59th Battalion, Regt. No.: 4800
  • Donald Stewart Honeybun Private No, 96, South African Medical Corps (S.A.M.C.) (O/S)




  • Dudley Eric Laver (c. 1898 - 24 Marach 1918); Private 15829, 1st Regiment, South African Infantry; died, aged 19, at Marrieres Wood (missing in action); no known grave but remembered at Pozieres Cemetery, Somme, France.
  • Harry Longbottom, Private in the 4th Regiment of the South African Infantry; service no.: 21530; he died of pneumonia in Hampshire, England in 1918.


  • Henry Meise, In Memory of Private H MEISE 7137, 2nd Regt. (Inf.)., South African Infantry who died age 20 on 20 September 1917 Son of J. G. A. and Ida Amelia Meise, of 16, Symons St., East London, Cape Province. Remembered with honour YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL Commemorated in perpetuity by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, (website has closed) - Name: Meise, H. Force Number: 7137 Unit: 2SAI Rank: Pte Serial Number: 7677 Cause Of Death: KA Date Of Death: 20 September 1917 Source Document: Military Veterans' Administration Source Type: World War I and II Roll of Honour Source Location: For any further information on these people please contact Alettie at Collection: World War 1 + 2 Honour 1914 - 1948 Collection Name: World War 1 + 2 Honour records 1914 - 1948
  • Frederick George Miller rank & regiment unknown, came back from France wounded and needed to be hospitalised in SA.
  • William George Miller Service No:1794,Regiment/Service:South African Infantry 1st Regt,Date of Death:25/03/1918 France.
  • Charles Alfred Pigot-Moodie, 2nd Lieutenant, 6th Battalion Rifle Brigade, gazetted 2nd Lieutenant 15 Aug 1914; went to the Front Nov 1914, and was killed in action at Kennel, Belgium, 13 Jan 1915. He is buried in Kemmel Chateau Military Cemetery, and is commemorated on the Minstead War Memorial, in the New Forest, England.
  • George Frederick Arthur Pigot-Moodie, the First South African-born Recipient of the Military Cross (gazetted on 1 January 1915). See Research Notes on Brigadier George Pigot-Moodie, 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys) by Ross Dix-Peek for further details.




  • Frantz Johann Preiss Pitout 1918-1945 Sergeant †in Egypt South African Rank: Sergeant Regiment/Service: Regiment de la Rey, S.A. Forces Age: 27 †17/07/1945 Service No: 31302V Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: 9. A. 3. Cemetery: KHARTOUM WAR CEMETERY
  • Richard Farre Pfohl Richard Farre Pfohl


Richard was a soldier. He was killed during a punitive expedition against Kwamyama Chief Mandume. He was buried at Namacunde in Angola. Nine of the graves including his were later moved by the Commonwealth Wargraves Commmission to Obido Mission Station Cemetery, OshiKango, Namibia. They were moved in 1929 to Obido.




RICHARD PFOHL Killed in action, February 6th, 1917

R. Ffohl came as a boarder to the College at the beginning of 1906 and remained with us for some years. He served with the South African Mounted Rifles in South West Africa, and after the campaign was over, remained there to police the country.

The S.A.M.R. were ordered to quell a native rising in Ovamboland, and it was in a fight against the natives that he met his end. His younger brother, Fred, died on active service in East Africa. His aged father, broken up by the death of Fred, died four days after hearing of the death of his second son.

"They were lovely and Pleasant in their lives And in their death They were not divided".








SA in World War I

When the World War I broke out in 1914, the South African government chose to join the war on the side of the Allies. General Louis Botha, the then prime minister, faced widespread Afrikaner opposition to fighting alongside Great Britain so soon after the Second Boer War and had to put down a revolt by some of the more militant elements before he could send an expeditionary force of some 67,000 troops to invade German South-West Africa (now Namibia). The German troops stationed there eventually surrendered to the South African forces in July 1915. (In 1920 South Africa received a League of Nations mandate to govern the former German colony and to prepare it for independence within a few years.)

Later, an infantry brigade and various other supporting units were shipped to France in order to fight on the Western Front. The 1st South African Brigade – as this infantry brigade was named – consisted of four infantry battalions, representing men from all four provinces of the Union of South Africa as well as Rhodesia: the 1st Regiment was from the Cape Province, the 2nd Regiment was from Natal and the Orange Free State and the 3rd Regiment was from Transvaal and Rhodesia. The 4th Regiment was called the South African Scottish and was raised from members of the Transvaal Scottish and the Cape Town Highlanders; they wore the Atholl Murray tartan.

The supporting units included five batteries of heavy artillery, a field ambulance unit, a Royal Engineers signals company and a military hospital. The most costly action that the South African forces on the Western Front fought in was the Battle of Delville Wood in 1916 – of the 3,000 men from the brigade who entered the wood, only 768 emerged unscathed.

A day by day summary of the main actions of the South African infantry brigade on the Western Front are provided by Brian Conyngham of New Germany, KwaZulu-Natal on his website:

Another tragic loss of life for the South African forces during the war was the Mendi sinking on 21 February 1917, when the troopship Mendi – while transporting 607 members of the 802nd South African Native Labour Corps from Britain to France – was struck and cut almost in half by another ship.

