A Military History of Modern South Africa

Ian van der Waag

A century of South African military history in a single volume, the first of its kind. Includes the Second Anglo-Boer War, the two world wars, and also the South African Border War.
Publication date:
April 2018
Publisher :
Casemate Publishers
Illustration :
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ISBN : 9781612005829

Dimensions : 228 X 152 mm
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• The first overview of South African military history from 1899 to 2000 in a single volume
• Includes the Second Anglo-Boer War, the two world wars, Korea, the South African Border War, as well as domestic unrest and industrial action

Twentieth-century South Africa saw continuous, often rapid and fundamental socio-economic and political change. The century started with a brief but total war. Less than ten years later Britain brought the conquered Boer republics and the Cape and Natal colonies together into the Union of South Africa.

The Union Defence Force (UDF, later SADF), was deployed during most of the major wars of the century as well as a number of internal and regional struggles: the two world wars, Korea, uprising and rebellion on the part of Afrikaner and black nationalists, and industrial unrest. The century ended as it started, with another war. This was a flashpoint of the Cold War, which embraced more than just the subcontinent and lasted a long, thirty years. The outcome included the final withdrawal of foreign troops from southern Africa, the withdrawal of South African forces from Angola and Namibia, and the transfer of political power away from a white elite to a broad-based democracy.

This book is the first study of the South African armed forces as an institution and of the complex roles that these forces played in the wars, rebellions, uprisings and protests of the period. It deals in the first instance with the evolution of South African defence policy, the development of the armed forces and the people who served in and commanded them. It also places the narrative within the broader national past, to produce a fascinating study of a century packed full of episode and personality in which South Africa was uniquely embroiled in three total wars.


Any volume that provides such spectacular knowledge about military forces in a country has to be of some use - my only knowledge of South Africa concerns the politics of apartheid and Mandela. This superb book goes a long way to providing me with extra knowledge about this extraordinary nation.
Books Monthly