Union Defence Forces (1939-52)
The Union Defence Forces (UDF) were formed in July 1912. They were renamed the South African Defence Force (SADF) in 1958, and in April 1994 the SADF was incorporated into the new SA National Defence Force (SANDF). During the period 1939-52, the UDF comprised a Permanent Force (land, air and naval forces), a Citizen Force (land and air forces), and a division of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (which was incorporated into the CF in 1942, and formally disbanded in 1949). In 1951, the UDF were reorganised into the SA Army, SA Air Force, SA Navy, and the short-lived SA Corps of Marines, each containing PF and CF units.
The UDF/SADF used four successive series of decorations and medals during its 82-year existence: the first from 1913 to 1939; the second from 1939 to 1952; the third from 1952 to 1975; and the fourth from 1975 to 1994, when it was taken over by the SANDF.
The second series, established in December 1939, consisted of South African variants of British long service medals, which the rest of the Commonwealth had adopted a few years earlier, and two original South African awards. During World War II, UDF personnel received orders and decorations from the British government.
Africa Service Medal (1943)
An original South African medal, awarded to UDF members who volunteered for service outside South Africa during World War II, i.e. between 6 September 1939 and 2 September 1945. Until 1944, the medal covered only service in Africa, but thereafter it applied to service anywhere in the world. The minimum qualifying service was 30 days full-time or 18 hours part-time.
UDF land forces served in East Africa (1940-41), North Africa (1941-43), Madagascar (1942), and Italy (1944-45). Air forces served in those campaigns, as well as in West Africa (1943-45), Sicily (1943), and South-East Europe (1943-45), and provided air support to the Warsaw uprising (1944). Naval forces and seconded personnel served in the Mediterranean (1941-45), Greece (1941), the Arctic convoys (1941-45), the Java Sea (1942), Sicily (1943), the Indian Ocean (1943-45), the D-Day invasion (1944), and the Pacific (1945).
Insignia: A circular silver medal depicting a map of Africa (obverse) and a springbok prancing through the veld (reverse).
Medal for Long Service and Good Conduct (Military) (1939-52)
A South African variant of a British medal, awarded for 18 years exemplary service in the ranks of the PF. From 1945, a clasp could be added after 36 years service.
Insignia: A circular silver medal displaying King George VI's head (obverse) and the words "For Long Service and Good Conduct - Vir Langdurige Diens en Goeie Gedrag" (reverse), with "Staande Mag - Permanent Force" on the suspender.
Efficiency Decoration (ED) (1939-52)
A South African variant of a British medal, awarded for 20 years efficient service as an officer in the CF. A clasp could be added after 30 years service. 886 EDs were awarded.
Insignia: A gilt crowned royal cipher framed in an oval silver wreath of oak leaves, with the name of the country on a brooch bar at the top of the ribbon.
Efficiency Medal (1939-52)
A South African variant of a British medal, awarded for 12 years service in the ranks of the CF. Clasps could be added after additional 6-year periods.
Insignia: An oval silver medal displaying the head of King George VI (obverse) and the words "Medalje vir Bekwaamheid - Efficiency Medal" (reverse), with the name of the country on the suspender.
RNVR Volunteer Officers' Decoration (VD) (1915-49)
Carried over from the 1913-39 series. Awarded for 20 years efficient service as an officer in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve.
RNVR Medal for Long Service and Good Conduct (1915-49)
Carried over from the 1913-39 series. Awarded to all ranks of the RNVR after 12 years efficient service. An officer who later received the VD had to stop wearing this medal.
Air Efficiency Award (1950-52)
A South African variant of a British medal, intended as an award for 10 years CF service in the SA Air Force. It was never awarded, probably because SAAF personnel were already eligible for the ED and Efficiency Medal.
Insignia: An oval silver medal depicting the head of King George VI (obverse) and the words "Air Efficiency Award - Toekenning vir Bekwaamheid (Lugmag)" (reverse), with the name of the country on the suspender.
King's Commendation (1941)
An original South African award, for valuable services during World War II.
Insignia: A silver or bronze protea flower emblem, worn on the ribbon of the Africa Service Medal.