Italy 1944, a crew of the Pretoria Tank Regiment, 6th South African Armoured Division, christen their Sherman tank with the names of Prime Minister, Field Marshal Jan Smuts, during their advance north of Rome.
Jan Smuts and his wife, Isie K. Smuts affectionally known as “Ouma” (Grandmother) by the troops proved incredibly popular to South African servicemen during the Second World War. In part because of the compassion shown to the troops via the South African Gifts and Comforts Fund run by “Ouma” Smuts and the annual gift packs sent to all in service during the war.
The Pretoria Regiment featured here in Italy, went on claim great status as a fighting Armoured Regiment. It was formed in Pretoria on 1 July 1913 as the 12th Infantry (Pretoria Regiment) – a unit of the Active Citizen Force – by the amalgamation of several units: the Pretoria Company of the Transvaal Scottish, the Central South African Railway Volunteers, the Northern Mounted Rifles and the Pretoria detachment of the Transvaal Cycle and Motor Corps. In 1928, it was renamed The Pretoria Regiment.
On 24 October 1930 it was once again renamed, to The Pretoria Regiment P.A.O. (Princess Alice’s Own). During World War II, the Regiment was converted to an armoured formation attached to the 11th South African Armoured Brigade, South African 6th Armoured Division.
In Italy the Pretoria Regiment (PAO) was the armoured regiment for the British 24th Guards Brigade (Grenadiers, Coldstream and Scots Guards) in the 6th SA Armoured Division. At the end of six months together, in honour of fighting prowess of the Pretoria Regiment (POA), the Brigade Commander obtained King’s permission for award to the Pretoria Regiment (PAO) of a theatre honour in the form of stylised wings in Guards Brigade colours. This is carried on the Pretoria Regiment’s insignia to this day.
After the Second World War the unit was demobilised, and in 1946 it was re-organised as a part-time force, consisting of two separate regiment-sized formations. These were re-integrated in 1954. After the establishment of the Republic of South Africa in 1961, the unit was again renamed The Pretoria Regiment by the South African Defence Force.
Since the end of compulsory national service in 1994. As part of the SANDF Reserve the Pretoria Regiment now recruits volunteers from among former Reserve and Regular Force soldiers and focussing on University of Pretoria students, men and women.
Image Copyright Imperial War Museum Collection. Image of insignia courtesy Dudley Wall. Reference – The Pretoria Regiment by Brig Gen (Ret) D Fourie and wikipedia