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South African World War II PARTICIPANTS

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This is the sub-project where all profiles of South Africans who participated during World War II can be added.

All South African Army, Navy and Air Force soldiers who participated in WWII can be added to this project.

Sub-projects for more specialised interests will be added when possible.

Collaborators are welcome, and so are suggestions.


Under "DOCUMENTS" you will find pages from WO392/21 Section 5. This is the list of "Imperial Prisoners of War in Italy" for August 1943. Section 5 contains the alphabetical list of "South African Union Defence Forces".

PLEASE NOTE: This file has been known to contain errors - specifically that people are listed as in a camp but they were already moved to another camp or country. So please be advised to use this list with caution, and if possible cross reference it. It is still a useful document, as it contains - Camp number, Surname, Initials, Rank, and Service number.



(Please be patient while this section is "UNDER CONSTRUCTION")


SA ARMY

1st SA INFANTRY DIVISION

During World War II the Division served in the East African Campaign from 1940 to 1941 and in the Western Desert Campaign (North African Campaign) from 1941 to 1942. The division was disbanded on 1 January 1943, for conversion into what would become the 6th South African Armoured Division.

The formation of the 1st South Africa Infantry Brigade Group was approved on 13 May 1940. Although approved, South Africa was desperately short of equipment and had few armoured vehicles save for a limited number of locally designed prototype armoured cars. Due to this limited infantry and armour offensive capacity, all that could initially be mobilised was an anti-aircraft detachment. Thus, part of the 1st SA Anti-Aircraft brigade, who arrived in Mombasa on 1 June 1940 as an advance party to protect Mombasa harbour from feared Italian air attacks, becoming the first South African land forces to be deployed outside of South Africa since the First World War. On 10 June 1940, Italy declared war and on the next day South Africa officially declared war on Italy. Two hours after the South African declaration (of war on Italy), four Ju 86’s of the South African Air Force bombed Italian troops at a Banda Camp close to Moyale, a few kilometres across the Kenya border into Ethiopia.

In order to rapidly provide forces to East Africa, as well as due to the lack of trained manpower – it was decided to initially form a single Infantry Brigade from the 1st Duke of Edinburgh's Own Rifles, the 1st Royal Natal Carabineers and the 1st Transvaal Scottish with brigade artillery and support elements (Refer ORBAT below). On 13 July, the 1st South African Brigade Group under command of Colonel John Daniel was issued its movement order... Embarkation commenced in Durban the next day, with Brigade HQ, 1st Transvaal Scottish and attached troops boarding the MS Dilwara while the Royal Natal Carbineers and a number of voluntary aid nurses boarded the Devonshire. The Duke of Edinburgh's Own Rifles followed in the Rajula. The convoy cast off on 17 July 1940.

On 13 August 1940 the 1st South African Infantry Division was officially constituted – consisting of the 1st SA Brigade Group already in Kenya and the 2nd and 5th South African Infantry Brigade Groups. Brig-Gen George Brink was appointed as commander with Lt. Col W.H.E. Poole as GSO 1. The Division HQ landed at Mombasa on 11 November 1940. At the peak of operations in 1940, there were 77,000 troops in Kenya of which 27,000 were South African.

Division Commanders:

EAST AFRICAN CAMPAIGN - East Africa & Abyssinia.

2nd & 5th SA Infantry Brigades 1st SA Infantry Division - East African Campaign (Wikipedia page)

Order of Battle as at 1/1/1941 Division commanded by Lt.-Gen. George Edwin Brink.

