Small Arms

There is a display on the development of small arms dating from the 17th Century.  The display includes:

  • Flintlock muskets from the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries
  • Percussion lock muskets and rifles
  • Rifles from the 19th and early 20th Centuries
  • Automatic rifles including the first models of the R1 and R4 assault rifles.
  • Anti tank rifles
  • Machine guns
  • Pistols

Medicine at War

There is a display depicting the development of medicine from the traditional methods used by the Zulu Army during the Anglo-Zulu War (1879) to the modern sophisticated services provided by the South African Military Health Services.

Armed Struggle & Intergration

This display looks at the history of Umkhonto-we-Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of the African National Congress, from its establishment in 1961 until integration into the South African National Defence Force in 1994.    Key exhibits are a selection of weapons and the uniform worn by Joe Modise, the former Commander-in-Chief of MK who became Minister of Defence from 1994 to 1999.

The Anglo Boer War (1899 – 1902)

See our display constructed for the centenary celebrations of the Anglo Boer War (1899 – 1902).  There are panels showing the causes, chronology, strategies, logistics and results of the war.  More extensive panels look at an overview of the war.  These begin with the operations in Natal and the northern and central Cape and the advance of Lord Roberts to Pretoria.  The panels then continue with the operations in the Eastern Transvaal in 1900, guerilla warfare, operations in the Brandwater Basin, and international support for both the Boers and the British. Conditions in the concentration camps and events leading to the peace of May 1902 are outlined.  Included in the display is a large selection of photographs and exhibits featuring small arms, edged weapons, badges, uniforms, medals and prisoner-of-war handcrafts, etc.

The First World War (1918 – 1918)

Learn about the causes of this Great War, the different areas of campaigns, the South African units which took part, and the results of the war.  An imaginative, life size reconstruction of a section of a typical trench and a description of life in the trenches is included.

Museum of Military History

During the First World War (1914 – 1918) no formal showcase was made of South Africa’s involvement in that war. In 1940, Capt J Agar-Hamilton was appointed official historian of the Union Defence Forces. The formation of an Historical Research Committee that same year was to ensure the preservation of documents and military memorabilia and lay the foundation for the establishment of a museum.

The South African National War Museum was officially opened on 29 August 1947 by the then Prime Minister of South Africa, Field Marshal J C Smuts PC, CM, OM, DTD, KC.  At the opening ceremony, Smuts stated the following: “… We are gathered here today to open what may not unfairly be looked upon as a memorial to the greatest united effort our country has been called upon to produce.  Memorials, of course, have more than one use.  They serve to remind us of what is past, of great deeds of heroism and sacrifice; they also serve as a pointer, and sometimes as a warning to the future.

It is in these senses that the South African War Museum may be regarded as a memorial.  It will remind us, I hope, not only of the part we played in the recent great struggle to save civilization, but also of the horrors, the loss of life and the devastation, and serve as a warning to us to create a world in which we shall never have to use again the weapons of mass destruction we see here today, or those dreadful weapons to follow them …”

He was referring to South Africa’s participation in the Second World War and had pinpointed the raison d’etre of the Museum’s existence. In 1975 the Museum’s name was changed to the South African National Museum of Military History and its scope was expanded to include the history of all military conflict in which South Africans have played a part.  The Museum also serves as a popular and unusual venue for conferences and other functions.

In 1999, following the restructuring process of national museums, the Museum was amalgamated together with the Transvaal Museum of Natural History and the National Cultural History Museum into the Northern Flagship Institution.  This institution was renamed Ditsong: Museums of South Africa in 2009 and the Museum is now called the Ditsong National Museum of Military History.

The Museum is also regarded as the spiritual and symbolic home for all soldiers and veterans in South Africa.  As a result a number of veterans’ organisations use the Museum as their headquarters. The South African Military History Society, the South African Arms and Ammunition Collectors Association, the South African Arms and Armour Society, the Gold Reef Scale Modelers and the Warsaw Flights Commemoration Committee use the Museum for monthly and annual meetings and are considered to be part of the 20 organisations that are stakeholders.

Our Mission

To be a memorial for all South Africans who have died in or as a result of military actions and to preserve our nation’s military history for future generations.


The Museum provides programmes and activities for all age groups.

