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Air War over the Horn of Africa (1940 - 1941)

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12 July 1940

 

Northern Front

 

The British continue to target Italian airfields : this time, the target is Massawa.

 

Eleven Wellesley (four and five) of No.14 (RAF) Squadron and No.47 (RAF) Squadron take off around 11h00. Above the objective (15h00) the bombers are confronted by the Italian fighter who succeeds in shooting down the K8520 (Sergeant Frederick Nelson, Sergeant G. Brixton, Leading Aircraftman J. Woods), while a second is claimed probable. If the pilot is killed, the other two crew members can jump and are captured. The victories are claimed by the Tenente Mario Visintini and Sergente Luigi Baron. The British nevertheless damaged several hangars during the bombing.

 

Southern Front

 

In Kenya, No.40 (SAAF) Squadron is ordered to transport an ammunition load for Wajir at dawn. Major James T. Durrant (n°817) takes off first then circle around Isiolo. Not seeing his winger, he flies over the airfield and notices a column of smoke. Indeed, taking off in a partial darkness and heavily loaded, Captain Winston L. Kriel (n° 859) hit trees on the edge of the ground.

 

Finally, an Italian raid, by two Savoia-Marchetti SM.79, is mentioned on Wajir provoking various material damage, as well as the death of a local driver employed by the Rhodesians. This action could correspond to the short confrontation between a Hartbees (Second Lieutenant Robert G. Donaldson) and an aircraft identified as a Caproni Ca.133.  During this fight, having exhausted all his ammunition, the pilot tries to destroy his opponent by dropping his bomb on it ... without positive result. The next day, a telegram is received, clearly stating the prohibition of any fantasy.

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13 July 1940

 

Southern Front

 

A new bombardment of Wajir by two Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 is reported during which the Hawker Audax K7549, of No.237 (Rhodesia) Squadron, is damaged and must be evacuated to Nairobi for repair.

 

At the same time, the 5 Kings African Rifles is sent to Wajir to cover the withdrawal of Moyale's troops that is to take place at night. The evacuation must, however, be canceled due to a communication problem.

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15 July 1940

 

Southern Front

 

After having reestablished the communications with Moyale, decision is made to program the evacuation of the fort for the night of  14 and 15 July. This happens without incident.

 

In order not to alert the Italians, the destruction of ammunition reserves is only planned the next day, by aerial bombardment. Three Junkers Ju.86 of No.12 (SAAF) Squadron take off from Wajir to carry out this mission. However, no accurate map of the fort has been provided to the crews and they were only instructed to bomb around the infirmary buildings. Unfortunately on their return, the South Africans learn that the Kings African Rifle had left several wounded on the spot, unable to evacuate them, and that the Hawker Hardy K5923 (Flying Officer R.J.D. Christie, Aircraftman Marshall) of No.237 (Rhodesia) Squadron had just taken off to drop a message to the Italians. This error does not seem, however, to have any human consequences.

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16 July 1940

 

Northern Front

 

No.14 and No.47 (RAF) Squadron continue to organize joint missions by sending this time nine Vickers Wellesley (four and five) to Asmara around 09h30.

 

The Italian fighters responds by claiming a destroyed aircraft and another probable. This seems to correspond to reality as the L2641 (Sergeant William CH Style, Corporal John Clark, Leading Aircraftman Walter Crossland) crashes on the ground, while the K7771 is seriously damaged. Finally, the K8525 must divert to Port Sudan as a result of a technical problem. Nevertheless, according to No.47 (RAF) Squadron's ORB, losses would be due to an in-flight collision due to bad weather. In addition, only one ennemy biplane would have been observed without conducting an attack. This action could have been carried out by 412a Squadriglia CT with at least two pilots. Sottotenente Giovanni Levi and Sergente Maggiore Ottavio Bracci could have participated, although without claiming any victory.

 

Southern Front

 

In Kenya, Regia Aeronautica returns to Wajir where three Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 of 29bis Gruppo BT report the destruction of two aircraft on the ground. However, South African documents do not mention any damage.

 

13.jpg?resize=768,747&ssl=1

Bombing of Asmara airfield by Vickers Wellesley. Collection: Imperial War Museum.

 

 

 

 

 

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17 July 1940

 

Southern Front

 

The day's operations mainly concern Kenya's two advanced airfields.

