The Impact of the Struggle Wars Post 1994 Within the South African Army

The Impact of the Struggle Wars Post 1994 Within the South African Army

Mpho Khalo, DITSONG: National Museum of Military History

September 2021




After the extended negotiation process before the adoption of the Interim Constitution (1994), South Africa embarked on the integration of its former adversarial military forces. This process continued under the new Constitution as adopted in 1996 (Act 108 of 1996). The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was to consist of the South African Defence Force (SADF), the (semi) conventional military force of the Apartheid regime, the so-called homeland-armies of the Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei (referred to by some as the “forgotten armies of the TBVC” states), and the armed wings of the ANC and PAC (Umkhonto we Sizwe [MK] and the Azanian People’s Liberation Army [APLA]). 


There were always mixed feelings about combining the former freedom fighters with the South African Defence Force because of the idea that the ‘terrorists’ cannot work with the servicemen. However, the integration had to continue and members had to converge at the Wallmansthal Military Base in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria. This was a huge challenge because all these forces had trained differently.

In 1994, APLA was disbanded and absorbed into the new South African National Defence Force. The burden for the new formation was that APLA had submitted 6 000 names for enrolment into the South African Defence Force.


Figure 1: Members of the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (Photograph: Print Media).


uMkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”) had returned to South Africa to create core areas within the South African communities in which they operated with a certain degree of safety. MK intended to destabilise the country thereby forcing the South African authorities to negotiate. The returning MK soldiers (after the unbanning of the African National Congress) did not have any conventional training.


Figure 2: Soldiers from the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto We sizwe (Photograph: Print Media).



Figure 3: A display of photographs at the DITSONG: National Museum of Military History illustrating the integration of the different military forces. 

The content specialist in the formation of military units had anticipated that all army formations would be disbanded (this included the South African Defence Force) in order for the integration to successfully going forward. However, this never happened and it was a huge compromise for the liberation army and the TBVC states, because of the diverse military backgrounds of all these forces. Soldiers underwent a 41 day orientation programme in conventional military skills. On completion of the programme the selection of successful candidates was carried out by evaluation teams of the South African National Defence Force, which included former uMkhonto we Sizwe officials.

 After the first democratic elections in April 1994, President Nelson Mandela appointed the former commander of MK, Mr Joe Modise, as South Africa’s Minister of Defence. Mr Ronnie Kasrils was appointed as Deputy Minister of Defence. 




After the 1994 elections, the social system of patriarchy in which men are regarded as the authority mushroomed within the SANDF and could clearly be illustrated with the two men steering the defence force. This was due as a result of two powerful systems that existed before the dawn of the new democracy. These systems are tribalism and apartheid. It made it difficult for women to climb the ranks within the force if it continued within the same pace.




The process of transformation within the force is happening at a snail’s pace, however, I am impressed that the previous Minister (Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa–Nqakula) and the current one (Ms Thandi Modise) are women. They are now given a task to push and improve the image of the force and hold a hand to those ladies who are willing to grow within the defence force.




The fundamental shift has been accomplished within the force, however, the unknown forces of integration, those who did not qualify to be part of the new defence force, were left shattered. 


The Department of Defence will continually review the White Paper and moreover Chapter two that addresses the challenges of transformation. The government of national unity also recognised that the greatest threats to the South African people are crime, violence and social economic problems such as poverty, unemployment, poor education and lack of housing.


Thanks to the Military Veteran Department that assists the former soldiers with the necessary skills to empower them.


Integration display at the DITSONG: National Museum of Military History 

White Paper on National Defence for the Republic of South Africa, May 1996.

uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK).

Azanian people’s Liberation Army (APLA).

Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Vend, Ciskei (TBVC states).

South African National Defence Force (SANDF).


Article Verified by

S R Mackenzie



The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Drive: Zero Tolerance for Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Exploitation

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Drive: Zero Tolerance for Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Exploitation

Tinyeko Captain Ndhlovu, Curator: Insignia, Memorial Plaques, Postal History, DITSONG: National Museum of Military History

September 2021


Our beautiful country, South Africa, recently marked the 65th anniversary of the Imbokodo generation, strong and courageous women who walked tall and marched against the Apartheid and pass laws in the streets of Pretoria in 1956. However, gender-based violence (GBV), violence against women and girls (VAGW), and femicide have continued to be a global tendency that have infiltrated into societies, schools, churches, public spaces and even workplaces. Unfortunately, South Africa as a country and members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) are not spared from this torture, because GBV, VAWG, Sexual Exploitation Abuse (SEA), and other sexual transgressions are rated high, and even against their own fellow military women.. This paper focuses on the challenges military women face and the recent SANDF drive towards zero tolerance ethos for GBV and SEA.

