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2nd South African Infantry Division
Active 23 October 1940 – 21 June 1942
Disbanded 21 Jun 1942
Country  South Africa
Allegiance Allied forces of World War 2
Branch South African Army
Type Infantry
Size Division
Battle honours Clayden's Trench (Sollum): Jan 1942, Gazala: Jun 1942, Tobruk: Jun 1942
First From 23 Oct 1940: Major General IP de Villiers
Ceremonial chief From 26 Jul 1941: Brigadier FH Theron (acting)
Final From 5 Sep 1941: Major General IP de Villiers and from 14 May 1942: Major General HB Klopper

The South African 2nd Infantry Division was an infantry division of the army of the Union of South Africa during World War II. The Division was formed on 23 October 1940 and served in the Western Desert Campaign and was captured (save for one brigade) by German and Italian forces at Tobruk on 21 June 1942. The remaining brigade was re-allocated to the South African 1st Infantry Division.



The division was formed on 23 October 1940 with its divisional HQ at Voortrekkerhoogte, South Africa. On 21 June 1942 two complete infantry brigades of the division as well as most of the supporting units were captured at the fall of Tobruk.

Deployment to Egypt


Bardia and the Western Desert

"Fortress Tobruk"


Maj.Gen. H. B. Klopper, Commander 2nd SA Inf Div at the surrender of Tobruk. (South African National War Museum)

The remaining Brigade

Order of battle

Initial Operational Deployment: 2 December 1941

On 18 September 1941 the Division was re-allocated from X Corps command to falling under General HQ command and were responsible for protecting the railway and water supply lines between Alexandria and Mersa Matruh. On 11 October, the The Kaffrarian Rifles were detached from the division and deployed to protect the landing fields in the Daba-Fuka-Bagush area. On taking over responsibility for the Frontier area on 2 December 1941 the divisional order of battle, as part of the 8th Army was:[1]

  • HQ 2nd Infantry Division (Maj-Gen I.P. de Villiers)
    • One Squadron 6th South African Armoured Car Regiment
  • Braforce (Brig. Medley)
  • 6th South African Infantry Brigade (Brig. F.W. Cooper):
    • 2nd Transvaal Scottish
    • 1st South African Police Battalion
    • 2nd South African Police Battalion
    • 1st Field Regiment, Cape Field Artillery
  • Railhead Force (Lt. Col. G.E.L. L'Estrange VD):
    • Umvoti Mounted Rifles
    • Die Middellandse Regiment
    • Detachment TDS (approx 30 "I" Tanks[nb 2])
    • 10th Field Company, South African Engineering Corps

Order of Battle: The Fall of Tobruk

Order of Battle as at 20 June 1942[2]

  • Division Troops
    • Die Middelandse Regiment (Machine-gun battalion)
    • 7th South African Reconnaissance Battalion
    • 2nd Field Regiment, Natal Field Artillery, South African Artillery
    • 3rd Field Regiment, Transvaal Horse Artillery, South African Artillery
    • 6th Anti-Tank Battery, South African Artillery
    • 2nd Light Anti-aircraft Regiment, South African Artillery
    • 4th & 10th South African Field Companies, S A Engineers

Note: After the capture of the rest of the division, 3rd South African Infantry Brigade and the 1st Field Regiment of the Cape Field Artillery became part of the South African 1st Infantry Division.

Theatres of operation

The theatres that the division served in were as follows:

  • South Africa: 23 October 1940 to 20 April 1941
  • At Sea: 20 April 1941 to 6 June 1941
  • Egypt: 6 June 1941 to 22 March 1942
  • Libya: 22 March 1942 to 21 June 1942

Battles, actions and engagements

The division took part in the following battles, actions and engagements:

  • Bardia: 31 December 1941 to 2 January 1942. Some 8,000 Allied prisoners of war were freed and some 6,000 Axis prisoners were taken.
  • Clayden's Trench (Sollum): 11 January 1942 to 12 January 1942
  • Gazala: 26 May 1942 to 21 June 1942
  • Tobruk: 20 June 1942 to 21 June 1942. The number of South African prisoners taken at Tobruk has been recorded as 10,772[2]


  1. This brigade was attached to the 1st South African Division after the loss of the 5th Infantry Brigade at Sidi Rezeg. Klein p. 110
  2. Infantry support tanks


  1. Orpen Appendix 2
  2. 2.0 2.1 Agar-Hamilton Appendix B


  • Agar-Hamilton, J.A.I. & Turner, L.F.C. Crisis in the Desert: May - July 1942. 1952, Oxford University Press, Cape Town.
  • Klein, Harry Lt-Col (1946). Springbok Record. Johannesburg: White House. 
  • Liddell Hart, B.H. (Ed.) (1953). The Rommel Papers. London: Collins. 
  • Orpen, N. War in the Desert: South African Forces World War II: Volume III. 1971, Purnell, Cape Town. (Referred to as Orpen Vol III in references)

External links

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