 

Buna is attacked three times by three Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 and two Caproni Ca.133 of 65a Squadriglia BT between 12h30 and 15h30.

 

After a reconnaissance patrol, Flying Officer Herbert S. Hales and Corporal Hercules L. Maltas (Hawker Audax K7549), of No.237 (Rhodesia) Squadron, sighted one Caproni Ca.133 around Moyale. The pilot immediately engaged his opponent from the top and back and one of his shots seemed to silence the rear gunner. But, in its third pass, the machine guns jammed, forcing him to release his prey. According to the Italian documents, an aircraft of the same type is actually damaged as a result of a fight. Nevertheless, landing at Buna, the Hawker Audax is immediately attacked and hit by a Savoia-Marchetti SM.79.

 

Wajir airfield is also a major center of attraction for Regia Aeronautica as it is under attack by three Savoia-Marchetti SM.79s with some light material damage, and a damaged Hawker Fury (this could be the No. 205, transferred the day before by Lieutenant Patrick Rushmere), despite the interception attempt of Flight Lieutenant Robert S. Blake.

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18 July 1940

 

Southern Front

 

The Regia Aeronautica continues its attacks against Buna and Wajir, where several aircraft are strafed on the ground, by three Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 of 44bis Gruppo BT, without consequence. Italian crews report being attacked over the last airfield and claim the destruction of an enemy aircraft in combat (no correspondence exists in archives). In return, all Italian aircraft are marked as damaged, by AA, one of the crew members being wounded.

 

After these multiple attacks, the SAAF decided to retaliate by sending four Junkers Ju.86 of No.12 (SAAF) Squadron to bomb the main Italian airfield, in southern Ethiopia : Negele Borana. If no enemy aircraft is destroyed on the ground, several bombs damaged the fuel reserves and a hangar. However, when returning, Major Danie du Toit must crash-landing (No. 650) about 30 km from Nanyuki due to a motor problem. The aircraft may, however, be repaired the next day and return to its base.

 

27-scaled.jpg?resize=768,358&ssl=1

 

26.jpg?resize=768,608&ssl=1

Photos taken by Lieutenant Owen Glynn-Davies of a bombing raid on Negele Borana airfield by Junkers Ju.86 of No.12 (SAAF) Squadron. It could be the attack of 8 August 1940 during which four planes claim the destruction on the ground of a Caproni Ca.133, as well as two others damaged, in addition to various other material damages. In return, one of the bombers was damaged and a crew member injured. Collection : SAAF Museum, via Tinus le Roux.

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19 July 1940

 

Northern Front

 

No.14 (RAF) Squadron receives a message signaling the arrival from Libya of several Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 to Agordat. Order is given to launch an attack to destroy these bombers. Squadron Anthony D. Selway send five Vickers Wellesley to the target at dawn, where three Italian bombers are reported. Nevertheless, a strong AA requires the British to make individual passes at high altitude without being able to observe the results, even if they claim to have damaged two Italian planes.

 

Southern Front

 

Buna is still targeted in the evening by two Caproni Ca.133 of 31bis Gruppo BT. One of which land in disaster after crossing the border, the crew walking on foot during two days. Again, the bombing does not seem to have caused significant damage.

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20 July 1940

 

The Regia Aeronautica makes some changes, in anticipation of the imminent offensive on British Somaliland and all Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 of 4bis Gruppo BT join Shinile, while Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 of 44bis Gruppo BT are transferred to Addis Ababa.

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22 July 1940

 

Northern Front

 

After a few relatively quiet days on the northern front, the RAF decides to strike a great blow on Dire Dawa airfield by sending several successive waves of No.8 (RAF) Squadron and No.39 (RAF) Squadron, in the form of Flight of three aircraft. In all twelve Bristol Blenheim between 07h30 and 16h45. One of the Flight is intercepted, around 13h00, by a Fiat.CR 42 and two Fiat CR.32 of 410a Squadriglia CT but without results. However, the bombing is a very relative success and only two Fiat CR.32 are slightly damaged on the ground.

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23 July 1940

 

Northern Front

 

After the massive raid of the previous day, it's Vickers Wellesley's turn.

