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On-line version ISSN 2309-8392
Print version ISSN 0018-229X


HORN, Karen. Narratives from North Africa: South African prisoner-of-war experience following the fall of Tobruk, June 1942. Historia [online]. 2011, vol.56, n.2, pp.94-112. ISSN 2309-8392.

ABSTRACT South African prisoners of war (POWs) captured at Tobruk in June 1942 experienced similar events and conditions. All shared a feeling of shock at becoming POWs and all of them had to deal with extremely difficult living conditions in prison camps. Attitudes towards their enemies, German or Italian, were for the most part very similar among POWs, although differences can to an extent be ascribed to the home language or family ancestry of the specific POW in question. On the other hand, attitudes towards fellow POWs, especially between black and white, cannot be generalised, and each case needs to be assessed individually. Characteristics unique to South African POWs are even more difficult to identify because the South Africa forces were a very diverse group, with the only distinguishing factor being that of language. When discerning between the general experience and the individual experiences, it is important to separate the circumstances from the POWs reactions to those circumstances, because the circumstances represent the general experience and the reaction to such situations represents the individual experience.

Keywords : Prisoners of war; South Africa; World War Two; 2nd South African Infantry Division; Major General H.B. Klopper; Western Desert Campaign; rank and file troops; Tobruk; Benghazi; Gazala; Mersa Matruh; Derna; capture; escape; German forces; Italian forces.

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