Cape Town station in 1943. A sight you will not see today – wartime propaganda posters at the train station urging South Africans not to use the train networks unnecessarily so as to keep the system at peak proficiency for wartime supplies. Think of it as “load shedding”, but this time in the nobel interests of winning a world war.
During World War 2, the whole country was mobilised in the war effort and the majority of South Africans were happy to endure the austerity measures and “do their bit”. To put this support into perspective – under the Union government of Smuts, one in every four white South African men (a quarter of the country’s white male population) volunteered for the armed forces to take part in this great fight for “the freedom of the human spirit” as Jan Smuts termed it. Such was the support that South Africa did not have to conscript anyone to the armed forces, even at a time when a world war was on and everything was stretched to the limit.
That figure and this “call to action” for support is quite something when you consider that the country had to initiate conscription for the next generation of white males to serve in the armed forces, when South Africa became a Republic under the National Party, and they had to force the issue – think about that one for a minute.