National Museum of Military History
During the First World War (1914 – 1918) no formal showcase was made of South Africa’s involvement in that war. In 1940, Capt. J. Agar-Hamilton was appointed official historian of the Union Defence Forces. The formation of an Historical Research Committee that same year was to ensure the preservation of documents and military memorabilia and lay the foundation for the establishment of a museum..
The South African National War Museum officially opened on 29 August 1947 by former Prime Minister of South Africa, Field Marshal J.C. Smuts PC, CM, OM, DTD, KC. At the opening ceremony, Smuts stated the following: “… We are gathered here today to open what may not unfairly be looked upon as a memorial to the greatest united effort our country has been called upon to produce. Memorials, of course, have more than one use. They serve to remind us of what is past, of great deeds of heroism and sacrifice; they also serve as a pointer and sometimes as a warning to the future.
It is in these senses that the South African War Museum may be regarded as a memorial. It will remind us, I hope, not only of the part we played in the recent great struggle to save civilisation, but also of the horrors, the loss of life and the devastation, and serve as a warning to us to create a world in which we shall never have to use again the weapons of mass destruction we see here today, or those dreadful weapons to follow them …”
Marshall Smuts's statement explained
He was referring to South Africa’s participation in the Second World War and had pinpointed the raison d’etre of the Museum’s existence. In 1975, the Museum’s name changed to the South African National Museum of Military History. Its scope was expanded to include the history of all military conflicts in which South Africans have played a part. The Museum also serves as a popular and unusual venue for conferences and other functions.
In 1999, following the restructuring process of national museums, the Museum was amalgamated with the Transvaal Museum of Natural History and the National Cultural History Museum into the Northern Flagship Institution. In 2009 it was renamed DITSONG: Museums of South Africa, and the Museum is now called the DITSONG: National Museum of Military History.
The Museum is also known as the spiritual and symbolic home for all soldiers and veterans in South Africa. As a result, several veterans’ organisations use the Museum as their headquarters. The South African Military History Society, the South African Arms and Ammunition Collectors Association, the South African Arms and Armour Society, the Gold Reef Scale Modelers and the Warsaw Flights Commemoration Committee, use the Museum for monthly and annual meetings and are considered part of the 20 organisations that are stakeholders.
To be a memorial for all South Africans who have died in or as a result of military actions and to preserve our nation’s military history for future generations.
A visit to the Museum may include:
- An opportunity to study relevant artefacts on display
- A guided tour, available on request during the week
- An opportunity on weekdays to use our extensive library and photographic facilities for research purposes on weekdays only.
The Museum provides programmes and activities for all age groups.
Free Parking Available for All Visitors