In addition, the war against the German and Askari forces in German East Africa also involved more than 20,000 South African troops; they fought under General Jan Smuts's command when he directed the British campaign against there in 1915. (During the war, the army was led by General Smuts, who had rejoined the army from his position as Minister of Defence on the outbreak of the war.)

South Africans also saw action with the Cape Corps in Palestine. More than 146,000 whites, 83,000 blacks and 2,500 people of mixed race ("Coloureds") and Asians served in South African military units during the war, including 43,000 in German South-West Africa and 30,000 on the Western Front. An estimated 3,000 South Africans also joined the Royal Flying Corps.

Southern Africa's Birdmen of World War One, 1914-1919 - A List of Southern Africans in the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Air Force

The total South African casualties during the war was about 18,600 with over 12,452 killed – more than 4,600 in the European theater alone.

African theatre of World War I

East African Campaign The African Theatre of World War I comprises geographically distinct campaigns around the German colonies of Kamerun, Togoland, South-West Africa, and German East Africa.

The British Empire, with near total command of the world's oceans, had the power and resources to conquer the German colonies when the Great War started. Most German colonies in Africa had been recently acquired and were not well defended, with the notable exception of German East Africa. They were also surrounded on all land sides by African colonies belonging mostly to their enemies, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and, later in the war, Portugal.

West Africa

Germany had two colonies in West Africa, Togoland (modern-day Togo and the Volta Region of Ghana) and Kamerun (modern-day Cameroon). The small colony of Togoland was quickly conquered by British and French military forces. The German troops in Kamerun fought fiercely against invading British, French and Belgian forces, but in 1916 (after many soldiers had escaped into Spanish Guinea, which was neutral territory) the fighting ended with the surrender of the remaining German colonial armed forces (Schutztruppe). Strategic assets in the German West African colonies included: 4 high power long wave transmitters (one in Togo, the remainder in Kamerun) port facilities containing coal refuelling depots The British Atlantic Ocean colonies of Ascension Island and Saint Helena played no part in the West Africa campaigns except in their role as shipping re-supply points.

South-West Africa

German South-West Africa (modern-day Namibia) was a huge and arid territory. Bounded on the coast by the desolate Namib Desert, the only major German population was around the colonial capital of Windhoek, some 200 miles (320 km) inland from the Atlantic Ocean. The Germans had 3,000 soldiers and could count on the support of most of the 7,000 adult male German colonists. In addition, the Germans had very friendly relations with the Boers in South Africa, who had ended a bloody war with the British just twelve years before. The British began their attack by organizing and arming their former enemies, the Boers. This was dangerous, and the proposed attack on German South-West Africa turned into an active rebellion by some 12,000 Boers.

Boer leaders Jan Smuts and Louis Botha both took the British side against Christiaan Beyers and Christiaan De Wet. In two battles in October, the rebels were defeated and by the end of 1914, the rebellion was ended. General Smuts then continued his military operations into South-West Africa, starting around January 1915. The South African troops were battle-hardened and experienced in living in this type of terrain. They crossed the hundreds of miles of empty land on horseback in four columns. The Germans tried to delay this advance, but without success. Windhoek was captured on May 12, 1915. Two months later, all the German forces had surrendered. South Africa effectively ruled South-West Africa for the next 75 years.

Even before the official declaration of war between Germany and Portugal in March 1915, German and Portuguese troops clashed several times on the border between German South West Africa and Portuguese Angola. The Germans won these clashes and were able to occupy part of southern Angola, until the surrender in July 1915.

German East Africa

In German East Africa (modern-day Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda) the British were unable to fully subdue the defenders of the colony despite four years of effort and tens of thousands of casualties. The German commander, Colonel (later General) Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck, fought a guerrilla campaign for the duration of the Great War. His achievement became the stuff of legend, although in military terms his epic campaign had only a small impact on the course of the War. German forces staged raids, hit-and-run attacks, and ambushes. The British army often laid traps for Lettow-Vorbeck's troops but failed to catch him. The German forces ranged over all of German East Africa, living off the land and capturing military supplies from the British and Portuguese military.

In 1916 the British gave the task of defeating the Germans to the Boer commander Jan Smuts along with a very large force. His conquest of German East Africa was methodical and moderately successful. By the autumn of 1916, British troops had captured the German railway line and were solidly in control of the land north of the railway, while Belgian–Congolese troops under the command of General Tombeur had captured the Eastern part of the colony, including Ruanda-Urundi and Tabora. However, Lettow-Vorbeck's army was not defeated and remained active long after Smuts had left to join the Imperial War Cabinet in London in 1917. The German forces moved into Portuguese East Africa in November 1917, and later back into German East Africa, finally ending up in Northern Rhodesia when the war ended. Lettow-Vorbeck's small army agreed to a cease-fire at the Chambeshi River on November 14, 1918, after receiving a telegram informing them that Germany had given up fighting on November 11 (see Von Lettow-Vorbeck Memorial). The formal surrender took place on November 23, 1918 at Abercorn. Lettow-Vorbeck's army was never defeated in battle, and he was welcomed in Germany as a hero.


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