Browsing Faculty of Military Sciences by Author "Bentz, Gustav"
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- ItemFighting Springboks : C Company, Royal Natal carbineers : from Premier Mine to Po Valley, 1939 - 1945(Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2013-12) Bentz, Gustav; Van der Waag, I. J.; Liebenberg, Ian; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Military Science. Dept. of Military History.ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Germany’s declaration of war on Poland on 1 September 1939 and the consequent war in Europe not only found the Union of South Africa politically divided but militarily unprepared to fight a modern war let alone make any worthwhile contribution toward its European allies’ war effort. The task of getting South Africa into the fight fell to newly appointed Prime Minister J.C. Smuts who cleverly outmanoeuvred J.B.M. Hertzog as leader of the nation. Not only was the Union Defence Force (UDF) severely ravaged by several budget cuts during and after the depression but it seemed to have no inclination of embracing the kind of mechanisation that was the hallmark of most European armies. Within the space of a year Smuts managed to transform the UDF and on 17 July 1940 the 1st South African Infantry Brigade set sail for East Africa where Mussolini’s Italians reigned supreme after brushing aside a couple of British border guards and laying claim to a few miles of British territory. One of the units dispatched by Smuts was the 1st Royal Natal Carbineers from Pietermaritzburg in Natal. Throughout the campaign the Regiment’s C Company fought with distinction but had the dubious honour of being the South African unit that suffered the most casualties during the whole campaign. Several of C Company’s men then become the vehicles through which the remainder of the war is experienced as the men were moved from one theatre of battle to another. Through their eyes the hunting trips into the East African bush and the death of their Commanding Officer, among other things, are relived. The victorious Springboks are then sent to Egypt where they were needed in an effort to break the deadlock that existed between the British 8th Army and the German Afrika Korps. Amidst the ebb and flow of the battle the men of C Company still found time to experience the sights and sounds of Africa’s most populous cities, Cairo and Alexandria. Here many young soldiers were exposed to pleasures and pastimes not to be had back in the Union. In spite of the eventual defeat of the German forces North Africa C Company witnessed the destruction of the 5th South African Brigade at Sidi Rezegh and suffered the loss of a combined platoon when Tobruk capitulated on 21 June 1942. After a brief period on home leave in 1943 C Company was back in action, this time in Italy as part of the 6th South African Armoured Division. Here they faced mountains, heavy snow and an enemy desperately fighting for every hill, stream and building. In the months which followed C Company were often in the midst of the action and many men lost close friends on the slopes of the Italian mountains. As final victory became apparent during the first months of 1945, C Company’s men began preparing for their post-war lives and when the first planes and ships left for the union at the end of April 1945 the men felt that they have served their country well and did their regiment proud.