Figure 1: Women in the SANDF at a women’s parade, Cape Town, August 2019 (Image: courtesy of Ministerial Task Team (MTT) Report 2020). 


 “Not yet Uhuru”

  1.  Imbokodo Generation Available at Accessed 17 September 2021. 
  2.  Approximately 25 to 40% of women have experienced physical GBV, Sexual violence and VAGW in their lifetime: Accessed 15 September 2021.
  3. SANDF sexual abuse and exploitation exposed: Accessed in 01 September 2021.
  4. Not yet Uhuru’ tittle song by Dr. Letta Mbulu (South African Music Icon)


This year we celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Imbokodo generation under the theme “The Legacy of Charlotte Mannya-Maxeke.” Imbokodo is a Zulu phrase referring to “a rock”, usually used in the African saying “Wathint’ abafanzi, wathint’ imbokodo”/ “You strike a woman, you strike a rock.”  This saying is often used in several ways in describing the resilience of the women’s struggle against all sorts of ills. It is from this legacy of the Imbokodo generation, class, actions, and their wisdom, where we gather strength to keep fighting against any form of oppression and abuse against women (our siblings, sisters, and mothers) in any given time and in any environment. We should also not shy away from the questions and debates related to women’s total liberation from all sorts of GBV, domestic violence (DV), sexual violence (SV), VAWG, sexual harassment and assaults. Are we as a nation yet free? Are our women in our communities and the SANDF yet liberated? If not, how can they be liberated?


Pre-1994 South African military environment 


During the pre-colonial African era and globally, military environments were predominated by patriarchal societies. Examples are the Zulu Kingdom Warriors under the leadership of King Shaka Zulu kaSenzangakhona (1787-1828), and the French Military Army under Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). During the colonial era (since 1912), the South African military environment consisted predominantly of white males as the combat force, while black males were restricted to non-combat roles. Consequently, the army was also viewed patriarchal with no safe place for girls or women. For instance, pre-1994 the South African Defence Force (SADF) regarded and used their militarised space as a rite of passage, where “white boys were converted into men”. However, white women did serve during World War I and II under the Union Defence Force (UDF) with supportive and caring roles as from the1940s.  From the 1970s, the roles of white SADF females were non-combative or they were employed as auxiliaries. The SADF’s women were trained separately and their barracks were also apart from males. A special Army Women’s College was opened in George in 1971. However, females were encouraged to stick to their femininity, to allow the “soldier fitted custom” and male bonding to proceed.  


Black females also have a strong military background of being part of the liberation struggle which emerged during the 1960s. Post the 1976 Soweto Uprising, many young females escaped from South Africa to join the Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (APLA) of the Pan African Congress, which they predominantly operated while in exile/outside South Africa in countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Zambia. MK and APLA comprised of males and females with combative roles. They trained together as colleagues with one mandate to fight and demobilise the Apartheid government. 


The South African military environment: post-1994


Post 1994, both patriarchal black and white men had to accommodate, transform, and share their militarised environment with women as their equals. At the dawn of democracy in 1994 the South African military environment had a mandate to be transformed and be of service to a democratic society. The SADF, statutory forces Bantustan TBVC and non-statutory forces, MK of ANC, APLA of PAC, the Kwa-Zulu Self-Protection Units of Inkantha Freedom Party (IFP) were integrated into the new South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

5. Shaka Zulu history Available at: Accessed 19 September 2021.

6. Napoleon Bonaparte History Available at: Accessed 19 September 2020.


The transition and transformation were, however, supposed to be more than an integration of forces and a renaming of the institution to the South African National Defence Force. The whole ethos of the defence force shifted, following the service to a democratic society, from that of an Apartheid state/SADF military culture and ethos to a new SANDF and the principles of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Unfortunately, the radical transformation from a patriarchal order to a democratic value system, that paved the way gender equality (males and females) is still overdue. In 1998 South Africa and the SANDF adopted a White Paper on South African Participation in Peace Missions. It covered the role of the African Union and South Africa’s continued participation within peace missions. It allowed South Africa/SANDF to assist in a time of crisis, to partake internationally and give authoritative input in the discussions on the future of international conflict management and the reform of intergovernmental organisations, such as the United Nations (UN), Organization of African Union (OAU) and Southern African Developing Communities (SADC). Both SANDF males and females were deployed to African countries such the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for peacekeeping operations under the auspice of the UN.


