THE AIRFORCE - FORMATION OF THE SAAF
Having recommended to the British that they establish an Air force as a separate arm, it was only natural that Gen. Smuts would want to do the same for South Africa. This decision was taken in 1919 and Lt. Col. Pierre van Ryneveld was commissioned to evolve the organisation and procure the necessary equipment. Earlier that same year van Ryneveld and Major Quinton Brand carried out their epic flight from England to the Cape, pioneering the air route down Africa.SA Air Force Memorial
The Imperial Government gave 100 aircraft (including 30 Avro 504K's, 22 SE.5a's and 48 DH.9's), together with spares, tools, hangers, etc., as a gift to start the Empire's newest air force. The first batch arrived in September 1919 and on 1 January 1920 the Aircraft Depot was established at Roberts Heights, near Pretoria, under Capt. I Welch. It bacame known as the Aircraft and Artillery Depot. As a suitable airfield was required, the farm Zwartkop, near Roberts Heights, was acquired in April 1921, thus becoming South Africa's first air force base. Swartkop is now the headquarters of the SAAF Museum which still uses the original Imperial Gift hangers as exhibition halls.
In June 1920 van Ryneveld was appointed Director of Air Services with the temporary rank of Colonel, which was backdated to 1 February 1920, with it's headquarters at the present SAAF College Officers Mess, Voortrekkerhoogte. This date is acknowledged as marking the official birth of the SAAF. No 1 Flight was established at Zwartkop on 26 April 1921 and it was joined by a second flight. These flights formed the nucleus of 1 Sqn which was established by early 1922.
The title South African Air Force was first used officially on 1 February 1923 when the SAAF was listed under the provisions of the reconstituted SA Defence Act when it was listed as one of the corps of the Permanent Force.