Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.
A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

The twenty-second letter of the alphabet became a powerful symbol during the Second World War — ‘V’ for Victory, and all that. Even the Morse code for the letter — dot-dot-dot-dash — became useful, echoing as it did the famous four-note motif from Beethoven’s fifth symphony.

In South Africa, however, the two main languages were English and Afrikaans, and the Afrikaans word for victory, oorwinning, does not start with a ‘V’. Instead the letter was used to stand for vryheid, or freedom, just as in Belgium it stood for both victoire for the Walloons and vrijheid for the Flemings.

When the Second World War started Prime Minister Hertzog announced a policy of neutrality, only to be toppled as premier by his deputy and ally Smuts who brought South Africa into the war a few days later than Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

This wartime propaganda poster, produced by the Staatsdrukker in Pretoria, urges South Africans to ‘keep the iron hot for freedom’. The country’s industrial production made a valuable contribution to the war effort in addition to the volunteer manpower of the Union Defence Force and, perhaps most importantly, the gold that came from the Witwatersrand mines.

Elsewhere: Prof Deirdre Pretorius discusses South African WW2 posters at the Design History Society’s annual conference in 2014.
This post was published on Monday, May 22nd, 2017 12:06 pm. It has been categorised under History South Africa and been tagged under , , , .
22 May 2017 8:04 pm

Ah, but Hertzog (or at least his natural successors) had their revenge in 1948.
The average Afrikaner had no reason either to love or defend the British Empire.

Dave Cooper
23 May 2017 11:23 am

Cusack et al …

Hetterscheidt is, indeed correct … My Afrikaner “oumatjie” was a captive in a British “concentration camp” and did not have a warm relationship with my Englishman father. In the Fifties, I remember it was frequent to hear Afrikaner friends and family refer to the war with Germany as « Engeland se oorlog ». I saw the very phrase in a letter written to a friend during the period of the “Phoney War” when there was much discussion about supporting the Empire.

Avdb …

24 May 2017 7:32 am

I’ve often thought it odd that amongst the subject white tribes of Empire, hatred of Britain trumped any sympathy you might assume they’d have for the plight of their former mother-countries, France and the Netherlands.

K. Dontoh
23 Jul 2017 3:27 am


I’ve never heard of similar sentiment in Quebec, to which I assume you’re referring. Were Duplessis and the Union Nationale ambivalent towards the war?

12 Oct 2017 9:32 pm

In 1942 a plebiscite was held on the question of conscription. Quebec voted 72.1% against. Every other province and territory voted yes. e.g. Ontario voted 84% in favor.

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