  • 2nd SA INFANTRY BRIGADE (commanded by Brig. Ferdinand Lindley Augustus Buchanan, MC VD ): 1st Natal Mounted Rifles, 1st Field Force Battalion, 2nd Field Force Battalion, No. 2 S.A. Armoured Car Company, 12th Field Company (SA Corps of Engineers), 12th Field Ambulance (SA Medical Corps), No. 2 Mobile General Workshops (SA Technical Services Corps), 3 Brigade Signals Company (SA Corps of Signals).
  • 5th SA INFANTRY BRIGADE (commanded by Brig. Bertram Frank Armstrong, DSO): 1st South African Irish Regiment, 2nd Regiment Botha, 3rd Transvaal Scottish Regiment, No. 1 S.A. Armoured Car Company, 5th Field Company (SA Corps of Engineers), 11th Field Ambulance (SA Medical Corps), No. 3 Mobile General Workshops (SA Technical Services Corps), 1st Brigade Signals Company (SA Corps of Signals).
  • 25th EAST AFRICAN INFANTRY BRIGADE (commanded by Brig. W. Owen): 2/3 King's African Rifles (Kenya Territorial Territorial Infantry), 2/4 King's African Rifles, 27th Indian Mountain Battery (Royal Artillery Corps), Detachment Armoured Cars, Somaliland Camel Corps, 3rd Field Company (SA Corps of Engineers), 6th Uganda Field Ambulance (Medical Corps), 25th East African Brigade Gp Company (Signals).
  • DIVISION TROOPS: 7th, 8th and 9th Field Batteries of Transvaal Horse Artillery (SA Artillery Corps), 3rd Anti-Tank Battery (SA Artillery Corps), One section of 6th Anti-Aircraft Battery (SA Artillery Corps), One platoon of 1/3 King's African Rifles (Machine gun), No. 2 Abyssinian Irregular Company, No. 5 Abyssinian Irregular Company, 21st Field Park Company (SA Engineering Corps).

Battles, Actions & Engagements

  • Dida Galgalla.
  • El Yibo 16/1/1941-18/1/1941.
  • Turbi Road 24/1/1941-25/1/1941.
  • Gorai 1/2/1941-1/2/1941.
  • El Gumu 1/2/1941-1/2/1941.
  • Hobok 2/1/1941-2/2/1941.
  • Banno 8/2/1941-9/2/1941.
  • Yavello Road 15/2/1941-15/2/1941.
  • Mega 15/2/1941-18/2/1941.

Transfer to Egypt: The Division HQ, Division troops and 5th SA Infantry Brigade arrived in Suez, after an eleven-day voyage from Mombassa on 3 May 1941. The 2nd Brigade arrived in Suez on 8 June from Berbera and was forthwith assiged to 2nd SA Infantry Division. The 1st Brigade sailed from Massawa on 12 June 1941 to Egypt.

WESTERN DESERT (North African Campaign)

Battles, Actions & Engagements

Fall of Tobruk (Also see further below, under 2nd SA Infantry Division) On 21 June 1942, 35,000 Allied troops (including the South African 2nd Division) surrendered to General Enea Navarrini.

First Battle of Tel el Eisa (part of 1st Alamein) 10/7/1942-11/7/1942. First Battle of Tel el Eisa (Wikipedia page).

Order of Battle as at 17/10/1942 (Second Battle of El Alamein). Division commanded by Maj.-Gen. Dan Pienaar.

  • 1st SA INFANTRY BRIGADE (commanded by Brig. Eric Ponsonby Hartshorn, DSO DCM VD ): 1st Duke of Edinburgh's Own Rifles (SA Infantry Corps), 1st Royal Natal Carabineers (SA Infantry Corps), 1st Transvaal Scottish (SA Infantry Corps), One Squadron of 3rd SA Armoured Car Regiment (SA Tank Corps), 3rd and 4th Anti-Tank Batteries (SA Artillery Corps), 1st Light Anti-Aircraft Battery (SA Artillery Corps), 1st Field Company (SA Engineering Corps), 11th and 15th Field Batteries of 4th Field Regiment (SA Artillery Corps), 7th, 19th and 20th Field Batteries of 7th Field Regiment (SA Artillery Corps).
  • 2nd SA INFANTRY BRIGADE (Commanded by Brig. William Henry Evered Poole, CB CBE DSO LOM ): 1st Cape Town Highlanders (SA Infantry Corps), 1st Natal Mounted Rifles (SA Infantry Corps), 1st Field Force Battalion (SA Infantry Corps), 2nd Field Force Battalion (SA Infantry Corps), B Company (Machine Gun), Die Middelandse Regiment (SA Infantry Corps), 4th Company (Machine Gun), Regiment President Steyn (SA Infantry Corps), 1st and 2nd Anti-Tank Batteries (SA Artillery Corps), 3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Battery (less two Troops) (SA Artillery Corps), 1st, 3rd and 14th Field Batteries of 1st Field Regiment (SA Artillery Corps).
  • 3rd SA INFANTRY BRIGADE (commanded by Brig. Robert John Palmer, DSO): 1st Imperial Light Horse (SA Infantry Corps), 1st Rand Light Infantry (SA Infantry Corps), 1st Royal Durban Light Infantry (SA Infantry Corps), One Troop 3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Battery (SA Artillery Corps), 2nd Field Company (SA Engineering Corps).
  • DIVISION TROOPS: 2nd Regiment Botha (SA Infantry Corps), Regiment President Steyn (less one Company) (SA Infantry Corps), 3rd SA Armoured Car Regiment (less one Squadron) (SA Tank Corps), 8th Royal Tank Regiment (part of 23rd Armoured Brigade Group).