 

Seven aircrafts belonging to No.14 and No.223 (RAF) Squadron take off in the direction of Massawa. The Italian defense reacts and several Fiat CR.42s of 412a Squadriglia CT intercept the formation after the attack. Sergeant Maggiore Luigi Baron claims a bomber shot down.

 

If there is no total loss on the British side, the L2798 of No.223 (RAF) Squadron is damaged, while crews of No.14 (RAF) Squadron claim an Italian aircraft damaged (not confirmed by Italian documentation).

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24 July 1940

 

Following the landing of the first South African elements with the 1st SA Brigade, and because of fears about an imminent offensive against British Somaliland various transfer take place.

 

For example, Major Noel G. Niblock-Stuart was ordered to join Kenya from Egypt with the nine Gloster Gladiators of C Flight, No.1 (SAAF) Squadron. The A and B Flight under the command of Captain Schalk van Schalkwyk are retained in Khartoum for the defense of Sudan. In addition, No.94 (RAF) Squadron detaches six Gladiator Gladiators to the Berbera airfield.

 

Finally, an administrative reorganization of the ground forces takes place in Kenya with the creation of the 1st African Infantry Division (1st East African Brigade and 3rd Nigeria Brigade) and the 2nd African Infantry Division (2nd East African Brigade and 4th Gold Coast Brigade).
 

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26 July 1940

 

Northern Front

 

The No.203 (RAF) Squadron sends two Bristol Blenheim Mk IVFs, from Aden at 14h15, to attack Mille airfield in northern Ethiopia where three aircraft identified as Caproni Ca.133 are seen on the ground. In the ensuing attack, two were claimed damaged by the British.

 

In the early evening, Air Chief Marshal Arthur Longmore experienced a little fright when his Bristol Bombay, on the return from an RAF inspection tour in Sudan, was caught around 17h00 in a heavy cloud cover blocking the view of the surrounding relief. After going around in circles for around thirty minutes, the pilot decided to divert to Port Sudan as a precaution.

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27 July 1940

 

Northern Front

 

The RAF returns at around 08h00 on the Airfield of Mille with three Bristol Blenheim Mk I of No. 8 (RAF) Squadron, escorted by a Bristol Blenheim Mk IVF of No. 203 (RAF) Squadron.
The three Italian planes seen the day before were immediately attacked: one of them being claimed destroyed on ground and the other two damaged. In addition, aerial photographs confirm the identity of the aircraft: in this case Caproni Ca.133.

 

Without going into the details of French dissidence, from the colonies of North Africa and the Middle East, we can date the origins of the Escadrille d'Aden on 2 July 1940. Indeed, two Glenn-Martin 167F No. 82 (Adjudant Raymond Rolland and Capitaine Roger Ritoux-Lachaud) and No. 102 (Adjudant-Chef Yves Trecan, Capitaine Jacques Dodelier and Sergent-Chef Robert Cunibil) of the GB I/61 take off from Youks-les-Bains (Algeria) to rally Egypt. The arrival is eventful as the two bombers are welcomed by the AA, before being more happily by the British personnel. They sign, shortly after, an engagement with the RAF.

A first French formation is, thus, created on 8 July under the name of No.1 FBF (French Bomber Flight) or Ecadrille française of Aden with the two bombers under the orders of Capitaine Jacques Dodelier.

The two aircraft leave Heliopolis(Egypt), in the direction ofDjibouti to take there Colonel Edgard Larminat and Lieutnant de vaisseau Jean-Marie Sourisseau to support General Paul Legentilhomme. The detachment arrives the next day at noon, to Aden to be attached to No.8 (RAF) Squadron. The beginnings are, however, complicated and the Glenn-Martin 167F No. 82 loses its left tire on landing at Djibouti. The only solution is to recover the wheel from the other aircraft already in Aden (and therefore safe). The Glenn-Martin 167F No 102 seems, therefore, to be unavailable until at least 24 July when a flight is reported for "landing gear test".

 

It is difficult to determine the entry into action of Escadrille d’Aden. Thus Yves Morieult explain that the Glenn-Martin 167F “No. 82 begins his reconnaissance missions and attacking ground objectives with machine gun over Eritrea and Abyssinia during the period of unavailability of the second aircraft."

