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Snippets, Articles, Documents of General Jan Smuts and the Smuts Family, the Jan Smuts House and the Museum.


Trailer of forthcoming Smuts documentary.

Chapter on Ouma Smuts extracted from the book "Women South Africa Remembers" author: Fay Jaff (1975).


Talk on Deneys Reitz presented by NICK COWLEY at the Friends of Smuts July 2018 supper evening.


'Genius' statesman Smuts's life recalled

As reported in the PRETORIA NEWS on 22 MAY 2018, 07:11AM by VIRGILATTE GWANGWA

A wreath being laid during the annual memorial for General Jan Christiaan Smuts on Sunday. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

PIONEER, remarkable, genius and peacemaker were among words used to describe General Jan Christiaan Smuts during his memorial service at Smuts House Museum in Irene on Sunday. The memorial service is held annually and close to his birthday, which is on May 24.

Smuts died aged 80 on September 11, 1950, after he suffered a coronary thrombosis. He died of a subsequent heart attack at his family farm in Doornkloof. Men and women from far and near in military uniform gathered in honour of the late military leader and philosopher.

Chaplain Marius van Rooyen said many were breaking all that Smuts had worked hard to build, and said it was time that everyone reconciled.

“General Smuts understood the wisdom of unity and reconciliation and that's what he stood for; unity. Many of our lives are testimonials of unity and that is what we are celebrating here today.”

The Welsh Male Voice Choir of SA had the audience in awe with melodious voices, while the SANDF held a mini-parade.Smuts’s great-grandson Philip Weyers said it was sentimental for him and the family to see his great-grandfather remembered and honoured in such a dignified manner.

“Even though I'm too young to have known my great-grandfather, for me to have my South African people recognise and celebrate him like this means a lot. In as much as I have spoken about him all over the world, I have also heard a lot about him and I can tell you that this man was a complete genius,” he said.

The memorial included a wreath-laying ceremony in memory of Smuts.

Smuts served as prime minister of the Union of South Africa from 1919 until 1924, as well as from 1939 to 1948. He is the only man to have signed both of peace treaties which ended World War I and II. Although Smuts had originally advocated racial segregation and opposed the enfranchisement of black Africans, his views changed. He then backed the Fagan Commission's findings that complete segregation was impossible.

He continued to work for reconciliation and emphasised the British Commonwealth's positive role until his death in 1950. He led a Boer Commando in the second war for Transvaal and the South African armies against Germany, capturing German South-West Africa and commanding the British Army in East Africa.

Two years after his death, the international airport in Kempton Park was founded and given his name. It is now known as OR Tambo International Airport.

Article about Smuts House in The Pretoria News, 19 April 2018


Smuts and Churchill's Narrow Escape

Extracted from “The Southern African History Musings of Ross Dix-Peek” http://peek-01.livejournal.com/100528.html

Copyright IWM (B5364)

Prime Minister Winston Churchill looking at enemy and British aircraft engaged overhead with Field Marshal Jan Smuts, Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, General Sir Bernard Montgomery and others in Normandy, 12 June 1944.

It was D-Day + 10 when South African statesman, Field Marshal Jan Smuts, accompanying the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, crossed over to Normandy to observe the action first-hand. Smuts was rather lucky to survive this visit, as both he and Churchill could very well have been killed while visiting Monty’s headquarters at Cruelly. The author Nicholas Rankin, in his book “Churchill’s Wizards, British Genius for Deception 1914-1945” relates that while visiting the headquarters and as “senior officers stood outside with the Prime Minister [Churchill], South African Field Marshal Smuts sniffed the air and said, ‘There are some Germans near us now…I can always tell!’” And lo and behold, just two days later, “two fully armed German paratroopers emerged from a nearby Rhododendron bush, where they had been hiding all along. Had they used their guns and grenades on Churchill [and Smuts], everything would have changed.” 

It is also really amazing when one considers that Smuts, an erstwhile enemy of the British empire, was not only to reconcile himself to his former enemy over the succeeding years, but was also to be greatly respected by two British prime ministers: Lloyd George appointing him head of the war council that was ultimately to bring about the amalgamation of the RFC and the RNAS and the subsequent founding of the Royal Air Force during the closing stages of WWI, while he was also earmarked to have been Churchill’s successor should the British prime minister succumb for whatever reason during the war.