ATTACHED FORMATIONS:

  • 21st East African Infantry Brigade from 27/2/1941-6/4/1941.
  • Polish Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade from 3/2/1942-18/3/1942.
  • Free French Brigade from 3/2/1942-10/2/1942.
  • 6th SA INFANTRY BRIGADE from 18/3/1942-20/4/1942.

DISBANDMENT

The Union Defence Force had finalised a decision to convert the 1st SA Infantry Division into an Armoured Division and the Axis withdrawal from El Alamein marked the end of fighting for the division in the Middle East. By 1 December, advance parties were already returning to South Africa to assist with the establishment of the intended armoured division and later in the month, Gen. Pienaar was recalled to South Africa to lead the formation of the new division. He and eleven other officers boarded a Lockheed Lodestar on 17 December to fly back to South Africa. The aircraft stopped to re-fuel at Kisumu on the shores of Lake Victoria and on takeoff on the 19th, it plunged into the lake, killing all on board. On 1 January 1943, the 1st SA Infantry Division embarked for home, with troops returning to their parent units in South Africa. The Division had been dissolved and many of its former units were to be absorbed into the 6th South African Armoured Division.

1st SA Infantry Brigade

The brigade was reactivated at the start of WWII, served in East Africa and the Western Desert, and was disbanded on 1 January 1943. On formation the brigade included three infantry battalions, the 1st Battalion Transvaal Scottish Regiment, the 1st Battalion, Duke of Edinburgh's Own Rifles and the 1st Battalion of the Royal Natal Carbineers. Soon after its formation, the brigade received transport for equipping one motorised battalion, and this was assigned to the 1st Transvaal Scottish.

Brigade commanders:

EAST AFRICAN CAMPAIGN The Brigade embarked by shop for Mombasa, Kenya on 16/7/1940, where it commenced training not far from Nairobi in the Kenyan Highlands. On 6 September 1940, the 1st Transvaal Scottish was transferred to the 2nd East African Brigade under British command, and took part in the first action involving South African ground troops in the Second World War near Liboi when a column was attacked by a force of Banda and Italian Colonial infantry. Although nominally part of the 1st South African Division, the brigade was deployed under 11th and 12th African Divisions. It fought in the campaign in Italian Somaliland, and in the conquest of Ethiopia in 1941.

NORTH AFRICAN CAMPAIGN From East Africa, the brigade – reassigned to 1st South African Division – was transferred to Egypt. It fought in the North Africa campaign from July 1941 until after the Battle of El Alamein in October/November 1942. The brigade returned to South Africa in January 1943, and was converted into the 1st South African Armoured Brigade, to serve as a training formation for the rest of the war.

Order of Battle, 17/10/1942 - Second Battle of El Alamein Brigade commanded by Brig. Eric Ponsonby Hartshorn, DSO DCM VD 1st Duke of Edinburgh's Own Rifles, SA Infantry Corps (Lt.-Col. S.B. Gwillam). 1st Royal Natal Carabineers, SA Infantry Corps (Lt.-Col. Len Hay, MC). 1st Transvaal Scottish, SA Infantry Corps. One Squadron 3rd SA Armoured Car Regiment, SA Tank Corps. 3rd and 4th Anti-Tank Batteries, SA Artillery Corps. 1st Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, SA Artillery Corps. 1st Field Company, SA Engineering Corps. 11th and 15th Field Batteries of 4th Field Regiment, SA Artillery Corps. 7th, 19th and 20th Field Batteries of 7th Field Regiment, SA Artillery Corps.