The first occurrence in the No.8 (RAF) Squadron ORB of a mission by the Glenn-Martin 167F n°102 (Flight Lieutenant Jacques Dodelier, Flying Officer Pierre Fenot de Maismont, Warrent Officer Yves Trecan and Flight Sergeant Emile Lobato de Faria ) is on 27 July 1940, between 08h00 and 12h12 to observe airfields of Dire Dawa, Shinile and Jijiga. Three bombers are reported on the last airfield, while an interception attempt is made from Dire Dawa.

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29 July 1940

 

Northern Front

 

No.223 (RAF) Squadron sends five Vickers Wellesley at 04h50 to bomb Asmara. However, the bad weather forces Pilot Officer Collier to divert on Massawa. Arrived above the secondary target, at 08h05, the bombers encounter a very strong anti-aircraft defense which damages one of the aircraft, and an energetic opposition from a pair of Fiat CR.42 of 412a Squadriglia CT (Tenente Mario Visintini and Sergente Maggiore Luigi Baron ?). Four Vickers Wellesley are quickly damaged, but manage to return to Summit. One of the gunners, Corporal Frederick M. Dunn, is immediately evacuated to the hospital where he unfortunately dies the next day following a head injury. In addition, following the clash, the K8524 will be removed, while the K7720 will be rendered unusable for some time since it will be necessary to wait until October to see the aircraft again.

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31 July 1940

 

The end of July sees various movements within the RAF. The A Flight of No.237 (Rhodesia) Squadron is transferred to Tumboni from Wajir, due to regular harassment by Italians. At the same time, No.45 (RAF) Squadron sends a reinforcements detachment to Sudan. This addition is, however, very modest, consisting only of five officers, twenty-five men, and six Bristol Blenheims.

 

Regia Aeronautica is also making several changes to prepare for the imminent offensive against British Somaliland. For this purpose, a Comando Tattico Aeronautico is created under the orders of General Renato Collalti. At the same time, six Caproni Ca.133 of 18a Squadriglia BT move on Dire Dawa where they are joined by nine Fiat CR.32 of 411a Squadriglia CT, while 10th Squadriglia BT arrives in Gura with Savoia- Marchetti SM.81, finally the 26bis Gruppo BT is dissolved for lack of aircrafts.

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1st August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

The first day of the month begins relatively early, when three Gloster Gladiators from K Flight: Pilot Officer Robert H. Chapman (L7619), Pilot Officer Percy O.V. Green (K7974) and Flying Officer Richard B. Whittington (K7986) take off from El-Gadarif at 08h10 to search for a Caproni Ca.133 reported in the area. The latter is quickly spotted by Pilot Officer Percy O.V. Green who, after a long fight (50 minutes ! ) and several attacks, manages to shoot down his opponent.

 

According to him

“I saw a Caproni 133 bomber slipping through the scattered cloud at about 900 m. I called the others on the R/T and set off in pursuit. My radio must have been faulty, which was not unusual, and they never heard me.

I was soon involved in the exciting business of trying to catch the slow moving bomber whose skilful pilot weaved in and out of cloud hoping to throw me off. I was determined to get him and was able to close in and fire some long bursts which I could see hitting the aircraft but not doing any significant damage, even when they hit the engines.

Deciding to close in and see what was happening, I drew alongside only to find that the gunner was very much alive and well and aiming at me with his machine-gun. I felt a ping on my rudder bar and a sharp pain in my left knee.

He had fired one shot and then the gun stopped which was extremely lucky for me. I broke away sharply and came in right up behind and let him have a long burst. He started to go down, out of control, and parachutes billowed as those of the crew still alive bailed out.

The Caproni came down in a heap in scrub country and I saw two of the crew land and get rid of their parachutes. There was nothing further I could do so I took a brief note of the features of the landscape so I could report their location and set off back to the polo field.

There were no real landmarks such as rivers or roads so navigation was largely a matter of timing and gut feel. Finding the polo field again was quite difficult because we took off in such a hurry that I took no note of the time and had no accurate idea of how long I had been airborne. However, I found it, did a bit of a beat up and landed. Nobody knew I had been in action and they were astounded to hear that I had shot down the Caproni 133.