Furthermore, South Africa has partnered with the contact group for the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations with the mandate of endorsing the role of women in peacekeeping operations as well as the UN Secretary General’s Circle of Leadership on the prevention of, and responses to, sexual exploitation and abuse in UN operations.


7. New SANDF Available at: Accessed 01 September 2021.

8. Heinecken, L. 2021 March 22. Military needs transformation to address GBV, Stellenbosch University. Available at: Accessed 19 September 2021. 

9. A White Paper on Participation in Peace Missions was adopted in 1998: Accessed 19 September 2021.

10. Elsie Initiative Fund For Uniformed Women in Peace Operations named after Elizabeth ‘Elsie’ Muriel Gregory MacGill Available at Accessed 19 September 2021.


Figure 2: Women in UN Peacekeeping Operation. (Photograph: courtesy of Professor Lindy Heinecken, Stellenbosch University).  

 “I have received many engineering awards, but I hope I will also be remembered as an advocate for the rights of women and children” – Elizabeth Muriel Gregory “Elsie” MacGill (1905-1980).


The worst part is that for more than ten years allegations of sexual violations, sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), rape, transactional sex, and exploitative relationships, fraternization with local populace, and assaults levelled against some SANDF members who ought to protect and safeguard South Africa and doing peacekeeping outside our borders have been made. Individuals are sexually assaulted inside the army and while deployed on peacekeeping operations. Fortunately enough the Department of Defence (DOD) and the SANDF managed to deal with these issues. Some SANDF members facing such sexual violence were known, while two were unknown. At least 15 cases were concluded and nine members were dismissed from the SANDF. The UN confirmed that since 2015 there have been around 92 allegations related to sexual violations in the DRC; of these 34 cases involved SANDF members.  These sexual violation allegations levelled against the SANDF negatively impacted on and tarnished South Africa’s peacekeeping reputation.


The Commander in Chief of the SANDF and President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, said the following: “Sexual exploitation and abuse go against the grain of our military ethos and characterise and violate the very principles on which our democracy is founded.” 

11. Saba, A and Jika, T. 2019. SANDF sexual abuse and exploitation exposed, Mail and Gaudian November available at: Accessed in 01 September 2021.

12. United Nations Peacekeeping: MONUSCO | United Nations Peacekeeping Accessed 19 September 2021.

13. The Ministerial Task Team, December 2020. Report on Sexual Harassment, Sexual Abuse, prepared by MTT for the (then) Minister of Defence & Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

14. Commander in Chief of SANDF and President of Republic of South Africa Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa strongly warns the SANDF troops on the sexual misconducts during Armed Forces Day, 21 February 2020 Cited in Ministerial Task Team Report 2020.

15. The DOD’s military ethos captured in the Codes of Conduct for Uniformed Members and Public Service Employees (Civilians): is rooted on the seven pillars, duty, loyalty, respect, selfless service, personal courage, honour, and integrity, as articulated in the Defence Act of 2002.


The then Minister of the DOD and VM, Mrs Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the following: ”We must leave a legacy for the future generation that is serious about its stature in society and its embraced values of equality and committed to adopting a zero tolerance ethos for sexual misconduct”.


Based on a gruesome allegation levelled against the SANDF and need for intervention, Minister Mapisa-Nqakula initiated the SANDF drive towards zero tolerance ethos to GBV, SEA, and other sexual misconducts. She also tasked the Ministerial Task Team (MTT) as early as 2019 to do the investigations and consultative surveys and report on the matters related to sexual misconducts within the entire DOD and VM. The MTT did their task without fear and favour, and held consultative meetings with members of the SANDF across South Africa. A report was issued in December 2020. They mentioned that there is a gap between the high standards established by military ethos, policies, and the practice in the military environment. Some military women have reflected how they experienced an aggressive sexualised space in which fraternization, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct were part of their encounters.” The MTT Report recommended that the entire DOD had to transform their leadership style by owning and publicly acknowledges that there are challenges within the institution related to sexual violations. The DOD and VM/SANDF must transform their organisational culture to suit female excel and in a manner of healthy professional relations. A culture that will embrace the channels that will mitigate and provide avenues for the necessary healing of survivors.