2nd SA Infantry Brigade

The Brigade was formed on 13 August 1940. It served in East Africa and the Western Desert (North African Campaign), and was disbanded on 1 January 1943.

Brigade commanders:

EAST AFRICAN CAMPAIGN Brigade commanded by Brig. Ferdinand Lindley Augustus Buchanan, MC VD. 1st Natal Mounted Rifles. 1st Field Force Battalion. 2nd Field Force Battalion. No. 2 SA Armoured Car Company. 12th Field Company, SA Corps of Engineers. 12th Field Ambulance, SA Medical Corps. No. 2 Mobile General Workshops, SA Technical Services Corps. 3 Brigade Signals Company, SA Corps of Signals.

NORTH AFRICAN CAMPAIGN - Western Desert Campaign (the Second Battle of El Alamein) Brigade commanded by Brig. William Henry Evered Poole, CB CBE DSO LOM. 1st Cape Town Highlanders, SA Infantry Corps. 1st Natal Mounted Rifles, SA Infantry Corps. 1st Field Force Battalion, SA Infantry Corps. 2nd Field Force Battalion, SA Infantry Corps. B Company (Machine Gun), Die Middelandse Regiment, SA Infantry Corps. 4th Company (Machine Gun), Regiment President Steyn, SA Infantry Corps. 1st and 2nd Anti-Tank Batteries, SA Artillery Corps. 3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Battery (less two Troops), SA Artillery Corps. 1st, 3rd and 14th Field Batteries of 1st Field Regiment, SA Artillery Corps.

3rd SA Infantry Brigade

The brigade was was formed on 13 August 1940. It served in the Western Desert (North African Campaign), and was disbanded on 1 January 1943.

Brigade Commanders:

  • Brigadier Robert John ("Bobby") Palmer, DSO. (b.10/2/1891-d.23/3/1957).

NORTH AFRICAN CAMPAIGN - Western Desert Campaign (the Second Battle of El Alamein) Brigade commanded by Brigadier Robert John Palmer, DSO. 1st Imperial Light Horse, SA Infantry Corps. 1st Rand Light Infantry, SA Infantry Corps. 1st Royal Durban Light Infantry, SA Infantry Corps. One Troop 3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, SA Artillery Corps. 2nd Field Company, SA Engineering Corps.

5th SA Infantry Brigade

The Brigade formed part of the South African 1st Infantry Division and was formed on 13 August 1940. It served in East Africa and the Western Desert (North African Campaign) and was disbanded on 1 January 1943.

EAST AFRICAN CAMPAIGN Brigade commanded by Brigadier Bertram Frank Armstrong, DSO. 1st South African Irish Regiment. 2nd Regiment Botha. 3rd Transvaal Scottish Regiment. No. 1 S.A. Armoured Car Company. 5th Field Company, SA Corps of Engineers. 11th Field Ambulance, SA Medical Corps. No. 3 Mobile General Workshops, SA Technical Services Corps. 1 Brigade Signals Company, SA Corps of Signals.

NORTH AFRICAN CAMPAIGN - Western Desert Campaign The 5th Brigade was almost totally wiped out by the German 15th Panzer and Italian Ariete Divisions at Sidi Rezegh (Operation Crusader) on 23 November 1941. Operation Crusader (Wikipedia page) Although partially re-staffed and re-equipped, the Brigade never served operationally after this defeat.

Brig. Johann Bosman Kriegler, CBE.

2nd SA INFANTRY DIVISION

The division was formed on 23 October 1940. The division served in the Western Desert Campaign (North African Campaign) and was captured (save for one brigade) by German and Italian forces at Tobruk on 21 June 1942. The remaining brigade was re-allocated to the 1st SA Infantry Division.

Division Commanders.

NORTH AFRICAN CAMPAIGN

Order of Battle as at 21/9/1941.

