During the Second World War, South Africans served all over the world and in many roles. They served in the infantry and artillery, in the air and at sea, in nursing and medical services, as engineers, in railway and signal companies and in service and labour corps. Many died far from their home country and their contribution to the Allied war effort was significant.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, South Africa once more pledged its support to Britain, entering the war on 6 September 1939. The nation did not mobilise its forces outside South Africa until Italy's entry into the war in June 1940, when South African troops joined other Commonwealth forces in operations against Italian-held Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) and Somaliland.

During the campaign, which involved more than 30,000 South Africans, experience was gained in desert warfare that would prove invaluable. South African forces fought major battles in North Africa, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Italy. They played an important role in the decisive Battle of El Alamein in Egypt in October 1942.

South Africans also fought in the air, including in the South African Air Force and at sea. As well as helping to patrol the vital African coasts, many served in the Royal Navy.

The CWGC commemorates more than 11,900 people who died while serving with South African forces during the Second World War.

Related Cemeteries & Memorials

El Alamein War Cemetery, Egypt, is the final resting place of some 7,240 Second World War Commonwealth servicemen including more than 490 South African servicemen. At one end of the cemetery stands the Alamein Memorial which commemorates some 11,860 Second World War Commonwealth servicemen, including some 1,230 of South Africa, who died in the North African campaign and have no known grave.

Castiglione South African Cemetery, Italy, is the final resting place of some 500 Second World War Commonwealth servicemen including more than 400 South African servicemen.

Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Libya, is the final resting place of some 3,650 Second World War Commonwealth servicemen, including some 420 South African servicemen.