The first German General to surrender his forces in WW2 – surrendered to the South Africans

Nugget of South African military history, the very first German General to formally surrender his forces to the Allies during the Second World War – surrendered to the South African forces in the North African theatre of operations.

Generalleutenant Artur Schmidt was the first German General to formally surrender to a Allied General which was General De Villiers (Commissioner of the South African Police) and Commander of the South African 2nd Infantry Division.

As part of General Rommel’s skillful retreat in December 1941 to the El Aghelia – Marda strongpoint in Libya, key defensive actions where set up at Sollum, Halfaya Pass and Bardia. On 30 December 1941, South African troops supported by a heavy air, sea and land bombardment began their attack on Bardia. A counterattack on the city’s perimeter slowed the advance, but supported by tanks the South Africans launched their final assault on 02 January 1942 to take the city. Seen here on that day is General Schmidt formally surrendering himself and the Italian and German forces under his command to the South Africans.

Ironically the South African 2nd Infantry Division would themselves all become captured at the Fall of Tobruk by Rommel’s German Afrika Korps and other Axis forces on 21 June 1942.

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 14.14.16Note the identification patch of the South African 2nd Infantry Division on the person standing on the far right of the image.

Not to be confused with the “capture” of Generalleutnant Johann von Ravenstein a couple of months earlier by New Zealand soldiers.   There is a big difference between a formal surrender of forces to an opposing force, than simply been randomly ‘captured’ driving around in a staff car and taking a wrong turn as General von Ravenstein was. General von Ravenstein did not “surrender” himself nor did he surrender any German forces.

Ironically General von Ravesnstien served the first part of his POW life in South Africa before been shipped of to Canada.


Written and researched by Peter Dickens. Thank you to Sandy Evan Haynes for the background information and to Marc Norman for the image.

2 thoughts on “The first German General to surrender his forces in WW2 – surrendered to the South Africans

  1. Dear All, I’m searching for reference of my father who participated in WW2 for South Africa as an aircraft bomb fitter in North African, then later in the Italian campaign. His name was Johnny Johnson, or Albert Edward Johnson to be precise.
    Thanks very much
    Lindsay Johnson

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    • I Hi Lindsay do you know which squadron he was in? If you have his force number and a few bits of info like squadron and rank you can write to the SANDF or SAAF giving all details of course full name and s ate of birth and ask for his service records, they are quite brief but you get a good amount of info. I have heard you can get more in depth info on his service if you ask. Good luck, if he was in 15 Squadron there is a book out called Agean Pirates, I forget the authors as my books are packed due to moving but you will find it on the squadron and SAAF web site. All the best Alan Nowlan

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