Troops: 1st Imperial Light Horse (SA Infantry Corps), 1st Royal Light Infantry (SA Infantry Corps)., 1 Kaffrarian Rifles, B & C Companies of Die Middelandse Regiment, 2nd SA Field Company (less one section) (SA Engineering Corps), One Section 10 SA Field Company, One Platoon 4th Brigade Signal Company, 5th Brigade Signal Company (less one platoon), 3rd SA Brigade 'Q' Services Company, Three detachments from 14th SA Field Ambulance. With in support: One Regiment 1st Army Tank Brigade, Artillery as arranged by C.R.A.

  • NORTHFORCE (commanded by Lt.-Col. J. Butler-Porter, VD - 1 R.D.L.I.):

1st Royal Durban Light Infantry (SA Infantry Corps), Section 2nd SA Field Company, Platoon 5th Brigade Signal Company, Detachment 16th Field Ambulance. With in suport: N.Z. Div Cavalry Regiment (less one squadron.).

  • KINGFORCE (commanded by Lt-Col. W. Kingwell, MC - Die Middelandse Regiment):

Troops: Die Middelandse Regiment (less B, C & D Companies and one platoon A Company), Two Plattons 7th SA Armoured Recce Battalion, Detachment 4th SA Field Company. With in support: One Squadron N.Z. Division Car Regiment.

  • SOUTHFORCE (commanded by Maj. P.J. Jacobs - 7th SA Armoured Recce Battalion):

Troops: 7th SA Armoured Recce Battalion (less one Company and two platoons), Detachment 4th SA Field Company, Detachment 14th SA Field Ambulance.

  • RESERVES (commanded by Lt.-Col. Robert John Palmer - 1 SAP):

Troops: One Regiment 1st Army Tank Brigade, 1st SA Police Battalion, Section 4th SA Field Company, Detachment 14th SA Field Ambulance.

Order of Battle as at 2/12/1941 - Initial Operational Deployment.

  • HQ 2nd INFANTRY DIVISION (commanded by Maj.-Gen. Isaac Pierre de Villiers, CB MC.): One squadron 6th SA Armoured Car Regiment.
  • BRAFORCE (commanded by Brig. Medley): 2nd SA Infantry Brigade (commanded by Brig. William Henry Evered Poole, CB CBE DSO LOM, 4th SA INFANTRY BRIGADE (less one battalion) (commanded by Brig. Alexander Alfred Hayton, VD DSO (Wikipedia page) ), 4th Field Regiment (SA Artillery), One Battery of 5th Field Regiment (SA Artillery), One Troop of 67th Medium Regiment (Royal Artillery), One Troop of 68th Medium Regiment (Royal Artillery), C & D Companies of Die Middelandse Regiment.
  • 3rd SA INFANTRY BRIGADE (commanded by Brig. Clifford Ernest Borain, DSO MC VD ED ): 1st Imperial Light Horse (SA Infantry Corps), 1st Royal Durban Light Infantry (SA Infantry Corps), 1st Rand Light Infantry (SA Infantry Corps), 5th Field Regiment (less one battery) (SA Artillery).
  • 6th SA INFANTRY BRIGADE (commanded by Brig. F.W. Cooper): 2nd Transvaal Scottish, 1st South African Police Battalion, 2nd South African Police Battalion, 1st Field Regiment (Cape Field Artillery).
  • RAILHEAD FORCE (commanded by Lt.-Col. G.E. L'Estrange, DSO VD): Umvoti Mounted Rifles, Die Middellandse Regiment, Detachment TDS (approx 30 "I" Tanks), 10th Field Company (SA Engineering Corps).
  • 5th New Zealand Infantry Brigade Group.

Battles, Actions & Engagements:

  • Bardia 31/12/1941-2/1/1942. About 8,000 Allied POWs were freed and about 6.000 Axis POWs were taken.
  • Clayden's Trench (Sollum) 11/1/1942-12/1/1942.
  • Gazala 26/5/1942-21/6/1942. Battle of Gazala (Wikipedia page).

