History of the South African Military Medical Service
1913 to 1994

On 31 May 1910 the Union of South Africa was established and incorporated the two former British colonies of the Cape and Natal and the two former Boer republics, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State as provinces of the nation state. Each had its own military health establishment before the Union. There were the Cape Medical Staff Corps founded in 1899, the Transvaal Medical Staff Corps in 1903 and the Natal Volunteer Medical Corps in 1899. All of these medical corps changed their names: the Cape Medical Staff Corps was changed to the Cape Medical Corps in 1903, the Transvaal Medical Staff Corps was changed to the Transvaal Medical Corps in 1907 and the Natal Volunteer Medical Corps was changed to the Natal Medical Corps in 1904.

On 13 June 1912 the Defence Act was passed in order to establish the Union Defence Forces from various military predecessors. Existing military formations were brought together to form the Union Defence Forces. On 3 December 1913, the Cape, Natal and Transvaal Medical Corps were integrated to form the South African Medical Corps (SAMC). When the First World War broke out in August 1914, medical services were organised to support the Union Defence Force formations in the various campaigns. In August 1914 the South African Military Nursing Service (SAMNS) was also established and became the first women's service in the Union Defence Forces. The SAMC personnel took part in the campaigns in German South West Africa, German Hast and Central Africa, Egypt, France and Flanders amongst others.

The Director of Medical Services, Col. Stock. C.B., retired on February 1920. The SAMNS was merged with the Department of Public health. 'I'his meant that an officer acting as Director of Medical Services in peacetime would be released for full time service in the event of war. The SAMC received valuable reserves when the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem and the Red Cross Society were recognised by regulations framed under Section 121 of the S.A Defence Act, and published under Government Notice No. 280 of February 13,1923.

The SAMC continued its peacetime military health service routine including examination of recruits, treatment of patients, training and other health related activities until the Second World War broke out in 1939. During the Second World War, the SAMC and SAMNS, assisted by the medical profession, provided a military health services to the UDF. This enabled the South African forces to participate in the East African and North African campaigns. SAMC members were also deployed with the 6th SA Armored Division in Italy and during the earlier Madagascar Campaign (1942).

A medical section was attached to 2 Squadron South African Air Force which, served in Korea from 1950-1953 as well as during the Angolan Civil War From 1972 to 1989. SAMC also assisted the SA Defence Force. During Operation Savannah, South African medical units provided medical support to the Angolan refugees and the local population. In 1979, the name South African Medical Corps was changed to the South African Medical Service. The South African Medical Service formed a fourth arm of service of the SADF, the others being the SAAF, SA Navy and SA Army.

In 1994 South Africa's first democratic elections heralded a new era for the Defence Force. The SANDF was born out of an integration of the old SADF with the armies of the resistance movements and those of the 1'BVC States. This integration led to the formation, in June 1998, of the South African Military Health Service. This new service incorporates other military health services such as veterinary, psychology, social work branches, etc

The Nongqai Magazine, Article: South African Medical Corps, Nov 1943, p 1203 to 1206
Salute Magazine, Article: Medical service changes its name, Aug 1998, p 32
Tylden G (Maj), The armed forces of South Africa 1659-1954, JHB, Trophy Press, 1982, pi 70-171


 On Tuesday, 28 June 2011, marked another significant day in the history of South African Military Health Service as a large number of people from different units gathered together at the Defence Sports Club, Thaba Tshwane, to celebrate the South African Military Health Service Day. As custodians of health in the DOD, the SAMHS used its day to celebrate the art of Military health and its myriad of gains and achievements since its formation. SAMHS was formed on 1 July 1979. However, this year marked the 32nd Anniversary of SAMHS as a separate arm of service from the other services. read more