Smuts, Prime Minister Jan Christiaan, 1870-1950

A South African soldier of the old school, Smuts had been a member of the British War Cabinet during World War I and had been present at the signing of the Peace Treaty at Versailles in 1919. In the decade before the outbreak of World War II South African politics had rested on the mutual co-operation between the two major parties: the National Party with Hertzog as Prime Minister and the Union Party with Smuts serving as his Deputy. When Poland was invaded in 1939, the coalition divided. Smuts, who was in favor of South African involvement, won a difficult parliamentary debate on the subject and soon was elected Prime Minister. By 1940 he had assumed the leadership of South Africa’s war effort including her Armed Forces. South African soldiers fought bravely on many fronts especially in the Ethiopian, North African and Italian campaigns. Smuts supported CHURCHILL in his policies and decisions at every turn. He attended the San Francisco Conference in 1945 to draft the United Nations Charter and was present for the signing of the Peace agreement at Versailles in 1946, the only person to attend both Versailles Peace Conferences.

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