The History of SA Army Headquarters Building

By | October 19, 2017

The History of South Africa Army Headquarters Building


The first annexation of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek by Sir Theophilus Shepstone in 1877 led to the establishment of a military camp on the present premises of the South African Army Headquarters.   This camp housed the five thousand strong British force that was garrisoned in Pretoria.

After the departure of the British garrison in 1881, the camp and its buildings were taken over by the Transvaalsche Rijdende Artillerie.

Several poorly planned buildings were found on the site in the early 1890s.    As a result of the deteriorating conditions Klaas van Rijsse, an architect was commissioned to design the artillery camp in a neo-renaissance style.

Construction began in August 1895 and during the next three years stables, buildings for cannon and wagons, magazines, a machine building and a barracks for the troops were constructed.   15 Houses were also built for the officers just north of the complex.

After numerous discussions the decision was taken in 1924 to construct a new building in front of the old barracks.   This three storey building was to accommodate the General staff, and thus became known as the General building.   Further alterations to the artillery camp were also proposed.   One of these proposals was the construction of a drill hall on the western side of the machine building.   The construction of the drill hall in 1927 defaced the original structure of the machine building forever.

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The Transvaal State Artillery Barracks has housed numerous organisations throughout its history, including the Union Defence Force Headquarters,  The South African Defence Force Headquarters and currently the South African Army Headquarters.

The entire complex was declared a national monument in the 1970s and was scheduled by the Department of Public Works for restoration in 1997.   This saw the restoration of the Machine Building which now houses the library.