Military Records in South Africa

/Military Records in South Africa

Military Records in South Africa

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I can provide a service for the following records:

Pre Anglo-Boer War (1853 – 1898)

Various attestation forms, muster and medal rolls are accessible, as are citations relating to awards to South Africans.

The Cape of Good Hope Civil Service Lists 1885 – 1898 is another useful source of information for this time period as are the relevant blue books.

Anglo-Boer War

This archive is substantial and although it places emphasis on the records relating to the Boers, it also includes records of those who served the British Colonies in South Africa as well as Rhodesia. It includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • The Anglo-Boer War Medal application forms (consisting of 16 758 individual application files which also deals with the Decoration for Faithful Service and the Wound Ribbon)
  • South African Constabulary and Transvaal Police records of conduct and service
  • Attestation forms of Cape Colonials
  • Registers of the Red Cross for Boer dead, wounded and sick
  • Lists of owners of farms in the Transvaal
  • Transvaal voter list
  • List of Boer prisoners of war
  • Cape and Natal rebel lists
  • Various lists of foreign volunteers who fought on the side of the Boers
  • Lists of Boers who took oath and those who handed in their weapons prior to conclusion of the war
  • Cape Colony Force Orders
  • Compensation for War Losses files
  • Cape, Natal, Transvaal, Orange Free State and Rhodesia Civil Service Lists

World War I Contact Me

  • Personnel records consisting of service cards, personal, officer’s and medical files[1]
  • War diaries[2]
  • Citations and recommendations for awards[3]
  • Muster rolls
  • Medal roll and War Record
  • 1914 Rebellion cards for Union personnel and files for captured rebels
  • Board papers
  • Medal application files
  • South African Mounted Rifles personal files and cards
  • Union of South Africa Public Service List

World War II  Contact Me

  • Personnel records consisting of service cards, personal and officer’s files
  • War diaries
  • Accident reports
  • Citations and recommendations for awards
  • Union of South Africa Public Service Lists
  • Medal application files

Korean War

  • Personal files
  • Citations and recommendations for awards
  • Squadron diaries
  • Accident reports

South Africa (1953 – 1994) Contact Me

Military

  • Union and South African Defence Force Orders (1914 – 1990)[4]
  • Some citations and recommendations
  • Medal application files for certain medals

South African Police

  • Force Orders (1913 – 1995)
  • Service cards

South African Prisons Service

Force Orders (1917 – 1996)

[1] The personnel records generally consist of a service card and a personal file (for officers there is usually also an officer’s file).  The service cards provide details such as the force number, names and surname, religion, next of kin, medal entitlement and short cryptic summary of service.

The personal files provide more details such as prior service, a physical description of the person, matters relating to pay as well as discharge.

Officer’s files provide even more detail regarding an officer’s service and often includes correspondence.

[2] It is a day-to-day record of the happenings of a specific unit during time of war.  Except for some deaths and deeds of exceptional heroism, this document does not generally deal with individuals on a personal level, but rather with regards to the whole unit.  However, there are often exceptions to this general rule.

[3] These documents generally set out the reasons for a specific award.

[4] Force Orders are the official publications of a uniformed public service (Defence Force, Police, Prisons Services etc).  It, inter alia, provides details regarding promotions, transfers and awards.

Access:

Accessibility is in accordance with the National Archives of South Africa Act (Act No. 43 of 1996) and in the case of classified documentation accessibility is subject to approval of the Chief of Defence Intelligence of the Department of Defence.

Brief history:

The Department of Defence Archives was established as the SA Defence Force (SADF) Archives on 14 May 1968 following the approval by the Minister of Education of a separate military archives for Military Records in South Africa. Prior to this date an organisation for the preservation of the archives of the SADF Archives and its predecessor, the Union Defence Force, did exist but it had no legal status. The SADF Archives had a twofold function, namely to preserve the military archives and to undertake military historical research and history writing. It was therefore decided to rename it the Military Historical and Archival Service (MHAS).

In response to the SADF’s requirements, the MHAS gradually developed into a documentation service and this resulted in another change of the name in October 1972. The organisation then became known as the Central Documentation Service. Sweeping changes to the SADF in 1974 resulted in the reference library service, including the Central Library, being integrated into the Central Documentation Service. This led to a change in the status of the organisation. On 1 February 1975 it became a directorate and was designated the Documentation Service Directorate. In 1982 the directorate’s functions were augmented considerably when the SADF’s museums and ethnology service were added to it. Its function then comprised the preservation and management of records and archives; research and history writing; the reference library service; the museum service; and the ethnology service. The organisation was named the Military Information Bureau.

Regrettably the Military Information Bureau was disestablished on 31 December 1986 and some of its functions were decentralized to the arms of service. Fortunately the nucleus, namely the SADF Archives and the Military History Section as well as the Central Library, was retained as the SADF Archives. Early in 1991 the SADF’s personnel records were added to the SADF Archives. This warranted the re-instatement of an organisation with directorate status and the SADF Archives became part of Documentation Service Directorate. Following the election in 1994, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was established through the integration of the former statutory and non-statutory forces. On 1 April 1999 the name and status of this organisation was once again changed to bring the organisation in line with the transformation process, it is now known as the Documentation Centre. The Documentation Centre continued its functions and its archival service section, now known as the Department of Defence Archives, is still the official custodian of the documentation of the Department of Defence, the SANDF and its predecessors dating from 1912.

Acquisitions policy:

Documentation Centre (Department of Defence Archive) is the custodian of the archives of the Department of Defence/SANDF since its inception in 1912 as the Union Defence Force. All records of offices of the Department of Defence are transferred to the Department of Defence Archives when they are ten years old or older.

Areas of specialisation: The Department of Defence Archives specializes in military history. It houses the official records of the Department of Defence as well as a collection of unique publications, unit history files, photographs, maps and pamphlets pertaining to the Department of Defence/SANDF and its predecessors dating from 1912. The Personnel Archives and Reserves (PAR) which also forms part of Documentation Centre, houses the Military Records and personnel records of all former members of the SANDF and its predecessors. These personnel files are invaluable as a source for biographical details. Documentation Centre is also in possession of a collection of files pertaining to the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). It consists of applications by members of the South African Republican Forces during the 1920’s for the following medals: the “Dekoratie voor Trouwe Dienst Anglo-Boereoorlog”, the “De Zuidafrikaanse Republiek en Oranje Vrijstaat Oorlogsmedalje” and the “Lint voor Verwonding opgedaan gedurende de Anglo-Boereoorlog”.

Core holdings:

The Documentation Centre currently houses approximately two million Military Records and files consisting of 1 607 different archival groups and approximately 250 680 personnel files. The most frequently consulted archival groups are as follows: Adjutant General. Chief of the General Staff. Commandant General. Director General Air Force. Divisional Documents. Naval Ships Logs. Chief of the Navy Ships Logs. Quartermaster General. Secretary for Defence. Union War Histories. Various War Diaries for the First and Second World Wars.

Finding aids:

The main finding aids used at Documentation Centre comprise of the List of Archives, inventories, indexes and a computer retrieval system. The List of Archives reflects the entire content of the repository. Information such as the name of the archival group, abbreviation, the extent of the group in terms of archive boxes, the location and security classification are provided. Inventories provide detailed information on the content of each archival group. The items are described individually according to the title of the file, the file reference, the dates and the box number. Card indexes are available for the book, manuscript and map collections. Approximately 120 000 documents are available on the computer retrieval system of which about 48 000 are photographs. This represents only a small portion of the total holdings.

2018-10-16T10:01:59+00:00