SECOND WORLD WAR/WWII 1939-45: SOUTH AFRICAN COMMEMORATIVE PLAQUE OF REMEMBRANCE
By: Tinyeko Captain Ndhlovu, Curator: Insignia, Memorial Plaques, Postal History, DITSONG: National Museum of Military History
Around twelve thousand servicemen and women of the Union Defence Force (UDF) lost their lives during the Second World War/WWII (1939-45). In honour of these UDF service personnel (non-Jewish/gentiles and Jewish), the Union Government designed and produced a unique WWII South African Commemorative Plaque of Remembrance. Miniature commemorative brooches were issued to the next of kin. The plaques and brooches were both accompanied by letters from the British Empire King, George VI, Minister of Defence of the Union Government and Adjutant-General of the War Records Office.
Description: WWII South African Commemorative Plaque of Remembrance
Obverse: The design of this bronze plaque of remembrance consisted of the Union Government’s coat of arms, bordered by a laurel wreath, overlaid on a Maltese cross, with a blazing touch at each corner (please see Figure 1).
Reverse: The plaque is mounted on a mahogany shield with base support at the back, allowing it to stand. The measurements are 10,5 cm x 13,5 cm (for more details, see the base in Figure. 2).
Figure(s) 1 & 2. Obverse and Rear: South African Commemorative Plaque WWII 1939-45 issued by the Union Government to the relatives of non-Jewish/Gentile service personnel who died during WWII (Source Image: DITSONG: National Museum of Military History (DNMMH) Memorial Plaque Collection).
The above is an example sample of a unique WWII South African Commemorative Plaque issued to the non-Jewish next of kin in remembrance of 582780V General V.B. Southgate (see Figures. 1, 3), South African Artillery, Killed in Action, Italy, 23 June 1944.
Figure 3. Gnr. V.B. Southgate, 582780V SA Artillery Corps, Killed in action, Italy, 23 June 1944. (Source image: DNMMH Memorial Plaque Collection)
Figure 4. South African Jewish Commemorative/Death Plaque WWII 1939-45, issued to the next of kin of Jewish service personnel who died during WWII (Source Image: eNONQA |Pixel Renoster Blog)
The above plaque is an example of a Jewish death plaque issued to the next of kin in remembrance of 120702, Private Aron Wolf Schneider, who died in service during WWII. (see Figure 4).
Obverse: The bronze remembrance plaque consists of the embroiled Star of David (replacing the Maltase cross). The Star of David overlays the surrounded laurel wreath and four blazing torches. The coat of arms of the Union Government is positioned in the centre of the Star of David (see Figure 4). Below the David Star, the deceased’s details are impressed on the scroll.
At the base of both the non-Jewish and Jewish commemorative plaques (see Figures 1 & 4) is a bronze inscribed scroll: In the middle of these dates, 1939 on the left and ‘1945’ on the right, are impressed vertically at the top of the scroll. At the top of the scroll (depending on the cause of death), the following is engraved: ‘Killed in Action, ‘Died in Service’, Dead of Wounds’, or ‘Died at the Sea’. At the bottom, written in Afrikaans: ‘Gesneuwel-Wêreloorlog’ parallels or for Natives engraved in Nguni-Sotho ‘Owasala Empini-Ea shovelling Ntoeng’. Between these inscriptions, the force number, rank, name and unit of the deceased are engraved (see Figures 1 & 4).
Reverse: This plaque is mounted on a mahogany shield base with support, allowing it to stand and measure 10,7cm x 14cm ( please see a sample in Figure. 2).
This commemorative plaque of remembrance and brooch were accompanied by the following letters:
The first letter written/sent by King George VI reads as follows:
“The Queen and I offer you our heartfelt sympathy in your great sorrow. We pray that your country’s
gratitude for a life so nobly given in its service may bring you some measure of consolation” – King
The second letter written/sent by Field Marshal J.C Smuts, the then Minister of Defence of the Union Government, reads as follows:
“To (name of next of kin) The Union Government, in handing you the enclosed Plaque of Remembrance in the form of a brooch, does so in grateful remembrance of the Supreme Sacrifice made by your late (son, husband, etc., and then mentioned the name of the service personnel deceased).
Now that the war has been won and the Victory achieved, it is hoped that this small token of appreciation by a grateful country may comfort you a little in the days to come and that you will be the prouder for knowing the sacrifice was not in vain. May I be permitted to express my sympathy in your bereavement” – J.C. Smuts, the then Minister of Defence, Union Government.
The WWII 1939-45, SA Commemorative Brooch and the third letter from the Adjutant-General
This commemorative brooch has a similar version and description to the above memorial plaque (see Figure 1). Both plaque and pin were issued to the next-of-kin of all non-Jewish service personnel/soldiers of the UDF.
The above WWII SA commemorative brooch was also accompanied by a letter of sympathy from the Union Government (see Figure 4 below).
After the Second World War (1939-45), the Union Government designed a WWII South African Commemorative Plaque of Remembrance, which was issued to the next of kin (non-Jewish/Gentiles and Jewish) of the servicemen and women who died in service during the WWII. The plaque was mounted on a mahogany wood shield with support at the back, which allowed it to stand. The designed plaque for non-Jewish is: Bronze coat of arms of the Union Government, bordered by a laurel wreath, overlaid on a Maltese cross, with a blazing torch at each corner. The designed plaque for Jews is the embroiled Star of David (in substitute for the Maltase cross). The Union Government’s coat of arms is positioned in the centre of an embroiled Star of David. At the base of both non-Jewish and Jewish commemorative plaques typed in bronze on the scroll: In the middle of these dates: ‘1939’ on the left and ‘1945’ on the right, at the top of the scroll, and impressed vertically. At the top of the scroll, depending on the cause of death, the following was engraved: ‘Killed in Action, ‘Died in Service’, Dead of Wounds’, or ‘Died at the Sea’, and the bottom written in Afrikaans ‘Gesneuwel-Wêreloorlog’ parallels or for Natives engraved in Nguni-Sotho ‘Owasala Empini Ea shovelling Ntoeng’. Between these inscriptions is the force number, rank, name and unit of the deceased engraved. The miniature brooch version of the non-Jewish plaque was also issued to the next of kin. Both the plaque and brooch were accompanied by letters written to the next of kin by British Empire King George VI, the then Minister of Defence, Field Marshal J.C . Smuts of the Union Government and a letter from the Adjutant-General of War Records in Pretoria. In honour of Gentiles and Jewish servicemen and women who died during WWII, the Union Government issued the commemoration plaques and brooches to the next-of-kin.
DITSONG: National Museum of Military History, Memorial Plaque Collection.
‘South African Memorial Plaque WWII, 1939-45,’ also available at https://www.spink.com/lot/19002000074 visited on [1 September 2022].
Nel Dewald, ‘A Jewish death plaque, 1939-45, eNONQAI, April 2013, Vol. 4. No: 5 pp. 102-3’ also available at https://issuu.com/hennieheymans/docs/enongqai_vol_4_no_5/102 visited on [6 September 2022].
.WW2 South African Jewish Death Plaque’ also available at http://pixel-renoster.blogspotcom/2010/10/ww2-south-african-jewish-death-plaque.html visited on [7 September 2022].