The ground crew were ecstatic and soon at work patching the bullet hole and checking the rudder bar and cables for damage. Dickey was a bit annoyed that he and Hugh had missed out but I said that they should have kept a sharper look out and, in any case, I had given all the correct calls over the R/T.”

 

Four members of the Italian crew will finally be found, in the following days, of which one of the officers is reported as a Comanding Officer.

 

In the early afternoon, a second fight broke out, when the RAF decided to attack Shinile airfield with a formation of twelve Bristol Blenheim of No.8 and No.39 (RAF) Squadron escorted by two Bristol Blenheim Mk.IVF of No.203 (RAF) Squadron. Arrived above the objective, at 15h00, the British are confronted with a strong reaction of the AA and several Fiat CR.32 and Fiat CR.42. Capitano Corrado Ricci (410 Squadriglia CT) and Tenente Luciano Cacciavillani (413 Squadriglia CT) claims the destruction of L8406 (Sergeant J.C. Franks, Sergeant J.H. Thain, Leading Aircraftman A.T. Cumner-Price) of No.8 (RAF) Squadron.

 

According to Capitano Corrado Ricci :

“My mechanic finishes the last preparations, and I'm flying after a minute. I try to climb as fast as possible. I look around: nothing in sight. But something seems to come out of the sun ... Here they are: six dive aircrafts... seem to be heading for our secret aerodromes ! They fly over Dire Dawa, but they do not bomb the city, so they aim our secret airfields. They are about to miss me at the same altitude, as fast as race cars !

I attack the first section of three aircrafts, by the side, the other sections are still behind. At the moment of opening fire, I find myself on their backs: I shoot the leader, then his right winger. Both aircrafts leave a thin trail of smoke, but I'm not sure I touched them. One of the machine guns jams, but I can not reload at the risk of losing my aim. Bursts pass and I hear a crackle of machine guns behind me : I am also targeted. I emerge by making a large barrel, and then I see on my right, a little lower, the second patrol. I finish my maneuver and find myself exactly in the six hours of the left winger. I have time to reload my machine gun, which allows me to open fire, while they drop their bombs. The first patrol is already far ahead: the two planes, on which I fired, still smoke, though slightly. I am in a rage for not being able to prevent this bombing ! Who knows yet how many victims he will do ! I try to concentrate all my faculties to adjust my aim: it is the turn of the right winger, now. And the machine gun is still jamming ! I re-arm, but the three planes move away leaving a thin trail of white smoke, like the previous patrol. I resume my shot: suddenly, one of the aircraft seems to lose altitude, an illusion ? No, it really slows down, while the other two are moving away more and more. I see his turret turn in my direction and his gunner opens fire. I do the same, while the English pilot continues to do everything to prevent me from staying behind him. I shoot short bursts ... I have to reduce the engine so as not to hit it ... quickly shut down the engine ... a violent blow in the rudder to avoid a collision.

We are ten meters above the ground, the British pulls the shutters to land on the ground in a cloud of dust! A feeling of joy runs through me as I pass over Bristol Blenheim, my first victory in the Empire, lying recumbent between the Danakil termites. The three occupants jumped out of the apparatus: the one box and extends under the wing. I hope he is not seriously injured! The others make big signs of surrender. I head for the aerodrome to make the barrel of victory, which makes the mechanics jump! I land and I hear great news: no casualties and no damage to our secret airfields! The bombs exploded in the sand, which helped to reduce their breathing.”

 

The action is, however, not over as the Bristol Blenheim fall on three Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 returning from an attack on the port of Zeila. Two aircrafts of No.39 (RAF) Squadron : L8384 (Pilot Officer J.E.S. White) and L8612 (Sergeant Thomas Crehan) immediately went on the attack, claiming one of the adversaries destroyed, and another probably damaged.

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Very interesting. I knew nothing of this!

 

I would love if you could post a map with indications of which territories were possessed by whom. Know absolutely nothing about the geography in that corner of the world...

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Posted (edited)
On 4/28/2020 at 10:33 PM, Freycinet said:

Very interesting. I knew nothing of this!

 

I would love if you could post a map with indications of which territories were possessed by whom. Know absolutely nothing about the geography in that corner of the world...

