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An estimated 3,000 South Africans also joined the Royal Flying Corps.

The total South African casualties during the war was about 18,600 with over 12,452 killed – more than 4,600 in the European theater alone.

The 1st South African Brigade consisted of four infantry battalions, representing men from all four provinces of the Union of South Africa as well as Rhodesia: the 1st Regiment was from the Cape Province, the 2nd Regiment was from Natal and the Orange Free State and the 3rd Regiment was from Transvaal and Rhodesia.

With the declaration of war in September 1939, the South African Army numbered only 5,353 regulars, with an additional 14,631 men of the Active Citizen Force (ACF) which gave peace time training to volunteers and in time of war would form the main body of the army.

Pre-war plans did not anticipate that the army would fight outside southern Africa and it was trained and equipped only for bush warfare.

For training purposes, the Union was divided into 15 military districts. When World War I broke out in 1914, the South African government chose to join the war on the side of the Allies.

Initially, the Permanent Force consisted of five regiments of the South African Mounted Riflemen (SAMR), each with a battery of artillery attached. General Louis Botha, the then prime minister, faced widespread Afrikaner opposition to fighting alongside Great Britain so soon after the Second Boer War and had to put down a revolt by some of the more militant elements before he could send an expeditionary force of some 67,000 troops to invade German South-West Africa (now Namibia).

The supporting units included five batteries of heavy artillery, a field ambulance unit, a Royal Engineers signals company and a military hospital.

The most costly action that the South African forces on the Western Front fought in was the Battle of Delville Wood in 1916 – of the 3,000 men from the brigade who entered the wood, only 768 emerged unscathed.

During the Rand strike of 1922, 14,000 members of the ACF and certain A class reservists were called up. The last remaining regiment of the South Africa Mounted Riflemen was disbanded on 31 March 1926 and the number of military districts was reduced from 16 to six on 1 April 1926.

The Brigade HQ of the SA Field Artillery was also disbanded.

Through this system, young healthy members are being inducted into the regular and reserve forces every year.

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