In December 1940, as part of the North Africa campaign, Britain’s Western Desert Force began its advance against the Italians. The offensive ended at the Libyan coastal city of El Agheila on February 7 1941 with the destruction of nine Italian divisions and the capture of 130,000 men. The first of these Italian prisoners of war (POWs) arrived in the Union of SA in early 1941.

For Jan Smuts, prime minister of SA at the time, it was an opportunity to demonstrate the country’s commitment to the Allied effort and solve its labour shortages at the same time by putting the POWs to work on farms and construction projects...

Subscribe now to unlock this article.

Support BusinessLIVE’s award-winning journalism for R129 per month (digital access only).

There’s never been a more important time to support independent journalism in SA. Our subscription packages now offer an ad-free experience for readers.

Cancel anytime.

Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.