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South African Army Intelligence Corps - SA Int C

Exploratio - The exploration for, or investigation of, information



The beginnings of Military Intelligence

The military in South Africa have been active from the time that Jan van Riebeeck arrived in the Cape and established a stop over for Dutch ships travelling to the Far East. No doubt, the garrison at the Cape Castle arranged for an early warning system to prevent being surprised by hostile natives and the like.

The Boers have always used scouts to determine what dangers lay ahead when they were on the Great Trek to the interior. Scouts would analyse the terrain to determine the route forward and also to search for signs of hostile bands of native warriors who were wont to attack the ox wagons as these were a ready source of weapons and animals and equated to survival for them. An example of such a scout was Hans de Lange.

During the Frontier wars on the border of the eastern Cape and the Transkei scouts were also used. This was the first time that part time units were raised to defend homesteads and to a lesser extent to assist with the maintenance of law and order.

The Anglo Zulu War 1879. By the time the Anglo Zulu war started in Natal the use of scouts was ubiquitous. This was typified by the use of the local Natal militia units by the British. The members of these units knew the terrain as this was where they grew up. They also spoke the local language. It was a great advantage in the collection of information and also built up trust between the Zulu tribesmen and the colonial soldiers. The British forces deployed with four major and one minor columns from Durban and Pietermaritzburg using a two pronged advance to get their forces into Zululand. The following units were raised as scouts:- The Amangwane Scouts. Raised in northern Natal from anti Zulu tribesmen and were seconded to the Natal Native Horse. (Tylden. P 37) and Dunn's Scouts who were raised from Zulus by John Dunn in Zululand in 1879. (Tylden. P 76)

The Second Anglo Boer War. The second Anglo Boer War saw the use of scouts on a large scale on both sides. The British army deployed its Field Intelligence Department (FID) to coordinate intelligence related activities. Unfortunately the British Army did not realise the true value of the FID and consequently did not use it to the full. Had things been different the war could have been concluded somewhat earlier. The Intelligence Corps as a badged corps did not exist per se but infantry, cavalry, Royal Engineers and Royal Artillery provided officers to fulfil the intelligence function.

The ZAR formed a Geheime Politie (Secret Police) department for the express purpose of collecting information. This department fell under the direct command of Jan Smuts the Transvaal State Attorney of the time. This Secret Service recruited just over one hundred agents in the pay of the government who operated throughout South Africa and also in Rhodesia, Bechuanaland (Botswana) and Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique). (Ref - Dr Kamffer's thesis). Their work was of very high quality and reports submitted by these agents often included photographs of military equipment in use by the enemy accompanied by detailed descriptions and other supporting information. Jan Smuts was well aware of the military situation in the British “camp” and the ZAR government was in possession of accurate intelligence on dispositions, the terrain and infrastructure for much of Natal.

General de Wet also saw the need for scouts and appointed Danie Theron to do this work for him. In turn Theron established a “Corps of Guides” known as the Danie Theron Wielrijders Rapportgangers Corps. Theron is seen as the father of the SA Army Intelligence Corps.

Shortly after the time of Union in 1910 the Union Defence Force was established and this was the start of a new structuring process. The need for operational and tactical intelligence was proved over and over again despite the fact that the Defence Act did not specifically mention the establishment of an Intelligence Corps.


The General Staff section of the UDF was tasked to conduct intelligence related activities and this role came to the fore when South Africa was ordered to invade German South West Africa in 1915. Major Langbaard Grobler and a fifty man Scout Corps were deployed to Walvis Bay. This unit was instructed to collect information of the German town of Swakopmund and the surrounding area. By the same token the South Africans sent a scout type unit to German Tanganyika to collect information on the Germans under overall command of von Lettow Vorbeck. The South African order of battle for the campaign in Tanganyika included the following intelligence gathering units - Belfield's Scouts, Grobler's Scouts and Botha's Scouts (21st Intelligence). This was the second time that the word “Intelligence” appeared to be part of the unit's title. Various other units were also raised at the time and were responsible for scouting / information collection. They are too numerous to mention but are described in Tyldons book which has been used as a reference for this document.

During the First World War, however, the main conduct of intelligence and supply thereof in France, was done by the British government on behalf of South Africa. There was extensive use made of South African scouting units in German South West Africa and German East Africa to collect intelligence in those theatres as the South Africans had much experience in these tactics.