 

Hello,

 

You can find a very good map (in English) here

https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/SouthAfrica/EAfrica/img/SAF-East-Africa-99.jpg

https://www.themaparchive.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/b9d24ee63e043d9dae72d8cfeefe8ff8/A/x/Ax00290.jpg

 

 

Chapter 3: The Conquest of British Somaliland

 

At the end of July, the Italians successfully completed the first stage of the defensive plan to safeguard the Empire. Indeed, the capture of the main forts on the borders allowed the control of the few roads and water points, whose possession is so strategic in a particularly arid and hostile environment. With security assured, the Italian command is now in a position to consider other actions, while being able to carry out troop movements.

 

A number of authors have expressed surprise at Italy's decision not to continue offensive in the Sudan, citing the mortal danger that a second front towards Egypt would have presented and the British inability to oppose it. This authors explain this failure by the quality of the intelligence services, which would have led Italians to believe that there were significant troops on the borders. Such a hypothesis can be dismissed. Certainly, British Somaliland is a territory of limited interest, but one that allows Italy to reduce its lines of defence. This aspect is crucial in East Africa, where poor transport infrastructure limits the mobility of troops and blocks the possibility of rapidly reinforcing one front for another. Thus, the capture of this territory finds all its logic in the Italian defensive strategy. Moreover, it must be said that an offensive towards Sudan is more fantasy than reality. Italian troops are adapted to two missions: colonial police and border defence. Under no circumstances, they have the necessary equipment for an operation requiring extreme mobility. Such an operation would have been a real nightmare in terms of logistics during the crossing of Sudan.

 

However, at the end of July, the Regia Aeronautica carried out several transfers in order to support troops on the ground as close to the front line as possible. Conversely, the RAF, due to the lack of airfield and protection, was not able to deploy its aircraft, except a few Gladiators, the others based in Aden could not intervene in the best conditions.


On the ground, the two belligerents were confronted with problems that were difficult to resolve. Although the Italians were able to line up 25 000 men under the command of General Guglielmo Nasi, only one road allowed access to the port of Berbera, requiring them to cross a region favouring the defender's position. Hence a relatively cautious attitude during the attack, with the Italian command betting that the British would not be able to have enough troops to block them durably.

 

It is true that British Somaliland has never been considered a priority in the face of a War against Italy, as it was considered difficult to defend. Djibouti (French Somaliland) was considered the starting point for any offensive towards Italian East Africa. However, the armistice made it necessary to reconsider the case, and reinforcements were sent to help the 600 men of the Somaliland Camel Corps under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur R. Chater. The latter had about 4 000 men made up of battalions from various regiments, without artillery and without any support vehicle. The Brigadier (promoted to give a better impression) decides, thus, to anchor his defence on the two narrow pass along the access road to Berbera : Hargeisa and Tug Argan. In the event of failure to hold these points, the evacuation of the troops is envisaged.

 

Regia Aeronautica is able to align 25 Fiat CR.42 and Fiat CR.32 (410 Squadriglia CT, 411 Squadriglia CT and 413 Squadriglia CT), 9 IMAM Ro 37bis (110 Squadriglia RT), 11 Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 (44bis Gruppo BT), 19 Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 (4bis Gruppo BT and 29bis Gruppo BT), 12 Caproni Ca.133 (27bis Gruppo BT).

 

Somaliland_Italian_invasion.png?resize=7

 

 

3 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

The Italian offensive begins when the first troops cross the border. Some fighting takes place between the advance guards and patrols of Somaliland Camel Corps in charge of monitoring the enemy advance.

 

The Regia Aeronautica makes a first attack against Berbera with three Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 of 4bis Gruppo BT. Nevertheless, on reaching the objective, No.94 (RAF) Squadron came into action. Flight Lieutenant Reid and Sergeant Hendy took off with Gloster Gladiator N5778 and L9047 and managed to damage one of the bombers. The latter, piloted by Capitano Marcello Parmeggiani, managed, however, to return to Jijiga airfield, but heavily damaged and with one crew member dead (Primo Aviere Filippo Romano).

 

 

According to Capitano Corrado Ricci (410a Squadriglia CT) :

 

“Capitano Parmeggiani takes off, with his Savoia-Marchetti SM.81, to bomb an English warship, which has been anchored for a few days, in the port of Berbera. Instead of dropping all his bombs at the same time, he prefers to do it one by one, while ignoring the furious reaction of the anti-aircraft defense. The problem is that after his first visit, the English are warned and make take off one of their fighters from the airfield near the city. He does not give up and, while this enemy approaches him, he continues to drop his bombs as during a training in peacetime.

