Major-General Dan Pienaar

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Daniël Hermanus Pienaar, Major-General, CB, DSO

Birthdate: (49)
Birthplace: Ladybrand, Free State, South Africa
Death: December 19, 1942 (49)
B 162, Masahunga, Mara, Tanzania (Aeroplane crash)
Immediate Family:

Son of Willem Daniel Johannes Pienaar and Cornelia Petronella Pienaar
Husband of Norma Pienaar and Eileen (Leffler) Pienaar
Brother of Elizabeth Johanna Pienaar; Maria Magdalena Quequin; Jan Gabriël Horn Pienaar; Johannes Theodorus Pienaar; Jan Christoffel Lourens Pienaar and 2 others

Occupation: Military
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Major-General Dan Pienaar

{ NG Kerk, Ladybrand, Orange Free State - Baptismal Register Entry : 108 of February 1894 Daniel Hermanus Pienaar - Birth : 27 August 1893 - Baptised : 4 February 1894 - Presiding Minister : Ds Joubert Parents : Willem Daniel Johannes Pienaar / Cornelia Petronela Horn - Baptismal Witnesses : Frederik Johannes van Zyl / Cornelia Petronella Horn - Herman Hendrik Pienaar / Martha Magdalena van Zyl } -

Major-General Dan Pienaar G. O. C. First South African Division


Out of the Abyss - published by The Forum, Johannesburg, South Africa (date not listed)

Link to Pietermaritzburg and Fort Napier

During the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), the later well-known South African Major-General Dan Pienaar was treated in the hospital at Fort Napier. He was a young boy at the time, and was interned with his family at the Pietermaritzburg Concentration Camp. The young Dan’s leg was severely lacerated by an accident with an axe. In his book, Pienaar of Alamein, A M Pollock wrote of the aftermath of the accident as follows: “Blood-poisoning set in and Dan was taken to the British military hospital at Fort Napier. It was at first feared that his leg would have to be amputated. Several doctors held consultations, and finally Dan’s mother was called in to make the decision. She decided on the more slender chance of her son’s pulling through without amputation. Slowly the leg responded to treatment, but for four long months Dan had to lie in the military hospital. On either side of him and all round him were wounded British “Tommies”. He became their favourite. Far from their own families, these soldiers, in their rough but kindly way, took the small boy to their hearts and lavished upon him an affection they would normally have reserved for their own children. Dan responded, as a child would, and very soon he and these British soldiers were fast friends. That friendship persisted in spite of later misunderstandings and undoubtedly formed the foundation of the deep respect which Major-General Dan Pienaar had for the ordinary British soldier.”

Maj.Gen. Dan Pienaar, CB DSO (Wikipedia page).

World War 2

In 1940-1941, during the East African Campaign, Pienaar commanded the 1st South African Infantry Brigade. He fought in the battles of El Wak, The Juba, Combolcia, and Amba Alagi.

In 1941-1942, during the North Africa Campaign, Pienaar fought in the battles of Sidi Rezegh and Gazala). On 10 March 1942, he was promoted to GOC 1st South African Infantry Division, which he led in the battle of Gazala, the retreat to Egypt, the defence of El Alamein, and the final battle of El Alamein. He was twice awarded the DSO and mentioned in dispatches twice for his service in North Africa.

On 20 November 1942 he was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) "in recognition of the supreme gallantry and magnificent achievements of British and Dominion Troops and their Commanders in the present operations in the Middle East".

During the early stages of the North African campaign, the South African 5 Brigade had been destroyed on 23 November 1941, at Sidi Rezegh and on 21 June 1942, the 2 Division, with 4 and 6 Brigadees under command, surrendered at the fall of Tobruk. As a result of these heavy losses Pienaar, now commander of 1 Division was cautious and increasingly reluctant to risk his troops,[citation needed] lost the confidence of his British commanders.[citation needed] It was felt, a little unfairly,[by whom?] that his division now lacked the necessary aggressiveness and drive for offensive operations. However the division played an important part in the victory at El Alamein.

On the other hand, Ronald Lewin, who took part in the entire campaign, writes: "what is striking . . . is how often the British would squander a complete armoured brigade in some useless assault on a fixed position." Pienaar simply did not buy into the "Up Guards and at 'em!" approach of the British, which led to the decimation of the Commonwealth and Indian divisions that bore the brunt of so much of the fighting in the Desert War. "You know the three things I hate in this world—British lords, British generals and these bloody Guards!" he told Brigadier E. P. Scrubbs Hartshorn.

"The burden of blame" for the loss of Tobruk in 1942, Churchill wrote in volume 4 of his memoirs, The Hinge of Fate, "falls upon the [British] High Command rather than on [the fortress commander South African] General [Hendrik] Klopper and still less on his troops."

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Major-General Dan Pienaar's Timeline

August 27, 1893
Ladybrand, Free State, South Africa
February 4, 1894
Ladybrand, Orange Free State, South Africa
December 19, 1942
Age 49
Masahunga, Mara, Tanzania