Military Wiki
Hugo Hendrik Biermann
File:Admiral Hugo Biermann.jpg
Born (1916-08-06)6 August 1916
Died 27 March 2012(2012-03-27) (aged 95)
Place of birth Johannesburg
Place of death Cape Town, South Africa
Allegiance South Africa
Service/branch South African Navy
Years of service 1945-1976
Rank Admiral
Commands held

Admiral Hugo Hendrik Biermann SSA SD OBE GCIH (6 August 1916 – 27 March 2012) was a former Chief of the South African Navy and the South African Defence Force.

Born in Johannesburg, his family moved to Cape Town and he completed his schooling at Jan van Riebeck High School[1]

Merchant Marine

After two years training on the South African Training Ship General Botha from 1932 to 1933,[2] he entered the British Merchant Navy as a cadet and served until 1938 when he was transferred to the Maritime Department of the South African Railways and Harbours.[3]

Naval career

He began his naval career in 1938 as a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in the 1930s. In January 1940 he was called up for full-time service and transferred to the Seaward Defence Force. Promoted lieutenant in mid 1941 he commanded HMSA Ships Imhoff,[4] Roodepoort and Aristea before being promoted to Lieutenant Commander in command of the salvage vessel HMSAS Gamtoos.[5]

The crew of the HMSAS Gamtoos cleared several Mediterranean ports of sunken and scuttled ships, and at Marseilles, Biermann blew a hole in the harbour wall so that he could enter the Vieux Port[6] and begin work. The Gamtoos went on to salvage the Sidi Aissa, towing it away to clear the valuable graving dock at La Ciotat by 14 December 1944. This earned Lt Cdr Biermann the Order of the British Empire, an honour he shared with the entire ship's company[7]

The citation for his OBE reads:

On the recommendation of the British Admiralty, the then Lieutenant-Commander H. H. Biermann, an officer in the South African Naval Forces [SANF], was appointed an Officer of the Military Division of the Order of the British Empire [OBE] “for distinguished service during the invasion of Southern France.”[8]

After the War

After the war and with the establishment of the South African Navy (Permanent Force) in May 1946, he was appointed Lieutenant-Commander and Captain of the Algerine class minesweeper, SAS Bloemfontein, commissioning her in Devonport on 8 September 1947[9] and as Senior Officer of the minesweeping squadron.

In 1950, he was transferred to Defence Headquarters and served on the staff of the then Director-General of the SA Naval Forces. Two years later he attended the British Naval Staff Course at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and was appointed as naval attaché at South African House, London with the rank of Commander.[3]

Commander Biermann was appointed naval and marine chief of staff on 1 December 1952 and promoted to the rank of Commodore, jumping 2 ranks.[1] During his tenure the Simonstown Agreement was signed on 30 June 1955. He held that rank until 1 April 1957, with the handing over of the Simon’s Town Naval Base, he was promoted to Rear-Admiral.[10]

On 1 December 1965, Rear-Admiral Biermann was promoted to Vice–Admiral and Chief of the Navy, the first time this title was used in South Africa.,[11]

In 1972, he took over the position of Chief of the South African Defence Force[12] and promoted to Admiral, the first time this rank was used in the South African Navy.

In 1977 he authored "The South African Response." The Southern Oceans and the Security of the Free World: New Studies in Global Strategy (1977).

The navy's submarine base was named after him.

Decorations and awards

He received the Star of South Africa Decoration on 13 May 1960 in recognition of his exceptionally meritorious services, as well as Order Of May To Naval Merit in the grade of “Grand Cross Admiral Guillermo Brown from Argentina[3] and the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Infante Dom Henrique of Portugal.[3] He was the first recipient of the Southern Cross Decoration, which he received on his retirement as Chief of the SADF in 1976[13]


Biermann died at the age of 95 at a retirement home, Silvermine Village, near Cape Town. He was buried with full military honours.[14]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Admiral Hugo Biermann - The Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph. London. 14 May 2012. Retrieved 2013-05-14. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "A sad farewell to Admiral H.H. Biermann SSA, SD, OBE 01222819 PE". Retrieved 2012-04-27. 
  4. Gomm, N (1973). "From the Ships Log of H.M.S.A.S Imhoff". 
  5. "Obituary in newsletter". The South African Institute of Marine Engineers & Naval Architects. 
  6. Admiral Hugo Biermann | The Times
  7. Weinerlein, Vic (June 2006). "HMSAS GAMTOOS, 1942-1945 A South African salvage vessel in the Second World War". 
  9. Du Toit, Allan (1992). South Africa's fighting ships past and present. Ashanti Publishing. p. 182. ISBN 978-1874800507. 
  10. Race and U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War. Taylor & Francis. 1998. p. 318. ISBN 978-0-8153-2958-9. 
  11. Fact file: Chiefs of the South African Navy | DefenceWeb
  12. Fact file: Chiefs of the SANDF,past and present | DefenceWeb
  13. "South African Defence Force: 1975-2003". SA Honours and Awards. 
  14. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 17. pp. 11. 

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Rudolph Hiemstra
Chief of the South African Defence Force
1952 – 1976
Succeeded by
Magnus Malan
New title Chief of the South African Navy
Succeeded by
James Johnson
New title Naval Chief of Staff
Renamed Chief of the Navy
Preceded by
Pieter de Waal
Naval & Marine Chief of Staff
Renamed Naval Chief of Staff

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