Royal Air Force Celebrates 100th Aniversary

One of the founders of the Royal Air Force in 1918 was General Jan Smuts. Watch this lecture delivered by Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier at the Royal Aeronautical Society's 100th Aniversary lecture in which Smuts is acknowledged as playing a leading role in the RAF's establishment  on 1 April 1918.

A Kibbutz called Jan Smuts

Did you know that Jan Smuts has a kibbutz named after him because of his support in founding the state of Israel, and that this kibbutz was at the centre of the 1948 Arab Israeli War (or sometimes known as the Israeli War of Independence)?

South Africa's Exceptional History

The feared bloodbath in the transition to majority rule did not occur. As a proportion of the population, political deaths are among the lowest of all the major ethnic or racial conflicts since 1945. As General Jan Smuts famously said in 1949: “The worst, like the best, never happens [in South Africa].”

From Magersfontein to Westminster

South Africa’s Deny’s Reitz wrote ‘Commando’ while in exile in Madagascar after the Boer War, long before Lawrence wrote his version on what is guerrilla warfare. If it was not for the remarkable intervention of  Isie Smuts (wife of Jan Smuts) the book would probably have probably died in Madagascar with Reitz. But Isie persisted and Reitz was returned to SA and went on to achieve much.

Fallen heroes remembered

SAXONWOLD – Military museum remembers heroes that fell a century ago.  The museum, previously known as the South African National War Museum, was opened by Prime Minister Jan Smuts in 1947. In his speech, Jan Smuts said he hoped that the memorial would remind people of the horrors, the loss of life and the devastation of war and that it served as a warning to all people to create a world in which weapons of mass destruction would never be used again.


The articles below are referenced here with the kind permission of their author, Peter Dickens.

Churchill's Desk

Walk into the average teenager’s room and it would be adorned with posters of people they are fans of. People, usually music stars, that they look up and admire, and more importantly people to which they role model. These people are powerful icons which shape them psychologically.

To an adult, after a more experienced life, the icons who have moulded them – their role models, the people they admire most usually end up in picture frames or as small statues on mantels, desks and tables, very often family but very often also great thinkers, leaders who have step-changed their world and great sportsmen and women (even the odd music star from their teens might even make an appearance).

It’s no different with Winston Churchill, his desk at Chartwell is the most telling of who shaped him as a person, who he admired the most, who he loved and who he looked to for inspiration when writing his accounts of history, his epoch changing speeches and his great works on shaping the future of Great Britain.

Smuts' Last Journey

“The force of his intellect has enriched the wisdom of the whole human race” Here is a very interesting arlicle from "The Observation Post" on the life and ultimate death of General Smuts.

Centenary of the ‘Smuts Report’, the instrument which gave birth to the Royal Air Force

August 2017 marks the centenary of the report to form the Royal Air Force (RAF), the idea of an independent Air Force from Navy or Army control is now officially 100 years old, and one key South African statesman, General Jan Smuts, gave birth to it.

Today, if you walk into the Royal Air Force Private Club in Mayfair, London you are greeted by a bust of Jan Smuts in the foyer, it stands there as an acknowledgement to the man who founded what is now one of the most prestigious and powerful air forces in the world – The RAF.

Jan Smuts drafted the Preamble to the United Nations Charter

Imposing photograph of Jan Smuts at the San Francisco Conference in 1945 – the historic conference which founded the United Nations (UN).

One of Jan Smuts’ last acts as the Prime Minister for South Africa was the establishment of the United Nations. In fact he wrote the original opening lines of the Preamble to the United Nations Charter as …

“The High Contracting Parties, determined to prevent a recurrence of the fratricidal strife which twice in our generation has brought untold sorrow and loss upon mankind..”

Not only did Smuts do the first draft of the Preamble to the United Nations Charter, he also played a key role in putting together the United Nations Charter itself. Smuts even presided over the first meeting of Commission II, General Assembly of the United Nations on 30 May 1945, held at the San Francisco Opera House.

Two fellow members of The South African Legion – Churchill and Smuts

The interesting part of digging up all the “hidden” history of the South African veteran movements after World War 2, is that occasionally you come across some hidden history about the military veterans organisation which you belong to. Did you know that both Jan Smuts AND Winston Churchill are both members of the South African Legion of Military Veterans?