The pre-1994 South African military environment was predominantly a patriarchal society. Although the combative roles were reserved only for white males, while black males and white women were restricted to non-combative, auxiliary, and caring services under the UDF. Even under the SADF women were permitted to serve only in supportive roles. They trained and slept in barracks separately from males. SADF women were encouraged to adhere to their femininity to allow men to bond and process with their “boys to men”, rite of passage.” Black women also have a strong foundation in the military as they were part of the armed struggle for national liberation, which emerged during the 1960s. MK of the ANC and APLA of the PAC were predominantly operating in exile, in Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia. They trained together as female and male colleagues, fighting against the Apartheid state. On the advent of the democracy (post 1994), the South African military environment obligated to transform in order to serve South Africa’s democratic societies. The SADF, statutory forces of the Bantustan TBVC, MK of ANC, APLA of PAC and the KwaZulu Self-Protection Force of IFP were integrated into the new SANDF. In 1998 South Africa and the SANDF adopted the White Paper on South African Participation in International Peace Missions. Both male and female soldiers had been deployed to African countries such as the DRC, for peacekeeping operations. South Africa also partnered with the Elsie Initiate for Women in Peace Operations with the mandate of endorsing the role of women in peacekeeping operations as well as the UN Secretary General’s Circle of Leadership on the prevention of, and responses to, sexual exploitation and abuse in UN operations. Despite that, South African peacekeeping efforts were negatively impacted and tarnished by the 
allegations made against SANDF troops. President Cyril Ramaphosa strongly warned the troops that “Sexual misconducts go against the grain of the SANDF ethos and characters and violate the very principles on which our democracy is founded.” The Minister of DOD and VM urged the members to be great exemplary and leave a legacy for the future generation that will respect the law and policies of its country. Under the maxim “A Defence Force that Cares”, Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, tasked and lodged a Ministerial Task Team (MTT) to investigate and report on sexual transgressions and allegations that were previously levelled against the SANDF troops. The MTT discovered that there was a gap of high standards between the reality in units and bases and the ethos. The MTT recommended that the entire DOD and VM/SANDF leadership and culture should be transformed. First the leadership must admit and publicly acknowledge that there are challenges regarding GBV, SEA, and other sexual violations in the DOD and VM/SANDF. They must also drive the message of the Zero Tolerance ethos for GBV, SEA and other sexual transgressions. They must also involve civilian support organisations to assist in providing the professional assistance in healing the victims of sexual abuse. The leadership should ensure that the DOD and VM/SANDF become a safe space for women to work in and report such conducts without fear. GBV, SEA and sexual violations should not be tolerated in the SANDF or in South African communities.


16. Minister of DOD and MV, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, forewords the MTT Report, December 2020. 

17. Nosive Mapisa-Nqakula was elected as Speaker of the National Assembly on 19 August 2021, effectively have swapped positions with Thandi Modise. Available at 19 September 2021.


Article Verified by

S R Mackenzie



Model Quarter Scale German First World War Aircraft donated to the Ditsong National Museum of Military History

Model Quarter Scale German First World War Aircraft donated to the Ditsong National Museum of Military History

Allan Sinclair, DITSONG: National Museum of Military History

Two ¼ scale model aircraft were donated to the DITSONG: National Museum of Military History (DNMMH) in 2021. The models are true working depictions of the Albatros D Va fighter and the Gotha G.II bomber, both operated by the German Imperial Air Service during the First World War (1914 – 1918). The models were designed, built and flown by the donor, Mr Herman Grobler of Secunda.

The Importance of the donation

The model aircraft provide a visual comparison of the relative size of the Gotha G.II, the first strategic bomber produced during the First World War, as opposed to the single seat Albatros D Va fighter. The D Va is also an example of the improvements that took place in aircraft construction during that war as it was designed using monocoque (shall loadbearing) construction techniques.
The historical significance of the two aircraft will be discussed further.

The Albatros D Va

Model Albatros D Va (Courtesy: Mr H Grobler).

