A life slips away:tribute to my father in law.

A life slips away

Very brief epistle of my father in law who’s life support system is going to be turned off tomorrow. Now as it turns out it was a while ago but still seems like yesterday.
Photo of Peter flying a Spitfire

There is only one sure thing in life and that is everyone is going to die. Sadly this is going to come true for my beloved Father in Law when his family turns off his life support system tomorrow and he takes his final flight. They are meeting with the doctor tomorrow morning to tell him that it was their Dad’s wish that he didn’t want to be kept alive with machines.I’m positive he is going to be flying somewhere as it was his life long passion. The following is how I first met him and what ensued.

Having left the Rhodesian air force as Wing Commander Peter Knobel on the transfer of power to Robert Mugabe and the re-naming of the country as Zimbabwe. Peter K as he was always known by the legions of people he taught to fly, bought a small holding where he began farming sheep, goats, and rabbits. A mercilessly particular man, with him everything had to be done the right way or not at all. So he was always using his very bright mind to find this. Naturally he went on a sheep course to find out more. Little did he know that one of the people running this was a personal farming friend of mine. None other than Frikkie Buitendag, champion sheep breeder and character of note.

During the course the two of them became firm friends, and when the course finished they went to have a few drinks in a pub. Now Peter K drank very little. For some reason his youngest daughter joined them. She spent most of the night berating and nagging her Dad about one thing or the other. Eventually exasperated, Peter K turned to her and said:”What you need is someone who is six foot tall and deaf.”
Frikkie eavesdropping heard this and was highly amused, so chimed in with: “I know someone like that.”

So he arranged for them to visit his farm the following Sunday for lunch. Then the damn devil invited me over for lunch. The long and short of this is, Peter K’s daughter was smitten. Well, she was, and a great romance began.

Then one day a long time after at Peter K’s farm I had to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. In all honesty I was petrified of asking him, but I did. He immediately turned to me and shook my hand. Thus begun or had all ready begun a lifetime friendship. I must add it was one of the highlights of my life.


Exceptional Pilot


Probably the best light aircraft pilot in the world.

Now Peter K flew a hundred and sixty eight different types of aircraft in his life. That has to be something special?

Personally, I left Zimbabwe in 1984 and went to live in South Africa. A year later I had my own farm there and a couple of years later Peter K also left and came to live on my second house on the farm. So I actually knew him very well. I have seen all of his air logs and an astonishing amount of flying hours he had put in too. I also saw all his military reviews by the top brass and he had also worked on ‘ComOps’ (Combined Operations), during the Rhodesian war. One thing stood out. They all said the same thing. Which was he was a pilot of ‘exceptional’ ability, but found it hard to listen to authority. Touché, and I had to laugh.

My most abiding memory of him considering all this was when we were watching Andre Agassi play tennis in some tournament on the television. This was when Agassi was still in the long hair and colourful clothing mode. During the break, a quiz came up which asked: “What type of racquet does Andre Agassi use?”

Not missing a beat and turning to me with raised eyebrows, Peter K said: “A pink one?” Who wouldn’t laugh?

So Peter you have led an exceptional life and even more than your flying you have raised an exceptional family. Your two daughters, your son. Who have given you eight grandchildren and one great, grandchild. Whom all of course have loved you to bits. So because many of us can’t be there with you at this sad time, I have chosen a poem for you for your final farewell.

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless falls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor eer eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high, untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.”
John Gillespie Magee.

A tribute for Peter K.

Now Peter had a life long love of the Spitfire and was making a downsized replica of it but he never finished it sadly. Since his death Nelair in Nelspruit have been working on it and it went on show today. Sadly minus the engine.

Peter K


About spookmoor

I'm a 61 year old happily married man with three grown up children. I lost all my hearing as an eighteen year old whilst doing National Service and then had a Cochlear Ear Implant twenty years later. I love trying to explain these things to people and bits about my life. I never thought so at the time, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Thus one gets Random ramblings from a man who has seen a lot with a touch of humour underlying all.
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50 Responses to A life slips away:tribute to my father in law.

  1. Chris Neil says:

    Peter K was certainly a legend. I had the privilege of doing a good many flights with him at Nelair. Every time we would chat, whether it was just at the pub, in the cockpit or in between flights waiting for pax he always had something new to teach me-I kept my pocket notebook with me at all times to take notes. I believe Peter K and my dad are now both in a better place flying for Heavens Airways.

  2. jake bremner says:

    What a lovely tribute to your Father in law Spook. What a pleasure that you got on so well.

