World War I

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Responses in South Africa to the outbreak of WWI: The African Peoples Organisation and the Teachers League of South Africa

Like their African counterparts, the organisations of the coloured elite came out strongly in support of the British war effort. They shared the same illusions that support for the war would eventually lead to their grievances being taken seriously by the British and the South African government. The chief organised expression of the political attitude of the coloured petty bourgeoisie was Dr Abdullah Abduraghman’s African l Peoples Organisation (APO), formed in 1902, and the recently formed Teachers League of  South Africa (TLSA).  The TLSA was formed in June 1913, with Dr Abduraghman as an important driving force in its formation. Both organisations, whose members were closely aligned, came out in direct support of the war. Many of the members of the TLSA volunteered for service, while the APO played a direct role in recruiting coloureds for the Cape Corps.  TLSA members also involved themselves in fundraising activities for the Cape Corps. One of its members, Abe Desmore, served in the East African Campaign and recorded his experiences in a book.  The Educational Journal, the official mouthpiece of the TLSA made its position on the war very clear:

‘We look forward with calm confidence to the triumph of British might and British right. We are prouder than ever of being subjects of the glorious British Empire’ (Adhikari: 1993: 48).

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References:
• Adhikari, M. (1993). “Let us Live for Our Children”: The Teachers’ League of South Africa, 1913-1940. Cape Town: UCT Press.
• Brown, John S. "Of Battle and Disease: The East African Campaign of 1914-18." (1982). Grundlingh, Albert Mauritz. "Die Suidafrikaanse Gekleurdes en die Eerste Wereldoorlog." D. Litt, diss., University of South Africa (1981): 149-59.
• Grundlingh, Albert, (1982). ‘Black men in a white man's war: the impact of the First World War on South African blacks’. African Studies Seminar Paper, African Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand.
• Grundlingh, Albert (1987). Fighting Their Own War: South African Blacks and the First World War. Johannesburg: Ravan Press.
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• Nasson, Bill. "War Opinion in South Africa, 1914." The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 23.2 (1995): 248-276.
• Nasson, Bill. "Why they fought: Black Cape colonists and imperial wars, 1899-1918." The International journal of African historical studies 37.1 (2004): 55-70.
• Pradhan, Satyendra Dev. Indian Army in East Africa, 1914-1918. National Book Organisation, 1991. Roux, E. (1948) Time Longer than Rope: The Black Man’s Struggle for Freedom in South Africa. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
• Roux, E. (1943) Sidney Percival Bunting. Available at http://www.sacp.org.za/docs/history/spbunting.html. Accessed on 23 January 2014.
• Vahed, Goolam. "‘Give Till it Hurts’: Durban’s Indians and the First World War."Journal of Natal and Zulu History 19.1 (2001).

Last updated : 21-Sep-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 24-Feb-2014