Pierre van Ryneveld

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Hesperus Andrias van Ryneveld
Pierre van Ryneveld.jpg
Nickname(s) Pierre
Born (1891-05-02)2 May 1891
Senekal, Orange Free State
Died 2 December 1972(1972-12-02) (aged 81)
Pretoria, South Africa
Allegiance United Kingdom British Empire
 South Africa
 South Africa
Years of service August 1914 – 2 May 1949
Rank General
Commands held
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
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 (SAAF).

He began his military career in World War I, in which he served in the Royal Flying Corps (later Royal Air Force), where he distinguished himself as a fighter ace.

After the war, van Ryneveld was called back to South Africa by the Prime Minister Jan Smuts in order to set up the SAAF.[1] 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.

(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),[2] 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.

He served as CGS for sixteen years, including the whole of World War II. He retired in 1949.[3]

Honours and awards[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.[4]

The citation for his Knighthood reads as follows:

He was appointed a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1919.[6]


External links[edit]

See also[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
W R Read
Officer Commanding No. 45 Squadron RFC
24 April – 18 August 1917
Succeeded by
Arthur Harris
Preceded by
Ewan Christian
Officer Commanding Military College
1929 – 1932
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

1920 – 1933
Title next held by
Francis Hoare in 1937
Preceded by
A Brink
Chief of the General Staff of the Union Defence Force
1933 – 1949
Succeeded by
Leonard Beyers