After the third pass, a Gladiator Gladiator is at the same altitude. He is soon able to attack, but Parmeggiani continues to release his last bomb, still with the same calm, before returning home. On the horizon the clouds announce a storm, but they are still far away, and the English fighter does not let go his prey. He continues to attack, thanks to his four machine guns, lacerate the belly of poor Savoia-Marchetti SM.81. The gunner is quickly killed, while the mechanic who replaces him soon has his wrist broken by a bullet. He continues to maneuver the weapon with one hand, until the smell of gasoline that spurts the tanks calls him to a work of paramount importance: he must try to plug the leak ! He then dragged himself on the spot to try to plug the holes with rags that he reduced to shreds thanks to his teeth. Then, overcoming the physical pain, he activates the onboard pump to transfer the essence of one tank to another. It is only after having finished this desperate work, but so necessary for the survival of his companions that he collapses on the floor, already covered with the blood of the gunner ! Capitano Parmeggiani, although wounded during the first attack, continues to direct his aircraft to the nearest airfield, Jijiga. At the same time, he continues to encourage his crew while showing the example by his absolute calm. The plane is pierced on all sides, a long trail of oil and fuel stretches behind him, while debris falls, but it does not give way under the blows of the English fighter. In a last effort, the pilot finally manages to reach the cloud cover in order to throw in to maintain his aircraft, now protected.”

 

In Sudan, the RAF received a small reinforcement when Vickers Vincents of D Flight were brought together with six Gloster Gauntlets to form No.430 (Army Co-operation) Flight, but with very little operational activity.

 

Romano.jpg

Primo Aviere Filippo Romano. Source : http://www.gioiadelcolle.info/filippo-vito-romano/

 

 

Edited by 615sqn_Manfred

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Posted (edited)

4 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

On the ground, the main Italian column, under the orders of Generale Carlo De Simone managed to reach the first defensive position on the road to Berbera: Hargeisa. Violent clashes broke out against the Somaliland Camel Corps and elements of the Northern Rhodesia Regiment, but British forces began to withdraw in the evening to join Tug Argan's position.

 

To this end, the RAF requests No.94 (RAF) Squadron to detach two Gladiator Gladiators (with Flight Lieutenant Reid and Gordon S.K. Haywood, as well as Sergeant William H. Dunwoodie) on Laferug's forward airfield in an attempt to provide an air cover to the troops.

 

However, despite the fighting in British Somaliland, a number of significant events are still taking place in other areas. Thus, at 0745, a formation of ten Vickers Wellesley of No.14 and No.47 (RAF) Squadron took off to attack the submarine base of Massawa, in collaboration with three Bristol Blenheim of No.45 (RAF) Squadron.

After a first reconnaissance at dawn, by a Bristol Blenheim with on board Wing Commander Donald M.T. Macdonald, Vickers Wellesley must attract the defense to the west of the target to allow aircraft of No.45 (RAF) Squadron to sneak discreetly to attack the submarines at low altitude. The AA and the Italian fighters are indeed very active, and the No.14 (RAF) Squadron suffered several attacks by two Fiat CR.42, one of the bombers being badly damaged.

 

According to Sergeant Leslie A.J. Patey :

“A terrific bang as my aircraft  was hit.  The undercarriage lowered itself because the hydraulic system had been damaged and I immediately fell behind the other four aircraft.  At the same time I felt the pain in my left arm and saw blood appear on my white flying overalls just above the elbow.  The arm became numb and started to swell and I found I had difficulty using it, so it was a question of doing everything with my right hand.  I found I could cope quite well so I decided to get clear of the target and and set a course for base. 
About twenty miles north of Massawa two aircraft were sighted coming from astern and these turned out to be CR42 fighters.  They decided to attack almost together from the astern quarters, one on each side, which made it difficult for my gunner who could only engage one aircraft at a time. As my speed was so low it was no use trying to get away from them, so I decided to prevent the fighters from making any attacks from underneath by diving down to within a few feet of the sea and staying there.
During their later attacks, I could see splashes where bullets were entering the sea ahead of me.  Things were beginning to look bad because I could see my aircraft had received quite a number of hits in the vicinity of the fuel tanks, when suddenly the fighters broke off their attacks and flew off.”

