22 January 1894|
Kimberley, Cape Colony
|Died||15 April 1959
East London, Eastern Cape
|Service/branch||South African Army|
|Years of service||1913–1954|
|Unit||Royal Scots Fusiliers|
|Commands held||Chief of General Staff, Union Defence Force|
|Relations||Evelyn Alice Jess Hunter (wife), a son and a daughter|
Lieutenant General Leonard Beyers was a South African soldier. Although he never saw active service in the field during the two world wars, he became Chief of the General Staff. He resigned after only a short time in this position citing the interference in military matters, by Minister of Defence FC Erasmus, as the reason for his resignation.
After his schooling he followed a career in the army. In 1913 he was attached to the Royal Scots Fusiliers with whom he trained while they were at Roberts Heights. After his initial training he was commissioned in the Witwatersrand Rifles.
He served as adjutant of units in Bloemfontein, Standerton and Cape Town. In 1915, at the latter posting, he was promoted to the rank of captain. He was stationed in Cape Town for the greater part of World War I.
While he was a staff officer to the Cape Peninsula Garrison in 1922, he saw active service on the only occasion in his entire life. He served as a member of the force which suppressed the Bondelswart Rebellion.
On his return in 1927 he was appointed officer instructor at the Military College at Roberts Heights. In the next four years he acted on occasion as commandant of the College and of Roberts Heights. This gave him the opportunity to develop his abilities as a military leader.
In 1932 was appointed director (military) of Prison Services. As a result of this move he was placed on the reserve of officers. According to the 2005 Jali Commission, the military nature of the pre-1994 South African Prisons Service was put in place with the appointment of General Beyers as Director of Prisons during World War II (sic). The structure, mode of dress and the institutional culture was military in every respect, indicated by a rank structure similar to that used in the army and the requirement that non-commissioned members salute commissioned members. The demilitarisation of the correctional system was finally effected by the post-Apartheid government on 1 April 1996.
The outbreak of World War II he relinquished his post in favour of becoming director-general of the Defence Rifle Association, a post he held for almost a year before becoming Adjutant-general. He visited South African troops in the Middle East and acted as Chief of the General Staff when General Sir Pierre van Ryneveld was in North Africa.
He gave up his post as Adjutant-general in 1945 owing to ill health and was placed on the retired list four months later.
On 2 May 1949 he succeeded Van Ryneveld as Chief of the General Staff. He only remained in this position for a short time, resigning on 15 March 1950. The reason for his resignation was the interference in military matters and appointment of staff without consultation by F.C. Erasmus, the Minister of Defence.
Before resigning he had lengthy correspondence with both Erasmus and the Prime Minister, DF Malan on the matter:
My resignation was in fact tendered as far back as November 1949, in protest against the unconstitutional and unwarranted interference in the functions of the Chief of General Staff who, in fact and in law, is the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in South Africa. The facts are that the Minister sought to change the strategic dispositions of units and to appoint, promote, and transfer both officers and other ranks, without sufficient knowledge of their qualifications and without reference to the General Staff, of which I was the head. Without reference to me, he created posts for the absorption of persons in whom, irrespective of their unsuitability or otherwise, he personally reposed political confidence. Political ambitions ... should not be allowed to intrude into the responsibility of command and functions of military organizations..
In 1954 he was once again placed on the retired list.
The fact that at times he acted as Chief of the General Staff during World War II indicates that Van Ryneveld had immense trust in his abilities. However, Van Ryneveld was such a dominating personality that any meaningful delegation of his authority was never even discussed.
During his career he was awarded the British War Medal for his services during World War I, and the War Medal 1939-45 and Africa Service Medal in World War II. Probably because he never saw active service in the field during the two world wars he would not wear ribbons on his uniform.
He married Evelyn Alice Jess Hunter and had a son and a daughter.
- "Leonard Beyers". Dictionary of South African Biography. V. Human Sciences Research Council. 1987. pp. 50–51. ISBN 0-7969-0420-0.
- Jali, Mr Justice TSB (December 2005). Commission of Inquiry into Alleged Incidents of Corruption, Maladministration, Violence Or Intimidation into The Department of Correctional Services Appointed By Order of the President of the Republic of South Africa in Terms of Proclamation No. 135 of 2001, As Amended. (PDF). p. 42.
- "History of Transformation of the Correctional System in South Africa". Archived from the original on 21 May 2008. Retrieved 17 February 2009.
- Bunting, Brian (December 1986). The Rise of the South African Reich. Mayibuye Books. ISBN 0-904759-74-1.
Sir Pierre van Ryneveld
|Chief of the General Staff of the Union Defence Force
C L de W du Toit