History page

Visit of Delville Wood



General Smuts in 1917

Born on the 24th May 1870 at Riebeeck (Cape Province).

Died on the 11th September 1950 near Irene.

Son of a member of the colonial parliament, he attended Victoria College at Stellenbosch then Cambridge in 1891 when he read for the Bar. Smuts returned to South Africa in 1895 and practised as advocate in Cape Town then in Johannesburg. He married Sybella (Isle) Krige in 1897 and they had six children. He was appointed state attorney the following year.

Smuts served with distinction during the Anglo-Boer War as a raider in the Western Transvaal with general De La Rey, and later as Commandant General of the Republican Forces in the Cape. At the conclusion of the War, he was one of the architects of the Constitution of the Union of South Africa.

First Minister of Defence of the Union, he served, as Major-General, in German South West Africa. Promoted Lieutenant-General, he took charge in 1916 the German East Africa campaign. Smuts was then appointed to the Imperial War Cabinet in London and frequently visited the Western Front. After attending the 1919 Peace Conference at Versailles, he became Prime Minister at the death of General Louis Botha in 1919.

He was the leader of the opposition from 1924 to 1933 then became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice. When the Second World War broke out, Smuts became Prime Minster and Minister of Defence as full General. He was an intimate collaborator with Winston Churchill. In May 1941, Smuts was appointed a field-marshall of the British Army.

His most post-war achievement was the drafting of the covenant of the UN but was defeated in the Elections of 1948.

Delville Wood Museum : Smuts display