oa South African Journal of Cultural History - Sport en spel onder Suid-Afrikaanse krygsgevangenes tydens die Tweede wêreldoorlog (1939-1945)

Volume 13, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1011-3053



Some 17 303 South African prisoners-of-war of all races were incarcerated during the war. The largest contingents of South African prisoners were taken in Libya; at Sidi Rezegb (3000) in November 1941 and at Tobruk (10 722) in June 1942. These men were kept in temporary camps (called cages) in North Africa, before they were transported to camps in Italy. When Italy capitulated in September 1943, they were moved to camps in Germany. Thrown together in the camps the various nationalities introduced one another to lesser known traditional sports, volleyball being an example. This was a new sport for the South Africans and they competed keenly. The prisoners belonging to the British Dominions demonstrated cricket, rugby, soccer and Australian Rules football, while North American prisoners introduced American football, baseball, softball, and as mentioned, volleyball. Several other sports were also demonstrated and in some cases even played by prisoners from countries where the relevant sport was not traditional. Many South Africans participated in sport and games for the first time. In some camps sport was played six days a week and it was not limited only to compounds playing each other, but also took place at international level, for the days were long and boredom was one of the greatest enemies of all prisoners. The POWs also needed sporting activities to recreate some of the structures of their everyday home lives and to cover any escape activities that may have been taking place. Sport, therefore, played a major role in maintaining the sanity and health of the prisoners.

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