The thesis seeks to understand, first and foremost, what the members of the 6th South African
Armoured Division in Italy during the Second World War experienced in their day-to-day
lives on campaign. It is therefore primarily a social history.
Although an exhaustive analysis of the demographics of the division is beyond the scope of
this study, an attempt was made in Chapter 2 to identify some of the characteristics of the
volunteers and their motivations for enlisting. Recruitment statistics and other sources show
that in the final stage of the war, volunteers were most likely to be school-leavers and
Chapters three to eight detail the daily life in camp and on the road as the division progressed
up the length of Italy. The main themes revolve around the necessities of life, recreation,
leisure and ways of dealing with long periods of inactivity. The more controversial topics of
sexuality, alcohol use, and battle fatigue are not avoided. Regardless of the capacity in which
they served, all those attached to the 6th South African Armoured Division experienced the
country and its people. Homesickness, discomfort and the fulfilling of basic needs was the
Chapter nine examines the topic of casualties and what it reveals about the men and their
experience. At first glance, it would appear that the casualty rate was exceptionally low for a
front line division. However, on closer examination, the casualty rate was found to be in line
with that experienced by other nations involved in the Italian campaign. As expected, it was
found that casualties occurred mainly in infantry units, although accidents accounted for 25
per cent of injuries.
In the final chapter, the conclusions are presented and discussed in a theoretical context.
Memory is used as a category of analysis. Scholars are in agreement that distortion and
cleansing occurred due to the tendency of contemporary accounts to accentuate the positive.
The needs of post-war society also helped to ensure that the language and experience of the
front line soldier was overwhelmed