During the period 1933 to 1936 the intelligence function remained a non-service department under the Director of Military Training and Operations. In 1937 some internal reorganisation took place and the above mentioned directorate became known as the Directorate Operations and this was where the intelligence compartment found itself. Lt Col B.W. Thwaites of the Citizen Force was appointed as Deputy Director of Military Intelligence. He visited Britain to obtain information on the workings of the British Military Intelligence system.

On return Lt Col Thwaites requested the appointment of Major S.J. Joubert as Assistant Director of Operations and Intelligence. His orders were to specifically concentrate of intelligence related aspects. Between these two officers the intelligence component got off the ground. Volunteers were relied on to collect information as there were not enough financial and personnel resources within the permanent force establishment. (Mr Dave Kenny's notes).


In September 1939 a permanent force Intelligence section was established and took over the responsibilities of internal stability intelligence matters as well as military intelligence in general, but still relied heavily on volunteers of the Active Citizen Force for the collection of information.

The newly formed Intelligence Section was tasked to collect information on the Nazi Party. Intelligence collectors concentrated on the activities within South Africa and also in South West Africa (SWA). The situation in SWA was more serious that originally thought. The Nazi Party in Germany was active and had established good communication with the Ausland Organisation. The SA Nazi Party was also established and this kept the SA Intelligence Section busy. Eventually the SA Intelligence Section were running agents in Kenya, Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, Nyasaland and Tanganyika.

On 1st November 1940 the SA Intelligence Section was formally established as the SA Intelligence Corps under Government Notice 379 of 8 November 1940. The Corps adopted the cap badge of the British Intelligence Corps. The staff of the Intelligence Corps fell under the command of the Chief of General Staff. This allowed for the centralisation of such a valuable asset for the entire army. It must be stated that the entire activity of the intelligence component was only of a operational and tactical combat related nature. This corps can therefore be seen as the direct forefather of the current SA Intelligence Corps (jackal badge). Strategic intelligence was still being supplied by Britain.

The SA Intelligence Corps was based on that of the newly formed British Intelligence Corps. The SA Intelligence Corps deployed personnel in East Africa, the Western Desert and in Italy during the Second World War. They were involved in information collection and processing as well as in psychological warfare operations. The Corps also provided Field Security Units.

The SA Intelligence Corps was also responsible for the provision and administration of war correspondents, news and propaganda as well as censorship. This fell under the sub compartment of Directorate of Public Affairs Service. For example Lt J.W.A. Bell of the SA Intelligence Corps was appointed to oversee these actions in East Africa and was given the title Press Liaison Officer. This covered a multitude of tasks as described above!


In 1957 the Defence Act (Act no 44) ensured the creation of the South African Defence Force (SADF). This heralded a new era in the military history of the country.

In 1961 the (All Arms of Service) Division Military Intelligence (DMI) was established. Several officers were sent on course to Britain, France, Germany and the USA. This was the first time South Africa became involved in strategic intelligence activities. In fact DMI was responsible for all strategic intelligence activities. Elements of DMI were involved in tactical intelligence. In 1964 DMI became an independent division of the SADF and fell under the command of the then Commandant General of the SADF. In the following year DMI became a staff unit under the command of the Chief of the Defence Force. In 1967 it fell directly under the command of the Chief of the Defence Force.

In September 1968 the Bureau for State Security (BOSS) was formed. It absorbed elements of DMI. However DMI remained as such and conducted counter intelligence activities within the military.

In 1969 DMI saw more reorganisation and BOSS was thus formed as a completely civilian organisation. In 1972 the results of the Potgieter Commission into the effective co-ordination between state departments resulted in the promulgation of the Act on Security Intelligence and the State Security Council and its consequences were effected. Thus the various mandates were determined for each of the intelligence organisations within the country. In 1978 BOSS changed its name to the Department of National Security and then underwent another name change to National Intelligence Service (NIS) in 1980. Today it is known as National Intelligence Agency (NIA).


In 1974 the SADF had a re-look at its structure. The President was overall commander in chief. Under his command the State Security Council was formed to coordinated all intelligence activities of the country. This council reported to cabinet and had access to all intelligence from the following organisations:

  • Dept of Foreign Affairs.
  • DMI.
  • Dept of National Security.
  • SA Police Security Branch.
  • Other government departments.

Note that DMI was considered the senior military intelligence component and as such was responsible for strategic intelligence. Each of the arms of service had their own intelligence compartment and they were responsible for operational and tactical intelligence. The army structure (as were the air force and navy) was based on General Staff (GS) compartments as follows:

  • GS1 Personnel.
  • GS2 Intelligence.
  • GS3 Operations.
  • GS4 Logistics.
  • GS5 Finance

The SAAF used the designation AS 1 to 5 and the SA Navy NS 1 to 5.

