South Africa War Graves Project

South Africa War Graves Project Database

Welcome to the South Africa War Graves Project online database!

If you are a new visitor to the site please take a few minutes to read about our work and an explanation of the site below. All other users please enter the database via the link at top or bottom of this page.

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***Note if the online request form does not work, try using Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, as Internet Explorer does not always work!

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This online database is a culmination of almost 10 years of photographing and archiving war graves and names on memorials to the missing.

The names in this database will include male and female South African and Rhodesian (now Zimbabwe) casualties from WW1, WW2, Korea, the Border War and Rhodesian Bush War, as well as soldiers/sailors/ airmen and police officers who died in service serving their country. We have a few WW1 and WW2 civilian casualties whose deaths were due to enemy action, but they are the rare exception where civilians are included. A few other exceptions are some military mascots and service animals that died in the line of duty.

This project is by no means done by one person. Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes. Some have photographed literally hundreds or even thousands of graves traveling great distances doing so and at great personal cost to themselves. Others may have submitted some photos from their home town, or while on a trip to another country. Others not content to sit idly by when the war graves in their area are done, contribute by doing military research.

This database, we hope will stand as a monument of peace. Here we want to remember but also give South African and Rhodesian citizens a chance to learn. We have purposely included as much detail as possible, which includes noting the cause of death for historical integrity. Whether you are here for genealogical purposes to look up a relative or you are student of military history, we hope our database serves your needs.

The war/military/police dead of South Africa and Rhodesia came from many walks of life. They were of all ages and backgrounds. The youngest casualty known was 14 years and 3 months old, the oldest known was 79. Some came from nobility, most came from the working class. Some were athletes in cricket or rugby and one man was a famous marathon runner. Some had university degrees and were leaders in their field, while others were illiterate. One man was a famous ventriloquist, another was made famous acting in a war time film and some were authors and poets. At least 6 that we know of were executed (4 WW1 and 2 WW2), while others died in famous battles of military history, a lot died of malaria, enteric fever and pandemic influenza, too many committed suicide as a result of what we now recognize as PTSD, and even one man died choking on a piece of biltong. Some were awarded medals of bravery, most were not, but with their sacrifice, we recognize them all.

The database has over 40000 individual names represented. Not all casualties have photos associated with their record but an estimated 25000 do. However we were not satisfied with just war grave/memorial photos, we (the volunteers) wanted to give back more as a token of respect, so each casualty where possible has additional information (where known) such as the nature of casualty, additional information about their family, their date of birth, or citation details on decorations that were awarded to them.

This database will by no means be ever complete. We get new information and photos all the time. We have included all known South African and Rhodesian war dead, but we add new names all the time, something we call “associated with” South Africa or Rhodesia. That person may have been born, resided or even called South Africa or Rhodesia their home at some point but served with a non-South African or Rhodesian unit. Some are simply children of South Africans or Rhodesians and never set foot in either country but as they were children of citizens we consider them sons or daughters of South Africa and Rhodesia. But this database needs YOU! We always need new volunteers to submit photographs in countries or areas not completed, (note please contact us before starting to photograph graves as we may already them and we have specific formats we want the photos) or supply us with photos of your loved ones, photos of their medals, or maybe even service records or photos of your local war memorial/cenotaph.

A lot of the records you will see will have a cause of death as “Died on active service”. Where this is stated it means, all we know is that they died on active service, we know nothing else. If you know differently please let us know. Again a lot of the records have only the initials of the first names of that service person that died. We do not know their full names and we want to know. We want to know dates of birth, where they went to school, and the full names of their parents’ and where they called home. If you think you can improve a record please contact us via links on the casualty record page, even if you notice grammatical errors in our records and especially if the wrong photo is loaded into a record. No detail is too small.

All the photos you see on this site are FREE! We are not legally allowed to sell photos of another volunteer because that photo’s copyright belongs to the volunteer photographer who took the photo. Thus you may not “right click” and download a photo, please request the photo(s) through the online forms.

However, each volunteer has donated their time and effort and has agreed that should someone request that photo we can release to the family or friend of the casualty, and school and veterans groups, free of charge. Those creating books of remembrance for school or town histories need only make reference to the South Africa War Graves Project and identify the volunteer photographer. But we won’t supply (for example) 100 photographs to medal collectors just so they can put them with their medal collections and in turn sell them on eBay. We have sister projects The Maple Leaf Legacy Project (Canadians), the Australian War Grave Photographic Archive (Australians) and the British War Memorial Project (British) and all of our charters are similar. Another similar group in South Africa the EGGSA (the virtual branch of the Genealogical Society of South Africa) has allowed us access to some of their photos along same principles. Our volunteers work without pay or reward, except for the odd thank you note from those relatives of the war dead who send a note along. This is our way of giving back to the dead and their families. For us Remembrance Day is every day.

We do not take donations, as it is an administrative nightmare, but rather you can (your choice) make donations to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and make a note in your donation that it is in reference to maintaining their good work, especially of South African and Rhodesian war dead. We will be establishing a research fund to assist us in paying our archives researcher, who provides us with amazing information, but for now that fund is not set up.

This database is Stage Two of the Project.

