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Helperus Andreas van Ryneveld
File:Pierre van Ryneveld.jpg
Nickname Pierre
Born (1891-05-02)May 2, 1891
Died December 2, 1972(1972-12-02) (aged 81)
Place of birth Senekal, Orange Free State
Place of death Pretoria, South Africa
Allegiance United Kingdom British Empire
 South Africa
Service/branch Royal Flying Corps
Royal Air Force
South African Air Force
Years of service August 1914 – 2 May 1949
Rank General
Commands held South African Air Force
Union Defence Forces
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Companion of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross

General Sir Helperus Andreas van Ryneveld, KBE CB DSO MC (2 May 1891 – 2 December 1972) 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 Quinton Brand, February 1920, standing in front of Vickers Vimy, G-UABA, the "Silver Queen", before setting out on an 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), 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.[2]

Honours and awards[edit | edit source]

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.[3]

The citation for his Knighthood reads as follows:

  • 14 May 1920 - Lieutenant-Colonel Helperus Andreas Van Ryneveld, DSO, MC, late Royal Air Force - Appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of the valuable services rendered to Aviation by the successful flight from England to Cape Town, South Africa.[4]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

Military offices
Preceded by
W R Read
Officer Commanding No. 45 Squadron RFC
24 April – 18 August 1917
Succeeded by
A T Harris
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
F Hoare in 1937
Preceded by
A Brink
Chief of the General Staff of the Union Defence Force
1933 – 1949
Succeeded by
L Beyers

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