Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Peter Ryland (1911–1973)

by Richard Kingsland

This article was published:

John Peter Ryland (1911-1973), pilot and airline administrator, was born on 26 July 1911 at Hawthorn, Melbourne, son of Victorian-born parents Ernest Augustus Ryland, farmer, and his wife Flavie Jeanne, née Borelli. Jack attended Murraydale State School and Xavier College, Melbourne, where he was school captain (1929), and captain of Australian Rules football and boats. After studying at the University of Melbourne (B.Ag.Sc., 1935), he became a research officer in the Victorian Department of Agriculture.

In December 1933 Ryland had enlisted in the citizen component of the Royal Australian Air Force as an air cadet. Gaining his wings, he was commissioned on 1 July 1934. He joined the newly formed Ansett Airways Pty Ltd in 1937 and was soon promoted captain. In July 1938 he was placed on the Air Force Reserve as a flying officer.

Called up for active service as a flight lieutenant on 23 October 1939, Ryland was promoted squadron leader in July 1941. On 10 December he led a detachment of No.13 Squadron to an advanced operational base at Namlea, Buru Island, Netherlands East Indies. That day the unit's commanding officer was killed in a crash at Laha, Ambon Island, and Ryland was transferred there to replace him. He and his men flew Hudson bombers on raids against the Japanese. For his inspiration, devotion to duty and 'courage and determination in the face of heavy odds', he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (1942).

Ryland was appointed chief instructor at No.1 Operational Training Unit, East Sale, Victoria, in June 1942 and promoted wing commander on 1 October. In January-May 1943 he accompanied (Sir) Daniel McVey to the United States of America and Britain to determine the types of aircraft that could be manufactured in Australia. On his return in June, he resumed his post at Sale and became the unit's commanding officer in July. Promoted group captain in April 1944, he was posted to No.79 (Bomber) Wing in Darwin in December and led it on operations over Borneo.

On 18 December 1945 Ryland was demobilized from the R.A.A.F. He returned to Ansett Airways as manager of its airline division. In June 1946 he was selected by L. J. Brain to run a special training school at the R.A.A.F. Station, Point Cook, Victoria, for air and engineering crews of the newly created Trans-Australia Airlines. Succeeding Brain as T.A.A.'s operational manager next month, he rose to assistant general manager later that year and general manager in 1955. At St James's Catholic Church, Gardenvale, on 20 July 1949 he had married June Robinson.

The period in which Ryland was in charge of T.A.A. saw significant developments in civil aviation. He supervised the introduction of pressurized airliners, and turbo-propeller and jet aircraft. Five ft 8 ins (173 cm) tall, rugged in physique and sound in judgement, he proved an excellent administrator. T.A.A.'s outstanding safety record under his management won him acclaim. He was appointed C.B.E. in 1960 and to the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy in 1969. Survived by his wife, and their son and two daughters, he died of myocardial infarction on 20 October 1973 in his home at Malvern and was buried in Templestowe cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Gillison, Royal Australian Air Force 1939-1942 (Canb, 1962)
  • I. Sabey, Challenge in the Skies (Melb, 1979)
  • Age (Melbourne), 22 June 1946
  • Argus (Melbourne), 17 July 1946
  • Herald (Melbourne), 25 Mar 1959
  • Australian, 22 Oct 1973
  • Ryland papers, MS 5020 (National Library of Australia)
  • A1838/394, item 1535/18/119 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Richard Kingsland, 'Ryland, John Peter (1911–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 18 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


26 July, 1911
Hawthorn, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


20 October, 1973 (aged 62)
Malvern, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Religious Influence

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