The Albatros D I and D II were the first of a new generation of fighter aircraft to enter service in October 1916 with the German Air Services. The aircraft were designed by Albatros-Werke and were far superior to Allied fighters at that stage of the war. The main feature was the streamlined monocoque fuselage built around the 160 hp in-line Mercedes engine. Monocoque implies that the chassis was integral with the body of the aircraft.  The propeller spinner was also precisely contoured into the nose of the fuselage and the aircraft was equipped with two machine guns which fired through the arch of the propeller.[i]


An updated version, the Albatros D III, was introduced following test studies carried out on a captured French Newport fighter. This aircraft was a sesquiplane version, which is described as a bi-plane with the lower main plane designed to be half the size of the other.[ii]

While the D IV was originally earmarked to succeed the D III, problems experienced with the design of the engine precluded this model from entering service. The D V, which became the next production version in 1917, was also plagued with complications. It had a lighter airframe, was slow in manoeuvring and the design of the assembly of the wings onto the fuselage led to many cases of wing failure. The response to this was the development of the D Va which provided a much stronger and reinforced design of both the fuselage and the wings as well as a more powerful 180 hp engine.[iii]

Despite the many improvements, the D Va was still beset with various structural problems. The German Air Service had no alternative at the time but to make use of the aircraft until new fighter design variants could be brought into service. By May 1918 a total of 1512 D V and D Va aircraft were operating along the Western Front in France and Belgium. Even so the aircraft was soon out-performed by newly developed Allied aircraft also introduced by that time – these being the Scout Experimental Se 5a and the Sopwith Camel – and heavy losses were experienced in action against these aircraft. While the numbers of D Va had decreased significantly by 1918, a few continued to fly in action until the armistice in November 1918.[iv]

The model Albatros D Va being placed on display at the DNMMH

The general characteristics of the ¼ scale model are as follows:
Length – 1.83 m (original 7.33 m)
Wingspan – 2.26 m (original 9.05 m)
Height – 0.67 m (original 2.7 m)
Weight – 6.7 kg (original 937 kg)
Construction – Beech, ash wood and aluminium. Covering polyester doped.
Scale features – Instruments, armament, radiator (with shutters and lever) and functional flight controls which consist of the following: Roll and pitch (controlled by control stick), rudder from the rudder bar.

The Gotha G. II

Model Gotha G. II (Courtesy: Mr H Grobler).

The Gotha heavy bomber was developed by Gothaer Waggonfabriek in response to a major strategic objective of the German High Command. This was to attack and bomb the United Kingdom across the North Sea. Initial bombing raids were carried out by the Imperial German Navy using Zeppelin lighter-than-air airships. The losses incurred in such raids and the realisation that airships were completely exposed to hostile fire led to an acceleration in the development of G-Type bomber.  By May 1917 these aircraft possessed the essential endurance, speed, manoeuvrability, ability to fly at high altitude and load bearing capacity to carry out operations required to meet the strategic objective.[i]

After eighteen initial G. I aircraft had been designed, Gothaer chief designer, Hans Burkhard, introduced further modifications to the fuselage which improved the centre of gravity and wing-fuselage assembly. This became the G. II model which was also powered by two 220 hp Mercedes D.I.V. engines and fitted with a standard four-wheel undercarriage and conventional tailskid. The latter reduced the danger of over-turning on landing. Fuel was stored in tanks located in the large streamlined engine nacelles while special bomb racks inside the fuselage could carry up to fourteen 10 kg bombs.  A second machine-gun mounted behind the wings provided defence against enemy fighters attacking from behind and below. The various sections of the aircraft were designed to be self-contained and the fuselage, engines, wings and undercarriage could be dismantled and fitted onto three railway flatcars for transport.[ii]

Although production of the G. II commenced in April 1916, only ten were eventually constructed.  According to Cooper not much is known of the performance of the G. II in combat operations.  It is believed that eight of the ten aircraft produced were used on the Balkan Front. The cause of this limited service was the technical problems experienced with the engines and the weak structure of the ailerons.[iii]

The successor models of the G. II were the G. III and the G. IV. The G. III had a much stronger design with a reinforced fuselage built out of plywood, two 260 hp engines and ailerons fitted to both the upper and lower main planes. White states that this model served as the test prototype for the G .IV which became the main production model in 1917.[iv]

All four models of the G-Type bomber were designed with a large, spacious open cockpit with three interconnected sections complete with walkways between them for the crew. At the front of the aircraft was the commander’s position which was fitted with a machine gun on a ring mounting and the Goertz bomb site. This section also had the opening for the crew to enter and leave.  Directly behind was the pilot’s section which was equipped with a large wheeled column and a brass instrument panel. The rear-gunner’s section was immediately aft of the trailing edge of the lower main plane. Later models also featured an open tunnel inside the fuselage behind the rear gunner’s position from which the gunner could reposition himself to fire from the tail of the aircraft.[v]

Daylight raids on London and south-eastern England took place between May and September 1917. The formations of bombers in each of these raids were relatively small with only 28 aircraft forming the largest group assembled together at one time. The bombing campaign did initially lead to the withdrawal of two Royal Flying Corps squadrons from the Western Front to assist in the defence of London. Cooper believes that this dissipation of aerial forces from France, together with the effect on the moral of the local British population which found themselves in the firing line, provided a certain amount of success for these bombing raids. He adds, however, that the effect of the bombing raids began to weaken as the numbers of British fighters and anti-aircraft defences increased. By September 1917 the Germans had been forced to turn to night time bombing raids.[vi]

The front of the model Gotha G. II.

