The interesting part of digging up all the “hidden” history of the South African veteran movements after World War 2, is that occasionally you come across some hidden history about the military veterans organisation which you belong to. Did you know that both Jan Smuts AND Winston Churchill are both members of the South African Legion of Military Veterans?
Well – they are. Field Marshal Jan Smuts was awarded the “Gold Life Membership Badge of the South African Legion of the BESL” in November 1945, and Sir Winston Churchill recieved the same Gold Life Membership Badge to the South African Legion in July 1948.
And here they are – two fellow Legionnaires, the two great prime ministers of Great Britain and South Africa, Prime Ministers, Winston Churchill and Field Marshal Jan Smuts, at the British Embassy in Cairo, 5 August 1942.
Above is a standard South African Legion lapel Badge with “Kings crown” from the 2nd World War period. Note BESL – which stands for the “British Empire Services League” – the South African Legion along with the Royal British Legion, Royal Canadian Legion and Returned Services League Australia are all founder members of it. Today it is called the “Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League” (RCEL) having received recognition by the Britain’s Royal family for its work all over the world supporting destitute military veterans who have rendered service to the “crown” – including South Africa.
Modern South African Legion badge – note the use of modern BESL the RCEL “Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League” and Queen’s Crown” for Queen Elizabeth II who is a Patron.
Image copyright – The Imperial War Museum. Reference “Not For Ourselves” – a history of the South African Legion by Arthur Blake.