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South African National Museum of Military History

South African National Museum of Military History

South African National Museum of Military History

Erlswold Way in the northern Johannesburg suburb of Saxonwold, Johannesburg, South Africa
Tel +27 010 001 3515
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During the First World War (1914 - 1918) many of the belligerent nations went to great lengths to collect and preserve the role of their soldiers during that conflict. At the conclusion of the war, Britain established by statute the Imperial War Museum as a memorial to the effort and sacrifice made by the men and women of the Empire during the war. South Africa had played a role during that war on the side of the Allies. However, the state neglected to preserve a record of this role in the form of a museum and, unfortunately, much of the material heritage relating to this period was dispersed.

This failure was recognized because in 1940, shortly after South Africa's entry in to the Second World War (1939 - 1945) Capt J Agar-Hamilton was appointed official historian of the Union Defence Forces. Capt Agar-Hamilton then formed an Historical Research Committee to ensure the preservation of documents and materials of military interest, therefore laying the foundation for the eventual establishment of a museum. The state also took the decision to create an official war art programme and, throughout the war, seven official war artists were appointed to the battlefronts where South Africans served. Together they produced a collection of around 850 works of art which also serve as an important source of reference to the country's role in the war.

The new museum, which became known as the South African National War Museum, was officially opened by the then Prime Minister of South Africa, Field Marshal J C Smuts on 29 August 1947, 60 years ago...

The Museum's collection of more than 44 000 items are divided into 37 separate categories and include the official South African war art (mentioned above) and photograph collections. The aviation collection contains some of the rarest aircraft in the world. For example, the Me 262 B-1a/U1 on display is the only night fighter version of this aircraft still in existence. Other categories cover such diverse fields as ordnance, armoured fighting vehicles, medals, uniforms, small arms, edged weapons, barrack & camping equipment, rations, religion, gifts & comforts, military music, graves & memorials, military insignia, communications, medicine, propaganda and vexillology, to name a few.



The Museum is situated in Erlswold Way in the northern Johannesburg suburb of Saxonwold adjacent to the Johannesburg Zoo and close to the recreational area of Zoo Lake. It is easily accessible by road from the Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vaal Triangle and a number of bus routes pass close by. There is ample parking for the motorist. FIND US ON GOOGLE

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