Armoured warfare : the South African experience in East Africa 1940-1941

Kleynhans, Evert Philippus (2014-12)

Thesis (MMil)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Following South African entry into the Second World War on 6 September 1939, the Union Defence Force (UDF) transformed from an ageing peacetime defence force into a modern armed force capable of projecting offensive power. During the interwar period a certain state of melancholia had existed in the UDF in terms of military innovation, which resulted in muddled thinking in the UDF in terms of armoured warfare and mechanisation. The offensive potential of armoured forces was simply not understood by the South African defence planners, with the result that there was only a token armoured force in the UDF in September 1939. The South African entry into the war was the impetus for the development of a viable armoured force within the UDF, and the South African Tank Corps (SATC) was established in May 1940. Changes in both the nature and organisational structure of the South African defence establishment followed. The Italian presence in Abyssinia and Italian Somaliland was seen as a direct threat to the neighbouring British East African territories, and South Africa deployed to Kenya during June 1940, soon after the Italian declaration of war. The South African deployment to East Africa was the first deployment of the UDF in a situation of regular war since the First World War. Despite the doctrine that underpinned the South African deployment of armoured forces in East Africa, the SATC units soon learned that the accepted doctrine, borrowed from the British War Office during the interwar period, was but a mere guide to offensive employment. The story of the South African deployment to East Africa during the war is used as a lens through which to investigate the role and employment of both the UDF armoured cars and light tanks. By separately discussing the Allied offensives through Italian Somaliland and southern Abyssinia during 1940-1941, the tactical and operational employment of the South African armour during this time becomes paramount when evaluated against their successes and failures. The nature of the opposing Italian forces in East Africa, the ever-changing topography and climate of the theatre of operations, and the nature of the South African offensive operations throughout the campaign, all combined to shape the novel way in which the armoured cars and tanks of the SATC were employed throughout 1940-1941. The operational experiences that the UDF gained during the campaign in East Africa shaped the further deployments of South African armour to North Africa, Madagascar and Italy during the remainder of the war.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Na Suid-Afrika se toetrede tot die Tweede Wêreldoorlog op 6 September 1939, het die Unieverdedigingsmag (UVM) verander vanaf ‘n verouderde vredestydse weermag na ‘n moderne mag met offensiewe projeksievermoëns. Gedurende die tussenoorlogperiode het ‘n gevoel van swaarmoedigheid in terme van militêre inovasie in die UVM geheers. Die resultaat hiervan was verwarde denke ten opsigte van pantseroorlogvoering en meganisasie. Die Suid-Afrikaanse verdedigingsbeplanners het nie die offensiewe potensiaal van pantsermagte verstaan nie. Die gevolg was dat die UVM in September 1939 slegs oor ‘n simboliese pantsermag beskik het. Die Suid-Afrikaanse toetrede tot die oorlog het die stukrag vir die ontwikkeling van ‘n lewensvatbare pantsermag binne die UVM verleen. Gevolglik is die Suid-Afrikaanse Tenkkorps (SATK) in Mei 1940 gestig. Veranderinge in beide die aard en organisatoriese struktuur van die Suid-Afrikaanse verdedigingsinstellings het gevolg. Die Italiaanse teenwoordigheid in Abessinië en Italiaans-Somaliland is as ‘n direkte bedreiging vir die aangrensende Britse Oos-Afrika gebiede gesien. In Junie 1940, kort na die Italiaanse oorlogsverklaring, is Suid-Afrikaanse magte na Kenia ontplooi. Die UVM ontplooiing na Oos-Afrika was die eerste in ‘n gereelde oorlogsituasie sedert die Eerste Wêreldoorlog. Ten spyte van die doktrine wat die Suid-Afrikaanse ontplooiing van pantsermagte na Oos-Afrika ondersteun het, het die SATK-eenhede gou geleer dat die aanvaarde doktrine, ontleen aan die Britse Ministerie van Oorlog gedurende die tussenoorlogsjare, slegs ‘n gids was tot offensiewe aanwending. Die storie van die Suid- Afrikaanse ontplooiing in Oos-Afrika gedurende die oorlog, word as ‘n lens gebruik waardeur die rol en aanwending van beide die UVM se pantserkarre en ligte tenks ondersoek word. Die geallieerde offensiewe deur Italiaans-Somaliland en suidelike Abessiniȅ gedurende 1940 – 1941 illustreer duidelik dat die taktiese en operasionele aanwending van die Suid- Afrkaanse pantsermagte gedurende hierdie tydperk van groot belang was vir die suksesse en mislukkings van die veldtog. Die aard van die opponerende magte in Oos-Afrika, die voortdurend veranderende topografie en klimaat van die operasionele teater, asook die aard van die Suid-Afrikaanse offensiewe operasies gedurende die veldtog, het gekombineer om die unieke manier waarop die pantserkarre en tenks van die UVM van 1940 tot 1941 aangewend is, te vorm. Die operasionele ervarings wat die UVM opgedoen het gedurende die Oos-Afrika Veldtog, het die verdere ontplooiings van Suid-Afrikaanse pantser na Noord- Afrika, Madagaskar en Italiȅ gedurende die res van die oorlog gevorm.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/95919
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