Fall of Tobruk 20/6/1942-21/6/1942. (Also see above, under 1st SA Infantry Division) "Gott, the XIII Corps commander, appointed Major-General Klopper of the 2nd SA Infantry Division commander of the Tobruk garrison. In addition to the two South African brigades, he had the 201st Guards (Motorised) Brigade, 11th Indian Infantry Brigade, 32nd Army Tank Brigade and the 4th Anti-Aircraft Brigade. Allied leaders expected it to be able to hold out for two months with the supplies in the fortress. Auchinleck viewed the defence of Tobruk as non-essential and had already told Neil Ritchie that he did not intend to hold it at all costs. In February 1942 the Army, Navy and Air Force Commanders-in-Chief in Cairo had agreed that Tobruk should not stand another siege. Given this and the subsequent emphasis on building strength at the Gazala position for Operation Buckshot, which was forestalled by Operation Aïda, the defences at Tobruk had not been maintained in first rate condition. On 21 June 1942, 35,000 Allied troops (including the South African 2nd Division) surrendered to General Enea Navarrini. - The number of South African prisoners taken at Tobruk has been recorded as 10.772. "The burden of blame" for the loss of Tobruk in 1942, Churchill wrote in volume 4 of his memoirs, The Hinge of Fate, "falls upon the [British] High Command rather than on [the fortress commander South African] General [Hendrik] Klopper and still less on his troops." Dan Pienaar (Wikipedia page) .

Order of Battle at the Fall of Tobruk, 20/6/1942. Division commanded by Gen. H.B. Klopper (Wikipedia page).

  • DIVISION TROOPS: Die Middelandse Regiment (Machine-gun battalion), 7th SA Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Field Regiment (Natal Field Artillery, SA Artillery), 3rd Field Regiment (Transvaal Horse Artillery, SA Artillery), 6th Anti-Tank Battery (SA Artillery), 2nd Light Anti-aircraft Regiment (SA Artillery), 4th & 10th South African Field Companies (SA Engineers).
  • 4th SA INFANTRY BRIGADE: 2nd Royal Durban Light Infantry, Umvoti Mounted Rifles, The Kaffrarian Rifles, Blake Group (a composite battalion ex 1 SA Div).
  • 6th SA INFANTRY BRIGADE: 1st SA Police Battalion, 2nd SA Police Battalion, 2nd Transvaal Scottish Regiment.
  • Note: After the capture of the rest of the division, 3rd SA INFANTRY BRIGADE and the 1st Field Regiment of the Cape Field Artillery became part of the SA 1st INFANTRY DIVISION.

3rd SA Infantry Brigade

The brigade was was formed on 13 August 1940. It served in the Western Desert (North African Campaign), and was disbanded on 1 January 1943.

Brigade Commanders:

  • Brig. Robert John ("Bobby") Palmer.

NORTH AFRICAN CAMPAIGN - Western Desert Campaign (the Second Battle of El Alamein) Brigade commanded by Brigadier R.J. Palmer. 1st Imperial Light Horse, SA Infantry Corps. 1st Rand Light Infantry, SA Infantry Corps. 1st Royal Durban Light Infantry, SA Infantry Corps. One Troop 3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, SA Artillery Corps. 2nd Field Company, SA Engineering Corps.

4th SA Infantry Brigade

The brigade served in the Western Desert Campaign until it was captured by German and Italian forces at Tobruk on 21 June 1942.

Order of Battle as at 20/6/1942 - The Fall of Tobruk. 2nd Royal Durban Light Infantry, Umvoti Mounted Rifles, The Kaffrarian Rifles.

6th SA Infantry Brigade

Order of Battle as at 20/6/1942 - The Fall of Tobruk. 1st SA Police Battalion, 2nd SA Police Battalion, 2nd Transvaal Scottish Regiment.

3rd SA INFANTRY DIVISION / 3rd SA ARMOURED DIVISION

The 3rd Infantry Division never took an active part in any battles but instead organised and trained the South African home defence forces, performed garrison duties and trained and supplied replacements for the 1st and 2nd Divisions deployed to East Africa and later to the Western Desert. The division was based in Pretoria until 1942, whereafter the division then moved to Ermelo in the Eastern Transvaal, although its constituent units were deployed as far as the then South West Africa. On 4 April 1942 the division was redesignated the South African 3rd Armoured Division.