It is important to note that the SADF and specifically the army comprised of a permanent force, a part time citizen force and a part time commando (area defence) component. Further division was by way of a conventional component and a counter insurgency component. In these divisions one could find permanent force officers, NCOs and men taking a leading and guiding role in training and operational deployment and being backed up by part time members from both citizen force and commandos. Generally the commando members were only found in the counter insurgency role although there were the odd exceptions.

DMI remained under direct command of the Chief of the Defence Force. It continued to be staffed by personnel from all arms of service and was totally independent of GS2 as it was a formation as such. At this time infantry officers were trained as intelligence officers at the School of Infantry at Outshoorn. Infantry officers had the choice of either becoming an infantry platoon commander, an infantry transport officer or an intelligence officer. All three roles thus being conducted by the infantry. On 2 June 1975 DMI was permanently deployed to Fort Klapperkop and utilised the buildings of the Radcliffe Observatory at that site. The SA Military Intelligence College was also established at this site.

A white paper on defence was brought out in 1977 and this emphasised the need for an effective military intelligence organisation. At this time the war in SWA was escalating and there was a distinct need for military intelligence at tactical, operational and strategic levels. DMI officers officially met with members of the USA Defence Intelligence Agency at the beginning of President Reagan's term of office and relations with the USA improved from an exchange of information point of view. Relations with Britain also improved and both the USA and Britain assisted with information and diplomatic communications with Zambia, Angola, Tanzania and Mozambique.

DMI established itself in northern SWA and made close contact with UNITA. Soon DMI was responsible for the training of UNITA soldiers in a variety of tasks ranging from intelligence work to infantry operations. Support conduits were established for the supply of equipment and information so that UNITA could conduct operations.

DMI headquarters were established in central Pretoria and offices were opened in the Western Province, Durban and other major centres in South Africa to facilitate the activities of the formation. DMI fell under direct command of CSADF and its commander was known as Chief of Defence Staff Intelligence (CSI).


With the radical changes made within the Defence Force as a result of the 1994 amalgamation SADF, MK, APLA and TBVC forces the intelligence structures were also changed. Defence Intelligence was formed as an overall organisation with sole responsibility for the conduct of Intelligence / Counter Intelligence throughout the National Defence Force (SANDF). It was formed around the old DMI and began an incorporation exercise to get everybody who was in the intelligence environment to become one organisation Defence Intelligence (DI). In the changes the SA Navy and SAMHS handed over their personnel and responsibilities in total to DI. The SAAF retained their squadron I Os as well as an intelligence capability at Air Force HQ which fell under the wing of the newly formed Joint Operations Division.

The army underwent changes and the Intelligence Formation was formed. It was responsible for 1 Tac Int Regt and the Tac Int School, as well as those Intelligence Officers at RJTFs. In other words the Intelligence Formation provided training and personnel for Intelligence actions at tactical level.


Some Intelligence Units of the SADF
SADF Intelligence Links
Members of the SA Army Intelligence Corps on the Roll of Honour
YearForce NumberRankNameDate Of DeathUnit
198181502684PPRfnWilliams M.1981/05/13SA Intelligence Corps
198267485474PE Capt Giani M.N.A. 1982/04/03Army Intelligence, attached to 72 Motorised Brigade
198279323440BGRfnDu Preez J.S.1982/05/11SA Army Intelligence School, attached to Sector 20 Headquarters
198381541765PEColWalters S.S.1983/05/28Military Intelligence
198380552714BGPteMuller J.W.1983/08/27South African Intelligence Corps, attached to 54 Battalion
198479416400BGRctGevers U.L.1984/08/22SA Intelligence Corps; attached to Sector 20 Headquarters
198683359851BGL/CplClarke A.B.1986/08/05SA Army Intelligence
198684376177BGL/CplDe Jager J.J.1986/08/05SA Army Intelligence
198683525840BGL/CplDelport J.1986/08/05SA Army Intelligence
198683234799BGL/CplHamman J.F.1986/08/05SA Army Intelligence
198683346981BGL/CplNel J.A.C.1986/08/06SA Army Intelligence School
198683507400BG L/Cpl Nelson C.du B. 1986/08/24SA Army Intelligence School
198885349744BGGnrVan Niekerk W.F.1988/08/24Witwatersrand Command Intelligence Section
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Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET

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