SLUIT NOU AAN! South African union defence force recruitment posters from the second world war

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South Africa entered the Second World War ill-prepared and divided into pro-and anti-war factions. The Union Defence Force (UDF) required recruits for a variety of roles but the right to bear arms was confined to white male citizens. Despite the numerous daunting challenges that faced the recruiters, the number of white men who enlisted reached or even exceeded the required figures. To persuade men to volunteer authorities launched successive propaganda campaigns which included the public display of posters. This article examines the South African recruitment posters of the Second World War that were aimed at all eligible white men. It provides a brief introduction to the UDF’s recruitment requirements, a description of the production of propaganda and an analysis of the symbols used in the recruitment posters. The analysis shows that the posters employed a variety of visual symbols. These can be categorised into three broad groupings: the first group signified loyalty to the Allied forces, the second expressed allegiance to South Africa, and a third set was aimed specifically at Afrikaners. The use of such symbols is illustrated through examples of South African recruitment posters and posters from the Allied nations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-69
Number of pages29
JournalSouth African Historical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019


  • Posters
  • Propaganda
  • Recruitment
  • Second World War
  • South Africa
  • Union Defence Force

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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