Did your South African ancestor fight with the Allied forces during World War One? Explore over 11,600 names of soldiers and discover your ancestor’s rank, regiment and date of death. South Africans fought in the African, Asian and European theatres of war as well as working in transportation services and various trades for the war effort.
Each record includes an image
From left to right:
Rank – abbreviated
Name and honours – some include annotated notes about your ancestor’s place of death
Unit – abbreviated
Cause of death – abbreviated, see the list below for explanations
Death date – some include annotated notes with your ancestor’s age
All the information (or abbreviations) are written in both English and Afrikaans – first English on the left, then Afrikaans on the right.
The South Africa Roll of Honour 1914-1918 records the names of over 11,000 South African born soldiers who died during the First World War between 1914 and 1918. The document is divided by units such as: Infantry, Artillery, Services, Mounted Units, Engineering Units, Medical Units, Motor Cycle Corps, British and Imperial Units, etc. The lists are written in both English and Afrikaans. In each column the information is first written in English and then in Afrikaans.
South Africa fought as part of the Allied forces during the First World War. Popular memory of the First World War tends to focus on the Western Front and the sacrifice of the European forces. However, the main European countries held colonies in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. When the war started, Britain called on the dominions (self-governing nations within the British Commonwealth) to support the Allies. The participation of colonial troops added vast racial diversity to the European battlefields, which was remarkable in a world that was embedded with racial prejudices. When war broke out, the South African Prime Minister, General Louis Botha, declared support for Britain. Their first order was to join the invasion of German South West Africa. A number of high profile Afrikaners were against the invasion, especially so soon after the Second Boer War - including the military commander of the military camp at Upington, Lieutenant Colonel Manie Maritz. A rebellion against the involvement in the war broke out on 22 October 1914. Plans to invade South West Africa had to be stalled in order to focus on ending the rebellion. The rebellion ended in February 1915 after many of its leaders died or surrendered. More than 20,000 South African soldiers fought against the Germans in South West Africa.
The Great War was thought to be the war to end all wars. It was vastly different from any previous conflicts because of the large numbers of fatalities. It was also the first time that the power of the industrial revolution was harnessed for the demands of war. Troops could be sent long distances in days. Additionally, weapons were further developed, aircraft was used for the first time and chemical warfare. The First World War had profound social, political and economic impact on South Africa. In terms of economy, prior to the First World War the main industry was mining, but due to the constraints of war and lack of imports from Europe, South Africa’s manufacturing sector grew.
The South African forces suffered large casualties at the Battle of Delville Woods and during the Mendi sinking. The Mendi was a troopship sailing from Cape Town to France, transporting 607 members of the South African Native Labour Corps. The ship was rammed at full speed by the SS Darro; it sank within 25 minutes. 626 men perished.
Bois d’Elville, near Longueval, France was nicknamed Devil’s Wood (or Delville Wood) by the Allied troops. During the battle at Delville Wood, the South African 1st Infantry Brigade lost almost 80 percent of its unit, yet still managed to hold Delville Wood. Over 1,200 names from this unit are found in the records. William Frederick Faulds was the first South African-born man serving with the South African Forces to be awarded the Victoria Cross. Faulds received the medal for his actions on 18 July 1916 at Delville Wood, when he rescued his fallen officer in open daylight between trench lines and carried him to safety. Faulds was one of 8 South African recipients of the Victoria Cross from the First World War.
Abbreviations Cause of Death English abbreviations
KA – Killed in Action
DW – Died of Wounds
DPOW – Died whilst Prisoner of War
DS – Died in Service (Natural causes, accidental, etc.)
MDP – Missing, Death Presumed
Rank English abbreviations
2nd Lt – 2nd Lieutenant
Asst Stew – Assistant Steward
Capt - Captain
Cpl – Corporal
Flt Lt – Flight Lieutenant
Gnr - Gunner
L/Cpl – Lieutenant – Corporal
Maj - Major
Pte – Private
Sjt – Serjeant (Sergeant)
Victoria Cross Recipients
In the records we have found 2 of the 8 South African Victoria Cross recipients. These records only include the names of those killed in the war between 1914 and 1918.
Andrew Beauchamp-Proctor – Captain with the Royal Air Force
Beauchamp-Proctor had 54 aerial victories and was awarded the Victoria Cross, Military Cross, Distinguished Service Order and the first ever Distinguished Flying Crosses. During service he captured two enemy aircraft and destroyed 16 balloons (three were shared efforts) – making him the leading British Empire balloon buster.
Clement Robertson - Captain with The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment
Clement Robertson was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. His Irish father, John Robertson was serving with the Royal Artillery in South Africa. John Robertson’s attestation record can be found in the British Army Service Records. The family moved back to Ireland and Robertson grew up in County Wicklow and later attended Trinity College in Dublin. He enlisted at the beginning of the First World War. On 4 October 1917 acting Captain Robertson led a tank attack under heavy fire on foot in order to guide them to their objective. He was killed during this mission, but his actions ensured its success. A memorial to Robertson can be found in Delgany, County Wicklow.