Pierre van Ryneveld

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Sir Helperus Andrias van Ryneveld
Pierre van Ryneveld.jpg
Born(1891-05-02)2 May 1891
Senekal, Orange Free State
Died2 December 1972(1972-12-02) (aged 81)
Pretoria, South Africa
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
South Africa
Service/branchRoyal Flying Corps
Royal Air Force
South African Air Force
Years of service1915–1949
Commands heldChief of the General Staff of the Union Defence Force
Director of Air Services
South African Military College
No. 45 Squadron RFC
Battles/warsFirst World War
Second World War
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Companion of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross
Mentioned in Despatches
Chevalier of the Legion of Honour (France)
Spouse(s)Edith "Betty" Sterling

General Sir Hesperus Andrias van Ryneveld, KBE, CB, DSO, MC (2 May 1891 – 2 December 1972), known as Pierre van Ryneveld, was a South African military commander. He was the founding commander of the South African Air Force.

Military career[edit]

Van Ryneveld began his military career in the First World War, in which he served in the Royal Flying Corps and later the Royal Air Force. For his service in the war, Van Ryneveld was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Military Cross, Mentioned in Despatches, and presented with the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour from the French government.[1]

After the war, Van Ryneveld was called back to South Africa by the Prime Minister Jan Smuts in order to set up the South African Air Force (SAAF).[2] He flew back home, across Africa, in a Vickers Vimy – a pioneering feat for which he and his co-pilot Quintin Brand were both knighted.[3]

(L-R) Lt Col van Ryneveld with First Lt Quintin Brand, February 1920, in front of Vickers Vimy Silver Queen, before their England to South Africa flight

Colonel van Ryneveld established the SAAF in 1920, and directed it until 1933, when he was promoted to Chief of the General Staff (CGS),[4] in command of the Union Defence Forces. However, for the next four years the SAAF remained under Van Ryneveld's direct control as no one was appointed as the Air Force's director until 1937.

van Ryneveld served as CGS for sixteen years, including the whole of the Second World War. He retired in 1949.[5]

Namesakes and legacy[edit]

The Pretoria suburb of Pierre van Ryneveld Park was named in his honour and the airport just north of Upington in the Northern Cape is also named after Van Ryneveld. Sir Pierre van Ryneveld High School is in Kempton Park, Gauteng. The SAAF's annual air power symposium, is known as the Sir Pierre Van Ryneveld Air Power Symposium.[6]


  1. ^ "Supplement to the London Gazett" (PDF). The Gazette. 15 July 1919. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 October 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "No. 31900". The London Gazette. 14 May 1920. p. 5480.
  4. ^ Ellis, Johan (2000). "Oswald Pirow's Five-Year Plan for the Reorganisation of the Union Defence Force, 1933-193". South African Journal of Military Studies. 30 (2).
  5. ^ "van Ryneveld, Pierre - Prominent people". Prominent people. 14 July 2013. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  6. ^ http://www.af.mil.za/news/2005/banket.htm

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
W R Read
Officer Commanding No. 45 Squadron RFC
April – August 1917
Succeeded by
Arthur Harris
Preceded by
Ewan Christian
Officer Commanding South African Military College
Succeeded by
George Brink
New title
South African Air Force established
Director Air Services, South African Air Force
From 1933 to 1937 SAAF remained under van Ryneveld's direct control

Title next held by
Francis Hoare in 1937
Preceded by
Andries Brink
Chief of the General Staff of the Union Defence Force
Succeeded by
Leonard Beyers