  3. Mike Tanski says:

    Hey Spook I never knew you were related to him. I have read much about him in my collection of books on the Rhodesian Air Force and the Rhodesian war. A very nice tribute to a legendary man.

  4. Steve Murray says:

    A brilliant tribute to a good man. He lectured me on performance on my Rhodesian Air Force pilots course, and made it extremely interesting. I taught his eldest daughter to ride horses and got to know him and his family well, and always admired him. I left Africa in the late eighties and lost touch completely, but will always remember him.

    • spookmoor says:

      Lovely to see you here Steve and I heard about you. Also your dad was a CSC inspector and often visited our farm.

      • Steve Murray says:

        Yes, Dad travelled a lot and when I was at school would often go with him during the holidays. When I became an air force pilot I “visited” him a few of times on jets and helicopters. The second time was in a Hunter.I passed over over him, the farmers and a herd of cattle at 200feet and 500kts. I phoned him after landing. He said it was very impressive, but as gently as possible, asked me not to do it again. It took the rest of the day gathering up the cattle again.

      • spookmoor says:

        Thanks for the laughs Steve and I bet it took the rest of the day gathering up the cattle.

  5. Lynne Oakley says:

    What a wonderful tribute!

  6. Ian Bond says:

    Spook Moor, I would like to make contact with you re Peter Knobel. I knew him from the age of 11 (I think) and I have some photos from those days which you may like, as well as some interesting anecdotes. He almost had me solo whilst he was instructing at Rand Flying Club. Also taught me to play the piano. Please drop me a line if you are interested and if you can spare the time. Ian Bond.

  7. Jim Sinclair. says:

    Wonderful to read this Spook. I have always thought you married into a wonderful family and Penny is special. Love Jim and Ann

  8. Great tribute Spook, I really feel for you as my father in law took the place of my father who had not treated me well.

  9. Maggi says:

    I love popping in to read, do not always leave a message, but this is lovely. He would have loved this –

  10. Thanks for sharing that story Spook. Many time a soft heart beats within a rough and tough exterior.

  11. I remember it was hard to lose him, but this is a beautiful tribute.

  12. Tony Strugnell says:

    I had the great honour to be one of Peter K’s students and then fellow pilots at UAC. He was a Great Man, Instructor & Friend. Fly High.
    Thank you for your tribute

  13. George Azevedo says:

    What a beautiful tribute my friend,he really must have meant a great deal to you.
    May he fly high now at Gods side.

  14. Neville says:

    Wonderful, heart felt tribute Spook! RIP Peter K

  15. frankiekay says:

    You are lucky you got along with your F-I-L – mine couldn’t stand me! We learned to live with each other, but none of the respect you mention was felt on either side! From the above, it sounds as if you got on really well!
    PS – I didn’t have a mother in law, only a step mother in law!!!!!

    • spookmoor says:

      Yes, I got on really well with him and funnily enough many people thought he was a very difficult man. Funnily I could never agree with that as he was always so nice to me, God knows why.

  16. Gomer Pyle says:

    What a lovely tribute and so beautifully written. Your love and respect shine through; this interspersed with the subtle humour of the occasion, makes for a fine piece of reading. Only have one complaint…. it’s too short. Men of his caliber are scarce and I am sure there must be a million tails to tell about him ……would make for some fascinating reading …. here’s hoping for a fuller “update” in the not too distant future !! Thanks for the share !

  17. Fantastic tribute to your father-in-law Spook. I think you have captured him, his life and achievements well. Thank you for sharing mate and we shall always remember them.

  18. Bar de Ness says:

    This is a wonderful testament to your father-in-law, and a great story how you met him. I was quite moved reading this! Excellently written. Great stuff!

  19. Matteo Coné says:

    Thanks for sharing. Indeed a great tribute. Here is a tribute to my late father. https://mc1afamily.wordpress.com/
    PS Would you please let m have your email address.

  20. Richard Thornycroft says:

    He was a great man Spook, he did a couple of my annual checkouts.

  21. Liz McCartney says:

    A great tribute Spook. Love to all the family.

  22. linda says:

    Beautiful tribute Spook,I can see he meant a lot to you. Love the way you met your wife.

  23. bulldog says:

    Remember this one, like it was yesterday… very touching…

    • spookmoor says:

      Thank you bulldog but it’s a confounded nuisance having to put it all down all over again and half my photos are still on the computer which I no longer use.

  24. Gary Hunt says:

    Very touching tribute Spook

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