The 3rd Division was based in South Africa and was to provide the pool from which reinforcements were drawn to supplement the 1st and 2nd Divisions. This division was disbanded on 17 May 1943, without ever having been deployed. However, one of the division's constituent units, the 7th Motorised Brigade, did take part in the invasion of Madagascar.

Major General Hermanus Botha was the commander of the division from 23 August 1940 until its redesignation.

6th SA ARMOURED DIVISION

The 6th South African Armoured Division was the second armoured division of the South African Army and was formed during World War II. Established in early 1943, it was based on a nucleus of men from the former 1st SA Infantry Division who had returned to South Africa after the Second Battle of El Alamein in late 1942. The division was initially transferred to Egypt for training, after which it served in the Allied campaign in Italy during 1944 and 1945. In Italy, the Division was initially deployed as part of the British Eighth Army, under command of Lieutenant-General Oliver Leese, and was then transferred to the U.S. Fifth Army, under Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, for the remainder of the Italian Campaign. The Division operated as a strongly reinforced division and was frequently used to spearhead the advance of the Corps and Army to which it was attached. They returned home after the end of the war in Italy and were disbanded in 1946.

After the Second Battle of El Alamein, the 1st SA Infantry Division was withdrawn to Quassasin with the understanding that its 1st Brigade would return to South Africa to regroup with the 7th Infantry Brigade (at this time the 7th Infantry Brigade was in Madagascar) to form the 1st SA Armoured Division. 1st SA Infantry Division's 2nd & 3rd Brigades would remain in Egypt to form the 6th South African Armoured Division which would replace the 2nd Infantry Division which had been captured at Tobruk in June 1942. Plans for a 1st SA Armoured Division were later abandoned, with only the 6th Division being considered viable. All of the 1st South African Infantry Division brigades were returned to South Africa for re-training and amalgamation with other units to form the nucleus of the armoured division. The division was officially formed in South Africa on 1 February 1943 with Maj.Gen. William Henry Evered Poole as commander and sailed for Port Tewfik in Suez on 30 April 1943 as a two brigade division, comprising 11th Armoured Brigade and 12th Motorised Brigade.

TRAINING IN EGYPT

Training (in Egypt) began in the desert at Khataba, north west of Cairo, and was focused on tank operations and integrating the Rhodesian elements into the Division. On 23 January 1944 the Division moved to Helwan. By now, the Division had been in Egypt for months due to indecision related to its role. On 3 March 1944 the Division was instructed to move to Palestine, and the advance parties left on 7 March. On 12 March this movement order was countermanded, and the Division was instructed to move to ITALY. One year after arriving in the Middle East, the Division embarked from Alexandria to arrive in Taranto, ITALY on 20 & 21 April 1944.

ITALY

Detachment of 12th Motorised Brigade: The 12th Motorised Brigade with artillery & support elements was ordered to move to the area of Isernia to prepare to relive the 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade in the Cassino area and to come under command of the 2nd New Zealand Division in the British X Corps. These were the first Division troops to enter combat in Italy. The SA Brigade held these positions until after the Fall of Monte Cassino and the breakout from the Anzio beachhead, when they were withdrawn and reunited with the Division.

Order of Battle on arrival in Italy, 21/4/1944 Commander: Maj.Gen. William Henry Evered Poole.

  • 6th SA ARMOURED DIVISION HQ:

Division Troops: Royal Durban Light Infantry (SA Infantry Corps). Reconnaissance: Natal Mounted Rifles (SA Armoured Corps). Division Artillery: Commanded by Col. Jacobus Nicolaas "Nick" Bierman. - Lt.-Gen. Nick Bierman (Wikipedia page) . 1st/6th Field Regiment (Cape Field Artillery), 4/22 Field Regiment (SA Artillery Corps), 7th/23rd Medium Regiment (SA Artillery Corps), 1st/11th Anti-Tank Regiment (SA Artillery Corps), 1st/12th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment (SA Artillery Corps). Engineers: 17th Field Park Squadron (SA Engineering Corps), 12th Field Squadron (SA Engineering Corps), 8th Field Squadron (SA Engineering Corps). Signals: 6th SA Division Signal Squadron (SA Corps of Signals), 6th SA Division Artillery Signal Squadron (SA Artillery Corps), 14th Motorised Brigade Signals Squadron (SA Corps of Signals). Medical: 19th Field Ambulance (SA Medical Corps), 20th Field Ambulance (SA Medical Corps).

