South African .303


#1

Did South Africa manufacture ammo like this for European and Asian war theatres or it never left SA?


#2

This ammunition was made for the use of the Union of South African troops that fought in various theaters of the war as part of the UK. I seem to recall, while it has nothing to do with ammunition, that it was a South African pilot who recorded the first image of the twin engine German jet fighter (ME 262? - I always get that wrong. Don’t know didilly about airplanes). It had attacked him from the rear, which was usualy the end, but missed, or at least didn’t shoot him down, and flew under the guy’s plane. His reconaissance camera caught a blurred image of the plane. At any rate, Union of South African ammunition could show up anywhere where there was fighting. I hade a SA .303 in my collection, when I collected .303s, that had been reconditioned in China. It had an added Chinese neck and primer seal, although the primer and the bullet looked absolutely original. I don’t know exactly what campaigns Union of South African troops fought in, but those .303 rounds got around. Of course, some of it might have also been shipped to help the war effort of other UK troops - that I simply don’t know.


#3

South African .303 Ammo was used throughout the African-based campaigns
(North Africa, East Africa) and was also used in the invasion and occupation of Italy.(in fact, anywhere SA troops were engaged. In 1944, large quantities were shipped to the Royal Hellenic Army in its civil war with the communists in newly liberated Greece—large quantities were surplussed off in the 1980s (along with British, Canadian and Australian made .303 also from Greece, all of WW II and late 1940s dates).
Other supplies could have gone to the India-Burma-China theatre, because of close access from SA.

Two factories produced the ammo, the Royal Mint(?) at Kimberley, and Pretoria Metal Pressings, Pretoria. Wartime headstamps were U and U <>
(diamond) signifying Union of South Africa. After WW II, the Mint reverted to coin and note making, and the PMP became the prime supplier of ammo, eventually becoming part of DENEL, the SA Military Industrial combine.

SA .303 is manufactured to the existing British Specification of the day (Cordite, Berdan primed .250 primer, C-N mark VII bullet, later GM mark VII bullet.) They did make some purely SA ammo, such as the “Semi-Armour Piercing” ( “Mark 1 F”) which was basically a failed AP project ( steel cored like the German “SmE”).

Regards, Doc AV
AV Ballistics.


#4

The South African Mint continued to produce ammunition long after WWII. I don’t know the relationship between Kimberly and Pretoria, but in RSACCA documents there are references to the “Pretoria Mint.” Aside from the “U” headstamp, which continued on after the war (at least from 1947 thru 1961), the South African Mint produced cartridges with the “SAM” headstamp, including .303 Ball dated from 1961 thru 1965, and an undated round headstamped “H.V. SAM H.S. .303,” They produced 7.62 x 51mm NATO ball dated from 1961 thru 1965 as well as a 1964-dated drill round. Also on the menu was 9mm Parabellum ammunition, with ball rounds dated from 1962 thru 1965, a blank dated 1965 and designated on the headstamp as “9MM L” and a dummy also dated 1965 found in several minor variations. The .380 Revolver cartridge (.38 S&W) was produced with SAM headstamp from 1961 thru 1965 in the Mark 2Z variation, along with crimped blanks in 1963 thru 1965. The 1963 blanks were headstamped with the designation “.380” only while those made in the other two years had the “.380 2Z” headstamp. There were also SAM commercial .380 Revolver rounds produced in 61 and 62 headstamped simply “.380” rather than with the “2Z” designation. They were dated, with the normal two-digit date found on all SAM headstamps, somewhat unusual for commercial cartridges.

It is my understanding that the PMP (Pretoria Metal Pressing) was simply a name-chage that occured in late 1965 or 1966, for the Pretoria Mint. Again, I don’t know if what is being called “The Pretoria Mint” is the one at Kimberly, or another facility. The last date appearing on SAM headstamps is “65” and the first date appearing on PMP headstamps is 66. I don’t know if that is coincidental, or if it corroborates the name change. The PMP headstamps continued thru 1972, with a total change of their headstamping layouts in South Africa in 1973.


#5

Thanks for the clarification, John; My knowledge of SA produced .303 is sketchy, limited to some examples of WW II dates which came from Greece as Milsurp, and the disposition of SA troops during WW II.

From what I know of WW II era, Pretoria Mint was the first maker of .303 Ammo ( I don’t know when they started making it) and Kimberley (U <>) was initially a Subfactory…The Diamond related to Kimberley being the site of SA’s Diamond fields and largest mines. ( “kimberlite” is the geological formation in which most of SA diamonds are found).

A coin-producing Mint is necessarily equipped with metal stamping machinery; so the metallurgical know-how for drawing cartridge cases was present; add to this the forming and filling with cordite, and the manufacture of primers ( Explosives factories serving the mines would be in on this) could be undertaken as well.

The Boers and the British already in 1899 had shown the versatility of the Mining engineering workshops in producing Munitions far from the industrial centres of Europe, Britain and the USA; WW II was more intense, as any machinery had to come from either Britain or the US, across U-Boat infested waters of the Atlantic. The South African Harbours and Railways workshops produced much of the heavy machinery used in the SA ordnance industry during WW II, as well as servicing naval vessels and the large railway network of the Union of SA.

Regards, Doc AV
AV Ballistics