Like other countries, South Africa had a volunteer Women’s service that performed a wide variety of tasks such as running creches for the children of war workers, running canteens for troops and knitting comforts for soldiers and sailors. The SAWAS, known as Suid Afrikanse Voud Hulp Dientse in Afrikaans, wore a brown uniform consisting of skirt, jacket and hat, with a bronzed badge on the hat:
The badge is circular with the organisations initials in both English and Afrikaans and a central motif of a flower:
Each badge was numbered on the rear and had a small brooch fastening:
All the work done by SAWAS was voluntary and nobody, including the Auxiliaries and officers, received any payment for work done.
Where the communities were too small to muster the required 75 members for a proper branch, many country Sections were started which were attached to a proper branch .
By December, 1943 60,757 SAWAS women volunteers had enlisted at 483 branches in every corner of South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia).
In 1943, for example, SAWAS collected £308 572 for war funds while £36 761 was spent on materials.
Funds raised by SAWAS during the war went to organisations such as the Union Central Fund, the SAWAS Prisoner of War fund, the Disabled Soldiers fund, the SAWAS Navy War Fund, the Navy Week Appeal, Children of France, Children of Holland, South African Gifts and Comforts fund, Governor General’s Fund, the Red Cross, the China Relief, various Soldiers Reserve Funds, Merchant Navy fund, Overseas Tobacco Fund, SA House for Raid Victims, Hillcombe Auxiliary Hospital, and St. Dunstan’s Military charity for Blind Ex-Servicemen.
In the segregated society of the time the Eastern Cape SAWAS, under the guidance of Mrs Currie in Uitenhage, assisted the Cape Coloured Women War Workers (CWWW) under Mrs Hendrickse and the Native Women War Workers (NWWW), who ran a knitting circle supervised by Mrs Limekaya, in catering for the needs of the servicemen of the Cape Corps and the Native Military Corps.
For more information on SAWAS (and where much of this post has been drawn from) please check out this excellent page.