A visit to the Museum may include:

  • An opportunity to study relevant artefacts on display
  • A guided tour, available on request during the week
  • An opportunity on weekdays to use our extensive library and photographic facilities for research purposes on week days only.

Museum View


The Military History Journal

Published bi-annually in conjunction with the South African Military History Society, the journal carries articles on military history (especially South African Military History), as well as book reviews, letters, personal reminiscences and news of the activities of the SA Military History Society.  You can visit the Society’s website at .

The Museum Despatches

This newsletter appears twice a year and informs our stakeholders of the latest news and developments at the Museum.  Included are informative articles on activities and special events, new displays, special visitors and staff.

Admission Fees

Prices for Adults, Learners and Senior Citizens

R45.00 p/p
Learners/Students and Children
R30.00 p/p
SA Senior Citizens
R20.00 p/p
Guided Tour
R65.00 p/p
International Visitors : Adults
International Visitors : Child
R70.00 p/p
R70.00 p/p
R40.00 p/p

Conferencing Facilities

The W F Faulds VC Conference and Function Centre

The Marrières Wood Banqueting Room, the Delville Wood Workshop Room and the J C Lemmer Auditorium are the facilities that constitute the W F Faulds VC Centre.  The Dan Pienaar Gun Park is also available for evening functions.

The Marrières Wood  Room

  • On the ground floor
  • For dining and cocktail functions
  • Kitchen for use by caterers
  • Seating space for 160 diners
  • Cocktail space for 250/ 300 participants
  • Air-conditioning
  • Public address system

The Delville Wood  Room

  • On the first floor
  • Covered external stairways
  • Workshop seating with moveable trapezoid desks for 100 people
  • Overhead projector
  • Digital projector
  • Air-conditioning
  • Suitable for exhibitions and displays

The J C Lemmer Auditorium

  • Seating for 176 people cinema style
  • Overhead projector
  • Digital projector
  • Public address system
  • Two white boards
  • DVD and video facilities
  • Air-conditioning

The Dan Pienaar Gun Park

  • Cocktail and dining facility
  • Kitchen and preparation area
  • Seating space for 200 diners
  • Cocktail space for 350 participants
  • Public address system


The Museum does not provide its own catering but can offer a list of recommended service providers.  Tea, coffee and biscuits can be arranged on request.


Prices for the use of the Museum facilities are dependent on the facilities required, staff overtime and the length of the function.

Information Centre

The Lt Gen A M L Masondo library, archives and photo archives has a unique collection of over 70 000 books, periodicals, primary archival material and photographs. Pre-arranged bookings for viewing archival files and photographs must be made.  Identity books must be shown before any viewing can take place.

Interviews with military veterans are conducted in the library as part of an ongoing oral history collection project.

Services provided by the Information Centre for a fee include

  • Photocopy facilities
  • Prints or scans of photographs
  • Reading room

Take note

  • This is not a lending library.
  • No service records of South Africans in the First and Second World Wars and the Border War are held here.  These are available at the SA National Defence Force Documentation centre.  You can contact them at .

No service records of British soldiers who fought in the Anglo Boer War are kept.  These are available from the National Archives in the United Kingdom.  You may visit their website at


The War Store, not attached to the Museum, sells military ephemera to collectors. After a tour of the Museum, visitors can relax and order refreshments at the Vargas Café.  For more details on both stores visit

Contact Information

Physical Address:
Museum of Military History
22 Erlswold Way, Saxonwold, Johannesburg, South Africa
Postal Address:
PO Box 52090 Saxonwold, 2132

GPS Coordinates:
26°09' 47″ S 28°02' 30″ E

Contact Details:
Tel: 087 086 7019; 011 646 5513
Fax: 011 646 5256

Admission Daily:
09:00 – 16:30
(Excluding Good Friday, Christmas Day and the first Sunday in September when the Jazz on the Lake concert is held at Zoo Lake)

Facilities for Visitors with Disability:
All exhibition areas, displays, the Auditorium and the Marrieres Wood Room are easily accessible. Toilets for the disabled are provided.

Where We Are:
The Museum is situated in Erlswold Way in the northern Johannesburg suburb of Saxonwold adjacent to the Johannesburg Zoo and close to the recreational area of Zoo Lake. It is easily reached by road and bus routes down Oxford Road and Jan Smuts Avenue pass by our entrance. The latter option leaves a short walk to the Museum. There is ample parking for the motorist.

Learn more