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22/04/2021 11:12am

Africa Service Medal

Conflict
 
World War II.
 
Further relevant historical context can be found at the foot of this entry.
 
History
 
The Africa Service Medal was a South African campaign medal presented for service during World War II. The medal was instituted in December 1943, and was awarded to members of the Union Defence Forces, the South African Police, and the South African Railways Police who volunteered for war service outside South Africa, and had served continuously for thirty days, or part-time for a total of eighteen months, between 6 September 1939 and 2 September 1945.
 
As the name implies, the medal was originally intended for service on the African continent - up to the defeat of the Axis forces in North Africa 1943 - but it was later extended to cover service anywhere in the world, right up to the end of the war.
 
The medal was awarded in addition to the standard Commonwealth campaign awards for World War II.
 
The design was suggested by Field Marshal J.C. Smuts the South African World War II prime minister.
 
World War II ex-servicemen referred to the ribbon of this medal as ‘Ouma's Garter’. ‘Ouma’ (meaning ‘Granny’) in reference to the wife of Field Marshal J.C. Smuts who had the nickname ‘Granny Smuts’, the nickname being a tribute to her unstinting efforts to supply the South African troops with home comforts.
 
Description
 
The medal is circular, 36mm in diameter and was struck in silver. The obverse of this medal depicts a map of Africa, surrounded by the name of the medal in English; AFRICA SERVICE MEDAL', and Afrikaans; 'AFRIKADIENS-MEDALJE'.
 
The reverse depicts a Springbok prancing through the veld.
 
The ribbon suspender is of the plain, straight and non-swivelling style riveted to the medal.
 
The recipient's details can be found on the medal's rim in small impressed capital letters with the prefixes 'N' for Native Military Corps, 'C' for Cape Corps and 'M' for Malay Corps. White recipients had no prefix.
 
Ribbon
 
 
The ribbon is 32mm wide and is orange-red in colour with narrow yellow and green stripes along either edge.
 
The orange-red represented the colour of the shoulder flash worn by South African volunteers, the green and gold representing the ‘springbok’ sporting colours - which were adopted as the defence force colours.
 
Bars/Clasps
 
This medal was issued with the following emblem:-
 
King's Commendation - South Africa (1939-45)
A bronze King protea flower emblem which was authorised, to be worn on the ribbon of the Africa Service Medal, for valuable services in connection with the World War II.
It could be awarded posthumously and was the equivalent of a Mention in Despatches for services rendered away from the battlefield.
 
Further relevant historical context can be found at the foot of this entry.
 
Dealer Retail Value *
 
Africa Service Medal
£25.00
With King's Commendation clasp
£55.00
 
* It should be noted that the values quoted above reflect the average price that a medal dealer may expect to sell this medal for - please see the ‘things you should know’ web page for more details about valuing medals.
 
Further Historical Context
 
This section contains information on:-
 
- South African Forces During World War II.
 
South African Forces During World War II - On the eve of World War II, the Union of South Africa found itself in a unique political and military quandary. While it was closely allied with Great Britain, being a co-equal Dominion under the 1931 Statute of Westminster with its head of state being the British king, the South African Prime Minister on 1 September 1939 was J.B.M. Hertzog - the leader of the pro-Afrikaner and anti-British National Party. The National Party had joined in a unity government with the pro-British South African Party of Jan Smuts in 1934 as the United Party.
 
Hertzog's problem was that South Africa was constitutionally obligated to support Great Britain against Nazi Germany. The Polish-British Common Defence Pact obligated Britain, and in turn its dominions, to help Poland if it attacked by the Nazis. When Adolf Hitler's forces attacked Poland on 1 September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany two days later. A short but furious debate unfolded in South Africa, especially in the halls of power in the Parliament of South Africa. It pitted those who sought to enter the war on Britain's side, led by Smuts, against those who wanted to keep South Africa neutral, if not pro-Axis, led by Hertzog.
 
On 4 September, the United Party caucus refused to accept Hertzog's stance of neutrality in World War II and deposed him in favour of Smuts. Upon becoming Prime Minister, Smuts declared South Africa officially at war with Germany and the Axis. He immediately set about fortifying South Africa against any possible German sea invasion because of South Africa's global strategic importance controlling the long sea route around the Cape of Good Hope.
 
John Vorster and other members of the pro-Nazi Ossewabrandwag strongly objected to South Africa's participation in World War II and actively carried out sabotage against Smuts' government. Smuts took severe action against the Ossewabrandwag movement and jailed its leaders, including Vorster, for the duration of the war.
 
With the declaration of war in September 1939, the South African Army numbered only 3,353 regulars, with an additional 14,631 men of the Active Citizen Force (ACF) which gave peace time training to volunteers and in time of war would form the main body of the army. Pre-war plans did not anticipate that the army would fight outside southern Africa and it was trained and equipped only for bush warfare.
 
One of the problems to continuously face South Africa during the war was the shortage of available men. Due to its race policies it would only consider arming men of European descent which limited the available pool of men aged between 20 and 40 to around 320,000. In addition the declaration of war on Germany had the support of only a narrow majority in the South African parliament and was far from universally popular. Indeed, there was a significant minority actively opposed to the war and under these conditions conscription was never an option. The expansion of the army and its deployment overseas depended entirely on volunteers.
 
Given the country's attitudes to race, it is not surprising that the enlistment of fighting troops from the much larger black population was hardly considered. Instead, in an attempt to free up as many whites as possible for the fighting and technical arms, a number of corps were formed to provide drivers and pioneers, drawn from the more acceptable Cape Coloured and Indian populations. These were eventually amalgamated into the Cape Corps. A Native Military Corps, manned by blacks, was also formed for pioneer and labouring tasks. For some of their tasks, individuals were armed, mainly for self-protection and guard duties, but they were never allowed to participate in actual combat against Europeans.
 
The Union of South Africa participated with other British Commonwealth forces in battles in North Africa against Erwin Rommel and his Afrika Korps, and many South African pilots joined the Royal Air Force and fought against the Axis powers in the European theatre.
 
Of the 334,000 men volunteered for full-time service in the South African Army during the war (including some 211,000 whites, 77,000 blacks and 46,000 coloureds and Indians), nearly 9,000 were killed in action.
 
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has records of 11,023 known South African war dead during World War II.
 
This information was taken from ‘Wikipedia’. The original article and details of the authors can be found here. It is reproduced on this web-site under the ‘creative commons’ licence which can be found here.