Well – they are. Field Marshal Jan Smuts was awarded the “Gold Life Membership Badge of the South African Legion of the BESL” in November 1945, and Sir Winston Churchill received the same Gold Life Membership Badge to the South African Legion in July 1948.

Jan Smuts, Winston Churchill and D-Day

It was D-Day+6 when South African statesman, Field Marshal Jan Smuts, was also to cross over to Normandy, accompanying the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill by his side. To this point Smuts had played a pivot role in not only the planning and strategy behind Operation Overlord and the Normandy campaign, he also played a central role as Winston Churchill’s personal advisor and using his considerable political skill, Jan Smuts was to keep Churchill in line with the wishes and objects of not only Overlord’s military commanders (mainly British and American), but also those of the King of Great Britain – George VI.

Smuts Barracks; Berlin


Not only did Jan Smuts have a Kibbutz named after him in Israel, as well as pub named after him in London, the famous ‘Smuts Barracks’ in Berlin was also named after him. The barracks were the home to an SS Panzer Division during the Second World War and was occupied by the British after the war, the barracks is particularly well-known because it was on constant high alert during the Cold War and Berlin Wall divide.

Smuts Barracks was situated on Wilhelmstraße, a street in the Spandau district of Berlin, and the base of the British armoured contingent to Germany, it’s located next to what was the famous ‘Spandau Prison’ . Also in Wilhelmstraße, Spandau Prison was completed in 1881. It was occupied by seven Nazi war criminals, convicted in the Nuremberg Trials after World War 2, including Rudolf Hess, who remained its only prisoner there for many years until he committed suicide. After Hess’ death the prison was demolished and replaced by a shopping centre.

The day the SAAF nearly killed Jan Smuts

Not a lot of people know this, but the South African Air Force (SAAF) nearly killed General Jan Smuts in a ‘Blue on Blue’ incident – military speak for when you fire on your own forces. The incident also says a lot of Jan Smuts’ character – so what happened?

Prior to the war, Oswald Pirow was the Defence Minister under the Hertzog regime, he was also a key player in the establishment of South African Airways (SAA). As an ardent supporter of Nazi Germany and the Nazi cause himself he had a keen relationship with Nazi Germany. He toured Germany on military inspections, also buying German military hardware on a number of occasions. As a result both SAA and the SAAF at the beginning of the war found themselves equipped with German-made aircraft.

One particular aircraft was a German-made bomber made by Junkers, and it was used by both Axis forces in World War 2 and by South African forces – it was the Ju-86. The difference between the two were slight adaptations and markings.

The Royal Air Force’s 100th Birthday and its founder – Jan Smuts

If you enter the Royal Air Force club located at 128 Piccadilly, London you are greeted in the foyer by a famous South African statesman – Jan Smuts. A bust of Jan Smuts stands at the entrance, and for very good reason – he founded the Royal Air Force, an Air Force which turned 100 years old on the 1st April 2018.

It was on the ‘Smuts Report’ submitted by in August 1917 that the plans for a separate arm of service, an air service – independent of the services of the Navy and Army were laid down by Prime Minister Llyod George’s war cabinet. The Smuts Report is the ‘Instrument’ by which the Royal Air Force (RAF) was formed.

200 Jewish orphans saved, the story of Jan Smuts and Issac Ochberg

You might remember heroic figures like Oskar Schindler (the famous “Schindler’s List”) who rescued groups of Jews from certain annihilation during World War 2. But did you know Jan Smuts also played a significant role in rescuing 200 Jewish orphans from the “Pogroms” in the Ukraine in 1921? Here’s a little bit of little known history involving an unlikely South African hero, Isaac Ochberg, and it’s one we can all stand proud of.

Jan Smuts and South Africa’s sanctuary for Polish refugee children

Not many South African’s know this, but during the Second World War – Jan Smuts opened South Africa to care for Polish orphans and children traumatised and displaced by the war. Ouma Smuts also played a leading role in ensuring they were correctly tutored and continued to have high appreciation of their rich Polish cultural heritage.

Many in the Polish community in South Africa to this day can trace their roots to event and this very orphanage. It is part of South Africa’s history on which we can all stand very proud.