The general characteristics of the ¼ scale model are as follows:

Length – 3.1 m (original 12.36 m)
Wingspan – 5.9 m (original 23.7 m)
Height – 1.1 m (original 4.3 m)
Weight – 7.8 kg (original 3 975 kg)
Construction – Beech, ash wood and aluminium. Covering polyester doped.
Scale features – Instruments, armament, bomb release and functional flight controls consisting of the following: wing warping controlled by steering wheel, pitch through steering wheel and rudder from the rudder bar.

The model Gotha G. II being placed on display at the Museum.


Both the Albatros D Va and the Gotha G. II were not as successful in air operations as had been anticipated. Nevertheless, they epitomise advancements made in the design of aircraft which ensued as a result of the First World War. These improvements in design techniques would be tested further and introduced into more innovative designs of aircraft that would emerge as the 20th century progressed.

The Aviation Collection at the DITSONG: National Museum of Military History is considered to be one the finest in the world and provides examples of the history and usage of military aviation from 1914 to present day. The two new exhibits are the first examples of working German First World War ¼ scale model aircraft to be included in this collection. Mr Grobler must be commended for considering the Museum as a repository for his detailed examples of an Albatros D Va fighter and a Gotha G. II bomber.

[i] Chris Grant, The Pictorial History of Air Warfare (London: Octopus Books, 1979), 24.

[ii] “Albatros DVa”

[iii]  John H Morrow, The Great War in the Air: Military Aviation from 1909 to 1921 (Shrewsbury: Airlife, 1993), 162.

[iv] John H Morrow, The Great War in the Air: Military Aviation from 1909 to 1921 (Shrewsbury: Airlife, 1993), 162.

[i]  C M White, The Gotha Summer: The German Daytime Air Raids on England, May to August 1917 (London, Robert Hale, 1986), 38.

[ii] Gotha G. II, G. III “Model Fan” Magazine”

[iii] Bryan Cooper, The Story of the Bomber, 1914 – 1945 (London, Octopus Books, 1974), 40.

[iv] C M White, The Gotha Summer: The German Daytime Air Raids on England, May to August 1917 (London, Robert Hale, 1986), 43.

[v] C M White, The Gotha Summer: The German Daytime Air Raids on England, May to August 1917 (London, Robert Hale, 1986), 43, 44.

[vi] Bryan Cooper, The Story of the Bomber, 1914 – 1945 (London, Octopus Books, 1974), 40.

Grobler correspondence, dated 12 April 2021.

Personnel Correspondence
Herman Grobler, correspondence dated 12 April 2021.

Cooper, B. 1974. The Story of the Bomber, 1914 – 1945. London: Octopus Books.
Grant, C. 1979. A Pictorial History of Air Warfare. London: Octopus Books.
Morrow, J H. 1993. The Great War in the Air: Military Aviation from 1909 to 1921. Shrewsbury: Airlife.
White, C M. 1986. The Gotha Summer: The German Daytime Air Raids on England, May to August 1917. London: Robert Hale.

Internet Sources

“Albatros DVa”

Gotha G. II, G. III “Model Fan” Magazine”

The T-34 Russian Medium Tank

The T-34 Russian Medium Tank

Michael Tobolo, Junior Curator, DITSONG: National Museum of Military History


The T-34 Russian tank was probably one of the most powerful and greatest tanks used during the Second World War (1939-1945). It was introduced in the 1940s and was more powerful than its contemporaries.

Many of these Russian tanks were produced in a remote area of Siberia (the vast region of Russia and northern Kazakhstan) in a place called Tankograd (tank city). The T-34 was reliable in all aspects in that it could stand and dictate the battle to the mighty German Panzers and it fought in some of the greatest tank battles on the Eastern Front.

Figure 1: A heavily gunned T-34 in action during the invasion of Russia in 1941.

