Springbok Escapers and Evaders in the Western Desert, 1941–1942

An Exploratory Investigation

In: Journal of African Military History
Evert Kleynhans Stellenbosch University Department of Military History South Africa Saldanha

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Will Gordon University of Zululand Department of History South Africa KwaDlangezwa

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During the Second World War, between 1941 and 1942, a large number of South African troops were made prisoners of war (POW) by the Axis forces in the Western Desert. These troops were first interned in POW transit camps in North Africa, before being shipped to more permanent camps in Italy and later Germany. A large number of the South African captives decided to accept their newfound fates and make their internment as ‘pleasant’ as possible. However, a small nucleus of South African servicemen either tried to evade capture altogether, or, when captured, actively tried to escape. The first large scale attempts of escape and evasion by South African servicemen therefore occurred in North Africa between 1941 and 1942. This article provides an exploratory investigation into the varied experiences of the South African soldiers that either evaded capture altogether or escaped from internment in North Africa.

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