Armour: Prince Alice's Own Pretoria Regiment (PR), Prince Alfred's Guard (PAG), Special Service Battalion (SSB). Infantry: Imperial Light Horse / Kimberley Regiment (ILH/KimR).

  • 12th SA MOTORISED INFANTRY BRIGADE: Commanded by Brig. Robert John "Bobby" Palmer.

Infantry: First City / Cape Town Highlanders (FC/CTH), Royal Natal Carbineers (RNC), Witwatersrand Rifles Regiment / Regiment de la Rey (WR/DLR).

  • 24th BRITISH GUARD BRIGADE: Commanded by Brig. M.D. Erskine.

Infantry: 1st Battalion (The Scots Guards), 3rd Battalion (The Coldstream Guards), 5th Battalion (Grenadier Guards). Engineers: 42nd Field Company (Royal Engineers), 24th Independent Brigade Group (Guards) Workshop. Medical: 137th Field Ambulance (Royal Army Medical Corps). Signals: 550th Company (Royal Corps of Signals).

Order of Battle at the end of hostilities, 2/5/1945 Commander: Maj.Gen. William Henry Evered Poole.

  • 6th SA ARMOURED DIVISION HQ:

Division Troops: Support Battalion DSR. Division Artillery: Commanded by Brig. Jacobus Nicolaas "Nick" Bierman. - Lt.-Gen. Nick Bierman (Wikipedia page) . 1st/6th Field Regiment (Cape Field Artillery), 4/22 Field Regiment (SA Artillery Corps), 166th (Newfoundland) Field Regiment (Royal Artillery), 7th/23rd Medium Regiment (SA Artillery Corps), 1st/11th Anti-Tank Regiment (SA Artillery Corps). Engineers: 17th Field Park Squadron (SA Engineering Corps), 12th Field Squadron (SA Engineering Corps), 8th Field Squadron (SA Engineering Corps), 622nd Field Squadron (Royal Engineers). Signals: 6th SA Division Signal Squadron (SA Corps of Signals), 6th SA Division Artillery Signal Squadron (SA Artillery Corps), 14th Motorised Brigade Signals Squadron (SA Corps of Signals). Medical: 19th Field Ambulance (SA Medical Corps), 20th Field Ambulance (SA Medical Corps).

Armour: Prince Alice's Own Pretoria Regiment (PR), Prince Alfred's Guard (PAG), Special Service Battalion (SSB). Infantry: Imperial Light Horse / Kimberley Regiment (ILH/KimR), 4th/13th Frontier Force Rifles.

  • 12th SA MOTORISED INFANTRY BRIGADE: Commanded by Brig. Robert John "Bobby" Palmer.

Brigade Troops: Regiment Botha / Regiment President Steyn (RB/RPS). Infantry: First City / Cape Town Highlanders (FC/CTH), Royal Natal Carbineers (RNC), Witwatersrand Rifles Regiment / Regiment de la Rey (WR/DLR).

  • 13th SA MOTORISED INFANTRY BRIGADE: Commanded by Brig. J.P. Bester.

Infantry: Imperial Light Horse / Kimberley Regiment (ILH/KimR), Natal Mounted Rifles / SA Air Force Regiment, Royal Durban Light Infantry (RDLI). Artillery: 15th Field Regiment (SA Artillery Corps). Engineers: 5th Field Company (SA Engineering Corps). Medical: 19th Field Ambulance (SA Medical Corps). Signals: 18th Motorised Brigade Signals.

Maj.Gen. W.H.E. Poole, CB CBE DSO LOM.

Brig. Jan Pieter Albertus Furstenburg, DSO.

Brig. Christiaan Ludolph de Wet du Toit, DSO.

SA AIR FORCE

General Sir Pierre van Ryneveld, KBE CB DSO MC.

SA NAVY

SA OTHER

Battle of Britian - South African airmen


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