The early history of South African military chaplaincy: a case study of the variance between British imperialism and Afrikaner nationalism, c. 1914-1973

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Global socio-political and economic forces often determine the histories of countries and nations, but internal historical identities, values and sentiments modify and combine with these forces to create a distinct local societal character and ethos, which are often mirrored in local institutions and organizations. In South Africa this is illustrated in the history of South African military chaplaincy. It was established in 1914 at a time when most other countries accorded their military chaplaincies with a reasonable degree of professionalism, but it was only acknowledged as an autonomous support service of the South African armed forces in 1973; this, despite the important role of religion in the South African society and the influence of British customs since 1806. The roots for this belated acknowledgement are found in the clash between the international force of imperialism and the local sentiments of Afrikaner nationalism. It influenced the establishment, functioning and ethos of South African military chaplaincy, turning the latter into a representation of the identities and sentiments elicited in the South African society by the global forces active within the historic context.