History of the Russian T-34 tank

In the 1930s the Soviet Union was a vast country with a population of 180 million, but its defence was weak and less sophisticated. As a result, the Soviet Union developed and improved its industries so that it could be on the same level as those of the western countries. Because of a lack of technology and resources the Soviet Union reproduced or copied from western countries.

They came upon an American engineer, inventor and designer by the name of J. Christie Walters. Although Walter’s inventions were rejected by the American Army, the Soviet Union was eager and open to anyone who introduced new ideas. Walters designed the fastest tank by revolutionising the tank technology, designing the independent sprung system on the road wheels known as the Christie suspension used in a number of World War II-era tank designs.

The most notable were the Soviet BT and T-34 series. The BT cruiser tanks developed in the 1930s by Christie were brought as tractors by the Russians and the BT became the foundation of Russian tanks.

The poor performance of the Soviet tanks and the effectiveness of the German tanks in the Winter War in Finland was the main motivation for the Soviet military command to stop being concerned about high production cost. The Winter War also known as the First Soviet-Finnish War was a war between the Soviet Union (USSR) and Finland. It began with a Soviet invasion of Finland on 30 November 1939, three months after the outbreak of World War II.



Figure 2: A Soviet war bond financing the T-34 tank during World War II. (Source:

Mikhail Koshkin (chief designer), Kharkiv Morozov (machine building designer) and Alexandria Alexadrovich Morozov were the most prominent designers of the T-34. The production of the first innovative T-34 medium tanks was completed in September 1940. It replaced the T-26, BT series and the multi-turret T-28 medium tank.

The T-34 was a five crew tank with a combat weight of 32 000 kg, maximum speed of 55km/h, road- range of 400 km, combat range of 265 km, 7.62 mm machine gun, 270 L fuel tank and V-12 373 water-cooled diesel engine. The most striking aspect of the T-34’s appearance was its angled surfaces. Rather than being a basic metal box like earlier tanks, the T-34 was carefully designed to present sloping armour faces to incoming shells. Striking at an angle had two effects: it increased the thickness of armour that a shell had to penetrate, and the oblique angle meant a shell was likely to glance off rather than going through. The sloping armour which most countries copied increased protection and made it impossible for the German Panzers to pierce through.

The Christie suspension remained mobile in the terrible harsh weather conditions while some of the greatest German tanks could not handle the harsh weather conditions. 

Combat history 

The speed and the agility of the T-34 medium tank made it possible for the Soviet Union to use the military tactic called pincer attack. It is a military manoeuvre in which forces simultaneously attack both sides of an enemy formation. Adolf Hitler’s army speeded into Russia during Operation Barbarossa, the largest invasion in history in June 1941. The Red Army was badly organized, under-prepared, and overwhelmed by a rapid Blitzkrieg. It destroyed their air force on the ground and even entire army groups. However, not everything went the Germans’ way. Nazi forces were taken by surprise by the new T-34 Soviet tank, which advanced on German forces and shrugged-off fire from half a dozen German tanks. Because of its resistance, the T-34 was able to destroy German tanks with ease.  Although the Red Army still took heavy casualties, they stemmed the German advance. The Battle of Kursk (the largest tank battle in history, involving some 6,000 tanks, 2,000,000 troops, and 4,000 aircraft), which lasted from 5 July 1943–23 August 1943 marked the decisive end of the German offensive capability on the Eastern Front and cleared the way for the great Soviet offensives of 1944–45. It was the end of the German strategic offensive and the Russians advanced to Hitler’s capital, Berlin and to final victory.

German General von Kleist (field-marshal during World War II) called the T-34 “the finest tank in the world” and suggested that the German Reich should copy it rather than designing their own. Although his suggestion was not approved, the T-34’s sloping armour was a strong influence on the next German tank, the Panther.

Many of the T-34/85 were later sold to third world countries and have been used in action in Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East and Angola where the one illustrated in Figure 3 was captured by the South African forces.

Figure 3: An example of a T-34/85 tank, on display at the DITSONG: National Museum of Military History.


David Hambling, “The Soviet Tank that changes the World”, Popular Mechanics, May 19, 2020.

Dr Guy Finch (Kings College, London).

Prof Ronald J. Barr (University College Isle of Man)

Major Gordon Corrigan (A historical writer and a former British soldier).

The impact of Military Communication during the second World War (1939 – 1945) Military Equipment of the Soviet Union : The A-7 VHF Transceiver

The impact of Military Communication during the second World War (1939 – 1945) Military Equipment of the Soviet Union : The A-7 VHF Transceiver

Abraham Mohale, Junior Curator, DITSONG: National Museum of Military History 

What is a military communication?

