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Italy 1943 - 1945:

South African Division

Introduction
The South African Army had a small pre-war cadre of regular personnel, drawn only from the white population. With the outbreak of war, the country formed two infantry divisions, which fought in Egypt and Libya where one was captured.

The remaining infantry division was withdrawn back to South Africa after the battle of El Alamein, and disbanded. A new armoured division was formed in South Africa on 1 February 1943, under the command of Major General W. H. E. POOLE.
See: Major-General-Evered-POOLE (PDF)

The division integrated a significant number of white Southern Rhodesians into the units of the formation, and in Italy took under command a British Guards brigade, an U.S. Task Force, and even an Indian infantry battalion. This made this division a truly international formation, although led by South Africans throughout.

The Division Arrives in Italy
The 6 South African Armoured Division arrived in Egypt on 30 April 1943 for training under command of British Troops in Egypt. The division then came under the command of III Corps in Egypt between 1 January and 14 March 1944. It left Egypt on 16 April 1944, and landed in Italy at Taranto on 21 April. The division joined the I Canadian Corps on 28 May 1944 in the advance to the River Tiber. It spent one day (6 June) under command of XIII Corps, and was then withdrawn into 8 Army Reserve. On 20 August 1944, the division joined IV U.S. Corps in the battle to force the Trasimene Line.

The Gothic Line Battles
The next battle was fought at Arezzo between 4 and 17 July, which proceeded the advance to Florence. Between 7 and 31 October, the division passed to the command of the 5 U.S. Army, before returning to the IV U.S. Corps. It participated in six engagements in the attempt to break the Gothic Line, from late August through to September 1944. After the pause in operations for winter, the division transferred to the II U.S. Corps on 15 January 1945 for the final offensive.

The End of the Campaign
Towards the latter stages of the campaign, the division began to suffer from a severe lack of reinforcements. This was because the war had drained the country of most of the eligible white adult male population prepared, and able, to serve abroad in the Army. The division left Italy in May 1945 to return to South Africa.

Acknowledgements
The Webmaster is very grateful to the staff of Ditsong (formerly South Africa) National Museum of Military History, for their permission to use the article on Major General Evered POOLE. The Museum has a wealth of information on military history, and I recommend viewing their website at: http://www.ditsong.org.za

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