Stage One was the gathering of photos. While we have completed most of the countries, or the majority of photos required in each country, we still have large gaps, most notably in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Libya is another country with almost no photos. However large countries like United Kingdom, Belgium, Egypt and France are mostly complete. Stage One will technically never get done. There will always be photos we need and better photos we can obtain.

Stage Two as stated is the implementation of the database, a process that we have started no less than seven times and are finally coming to completion with just now. It has taken almost all of the year of 2013 to get this off the ground and we have a team of volunteers renaming photos and loading them up. We promised a Nov. 11 launch, but since we are still loading up photos, something that will always have to be done we are launching now. There are still some technical glitches to work out, but the majority have been fixed.

Stage Three will be the tagging of each photo to a specific volunteer or group of volunteers where precise identification of photos is not known. In the meantime please refer to the countries and cemeteries pages to see who took the photo. As well as loading up WW1 record cards (have about 85% estimated) to the WW1 casualties. Not all have been linked to the record, so please request this if you are requesting a photo and we can post on their record if it is in our archive.

Stage Four is the continuation of seeking to gain “war grave” status for nearly 1500 men and women of both WW1 and WW2 that were “missed” off official rolls. We have had some success with this and nearly 50 men and women have achieved war grave status due to our research. The bulk of those missed are over 1000 South Africa native labourers who either died in East African campaign or upon their return to South Africa, mostly of disease contracted on active service. You will notice these labelled as being in an “UNKNOWN CEMETERY”. These casualties were not excluded due to racism, as they are identified in the offical South African Roll of Honour. After WW1 when rolls were created for the then Imperial War Graves Commission; they were missed because the Records Officer who was preparing the rolls of war dead died of Spanish influenza. He had submitted rolls for every unit, but almost 98% of South Africans (native and white) serving with the Military Labour Bureau were missed as were a large number of men serving with the South African Mounted Rifles and there was at least one man missing in Belgium, and 4 in France.

Again we assume that after his death, nobody took on the job (that was almost finished) and the work was shelved, only to be found by one of our volunteer team during a visit to South African archives. We are completing his work nearly 95 years after he started.

"War graves" are those graves or names on a memorial to the missing which are WW1 and WW2 related which are recognized by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as war graves. The dates of death for the First World War are 4 August 1914 to 31 August 1921 and for the Second World War 3 September 1939 to 31 December 1947.

After those dates the grave is no longer considered a war grave. Any grave after those dates are considered veterans graves, and unless we have researched that casualty and determined an “on active service” death, we don’t include them in our project. Even post discharge graves that we find that are new commemorations must show that death was due to service. Then the South African MOD has to approve that casualty as the CWGC does not accept new commemorations without approval.

Stage Five is the continuation of looking for those graves that are considered non-war grave. Military and Police graves are those graves that are not considered war graves but of service people who died in service, i.e. Korea War and Border War graves. In most cases where they have been officially recognized on a memorial, we use that memorial as their alternative commemoration until their grave can be found. Note that the CWGC does not maintain these graves, nor do the governments of South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission maintains the war graves and Memorials to the Missing around the world. You can be assured that every grave and memorial is looked after well. In the larger cemeteries overseas, gardeners and stonemasons are employed to ensure that every resting place is maintained to the highest quality. In South Africa the South African branch of the CWGC maintains hundreds of sites around South Africa and Namibia. We are in contact with them all the time. If we receive photos of damaged or neglected headstones, they dispatch a team rather quickly to remedy the problem. We have nothing but good things to say about the South African branch or the Commission as a whole. They are a very dedicated and hardworking organization and we have nothing but respect and admiration for their work. Please visit their site www.cwgc.org to learn more. If you notice a war grave in poor condition let us know and we can send a note to the South African agency to inspect the grave on their next visit. Note that there is absolutely nothing we can do for the “non-war” graves if they are bad condition, and sadly many are.

At this time, we have not included Boer War graves or Freedom Struggle graves. While we do fill requests for the Boer War, from time to time, we are not keen to hand enter an additional 25000 names into our database. Thus we are waiting for a new extension of our database that we expect in the next year or two that will come from an outside source. Simply put we can’t look for a grave unless we know who to look for and where. Then we will proceed with the collection of those grave photos, we do however photograph them and archive them when we find them in the meantime.

Freedom Struggle graves fall into almost same category, while some graves exist, they are not what we would call “uniformed services”. Most graves are unmarked, and having no list to work off (and trust me we have looked), we can’t add names to the database, when we don’t know who to add or where they might be buried. We respect every soldier’s grave and care not if they were white, black, coloured, Indian or Malay or even which side they fought on, but if they weren’t a “uniformed service” or we don’t even know where to look, then how can we possibly add them?

We are keen to get the majority of archived photos up first. So if you don’t see a photo you want, email us and ask, but please look at the countries and cemeteries list first to see if we even have the photo before asking us to load up an image.

On behalf of all the volunteers around the world, we welcome you to our website and we hope our work pays proper homage to the dead.

***Note we constantly update our records, nearly 200-300 records are updated every day, all day, if you don't see any photos listed with a record just email us and we can update those records for you.

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