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'Our Ancestors Fought For Our Freedom'

This poster was designed by Bannerman (unknown) and published in South Africa in 1914. Although the Union of South Africa was a dominion of the British Empire, war with Germany in 1914 was not universally supported.

Many South Africans, known as Boers, had German or Dutch ancestry. The use of the Union Flag and the phrase 'Our Ancestors Fought For Our Freedom' would have been divisive, as a large proportion of the population resented the British victory over their short-lived republics in the Second Boer War (1899-1902).

The South African government sided with Britain and declared war on Germany resulting in plans to invade German South-West Africa. A group of Boer army officers refused to participate and incited a revolt known as the Maritz Rebellion, but it was swiftly crushed.

Prime Minister Louis Botha and Defence Minister General Jan Smuts sought to overcome Boer nationalism by suggesting the British had actually fought for South Africa's freedom and prosperity, that was growing within the British Empire, and that Germany threatened invasion. A South African expeditionary force was raised with over 200,000 men volunteering to serve in both Africa and Europe.

NAM Accession Number

NAM. 1977-06-81-36


National Army Museum, Out of Copyright


National Army Museum, Global Role gallery

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