Military communication is the transmission of information from reconnaissance and other units in contact with the enemy and the means for exercising command by the transmission of orders and instruction of commanders to the subordinates. Military communication has for a very long time played an important role in warfare.

The military services learned from their wartime experiences the importance of scientific research and development in all fields, including communication electronics. Advances were made in the communication capacity of wire and radio relay systems and in improved electronic aids for navigation. The radio was the cheapest form of entertainment and it was the most popular medium during the Second World War. The accessibility and availability meant it fuelled propaganda and could reach a large number of citizens. The radio helped to entertain and inform the population and to encourage citizens to join in the war. It was mainly used to send electromagnetic signals over a long distance, to deliver information from one place to another.

Military communications or military signals involve all aspects of communications or conveyance of information, by armed forces. Military communications span from pre-history to the present. The earliest military communications were delivered by runners. It later progressed to visual and audible signals, and then advanced into the electronic age. Examples include text, audio, facsimile, tactical ground-based communications, naval signalling, terrestrial microwave, tropospheric scatter, satellite communications systems and equipment, surveillance and signal analysis, security direction finding and jamming.

Primitive methods of communication derailed messaging and always created uncertainty and authenticity of the received messages. The introduction of radio equipment made life easier and faster because radios use transmitters. A transmitter is an electronic device used in telecommunications to produce radio waves in order to transmit or send data with the aid of an antenna. The transmitter is able to generate a radio frequency alternating current that is then applied to the antenna, which, in turn, radiates this as radio waves.

Communication troops of the Ministry of Defence of the Soviet Union

The communication troops of the Ministry of Defence of the Soviet Union were generalized names for special forces intended for the deployment and operation of communication systems in order to provide command and control of troops and forces subordinate to the ministry of defence of the Soviet Union in all types of their activities. As a branch of the special forces, the communication troops were an integral part of all five branches of the armed forces of the Soviet Union (Ground Forces, the Navy, the Air Force, Air Defence Forces and Strategic Missile Forces). The general command of the communication troops of all five branches of armed forces, was carried out by the Chief of the Communication Troops of the Ministry of the Soviet Union. That is how the whole communication army troops was aligned under the Ministry of Defence.

The A-7 VHF transceiver.

When I started working as junior curator at DITSONG: National Museum of Military History, the Soviet A-7 VHF radio transceiver captured my interest and it resulted in this article. The Soviet A-7 VHF radio transceiver (later models include the A-7a and A-7b) was developed during the Second World War and used for communication in rifle brigades and regiments. The complete station was designed to be transported by individual soldiers. The A-7 is a portable man-pack radio transceiver with narrow-band frequency modulation. The set can be used as a radio telephone in a wired network and managed remotely. Setting the frequency of the receiver and transmitter circuits is adjusted in tandem by one control handle. The antenna and buffer oscillator are common for the receiving and transmitting circuits.

The transceiver with power supplies and accessories is housed in a wooden box with shoulder straps for carrying as a backpack. For long distances, the set is carried by two soldiers. The set only requires one radio operator. The deployment time is typically not more than five minutes.

Design and features of the Soviet A-7VHF transceiver

  • Frequency range is 27-32 mn2
  • Number of frequency channels is 101
  • Transmitter output power is 1W
  • Sensitivity of the receiver is 1-1.5μv
  • Intermediate frequency is 1100 kHz
  • Antennas – a whip with a height of 2.5 m or a flexible wire 6.4 m long
  • Range of action:

On a rough terrain – up to 7-8 km

On urban conditions – 3-4 km     On slightly cross-country terrain outside of buildings – 10 km and more

  • Power source is about two dry anode batteries bas -80, with a total voltage of 160v and two 2 NKN 10 nickel- cadmium batteries. The time of continuous operation from one set is 35-40 hours
  • Dimensions of the packing box – 210 x 385 x 330 mm
  • Mass of the radio station – 15.5 kg, the battery weighs 6 kg


Without doubt, the Soviet 1-7 VHF developed and used by the Soviet Union during the Second World War, was a masterpiece radio communication equipment. It involved high technology, but in a simplified form. The portable design features were almost of an advanced nature. With the development and advancement of technology it was possible for the creators to make more additions.


Garthoff, Raymond L.  1953. Soviet Military Doctrine. Muriwai Books.