 

 

The Vickers Wellesley L2676 manages to land, severely damaged, with his last drops of fuel, while Sergeant Leslie A. J. Patey collapses exhausted by these injuries. However, they will prove to be of no consequence and he will be able to return to service after a few days of rest.

In any case, the Bristol Blenheims claim several hits on the submarines moored at the port.

 

The mission is, this time, more eventful for the French crew (Flight Lieutenant Jacques Dodelier and Roger Ritoux-Lachaud, Warrent Officer Tves Trécan and Flight Sergeant Robert Cunibil) of Glenn-Martin 167F No.102. Once again, the flight is over the Northeast of Ethiopia (Jijiga, Harar and Daggahbur). Arrived above this last aerodrome, the crew made the decision to make several passes with the machine-gun and claiming a damaged twin-engine and three-engine planes. The French aircraft is hit on the wing, although without consequence.

Edited by 615sqn_Manfred

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Posted (edited)

5 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

 

In British Somaliland, the column under General Sisto Bertoldi is heading towards the eastern border without encountering any opposition. The border with Djibouti is quickly under control and the Italian troops enter the port of Zeila, before starting to move on the road towards Berbera. In the center, the troops of General Carlo De Simone finish cleaning the position of Hargeisa thanks to the support of some light armored vehicles. Nevertheless, the Italian command decides to take a short break in order to recognize the British positions.

 

As a result, Regia Aeronautica will launch a series of reconnaissance flights using IMAM Ro37bis from 110 Squadriglia RT, while Caproni Ca.133, Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 and Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 are sent to harass defensive positions, as well as the harboor of Berbera and Aden to disrupt communications. The Gloster Gladiators (including the N5778), based in Berbera and Laferug, take off several times to intercept the Italian bombers, but without success.

 

The RAF decided to intervene in the fighting with Bristol Blenheim of No.8 (RAF) Squadron based in Khormaksar. Nine aircrafts take off to shell enemy concentrations in Hargeisa between 06h25 and 18h20. However, during the last mission, the Bristol Blenheim L8375 (Pilot Officer Roy K. Felstead, Sergeant Aubrey D. Wright; Pilot Officer Tom M. Mitchell) is missing. He seems to have been shot down by the Sottotenente Vincenzo Forcheri, of 410a Squadriglia CT, who claims a Bristol Blenheim, west of Hargeisa.

Edited by 615sqn_Manfred

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6 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

 

Italian troops continue to advance cautiously towards Tug Argan. On the right flank, Generale Bertello's column advances towards the village of Oodweyne with the objective of accessing the road linking Burao to Berbera. However, the Italians were stopped by the 1/2 Punjab battalion. However, some of the Italian irregular troops managed to infiltrate the British forces and to reach Burao.
In the centre, the troops of Generale Carlo De Simone continued to clear the area around Hargeisa in order to prepare the advance towards Tug Argan.

 

Bristol Blenheim of No.8 (RAF) Squadron continue to attack Italian vehicles on Hargeisa. They are joined by those of No.39 (RAF) Squadron. In all, six sorties are carried out by both squadrons, but with no results.

 

In the early morning, around 09h30, Sottotenente Miroslav Komjanc (413 Squadriglia CT) claims an enemy bomber probably destroyed. This could be related with the mission, between 08h10 and 10h40 by L8503 and L8506 of No.8 (RAF) Squadron. In their reports, crews indicatea series of attacks by a Fiat CR.42. During the fight, the left tank of one of the aircraft is damaged. ORB does not specify the identity of the damaged aircraft, but it appears that if the L8503 leaves on mission the next day, the L8506 will have to wait until the 10 August...

Nevertheless, the L4910, L8385 and L8543 of the No.39 (RAF ) Squadron also reports a fight against two Italian fighters between 11h25 and 15h20, but British bombers managed to escape.

The RAF aircraft, taking off far from the front and operating without an escort, can hardly have any impact on the battle unlike the Regia Aeronautica which is able to have many planes in the immediate vicinity of the combat zone with a great freedom of movement.

 

After the bombardment on 4 August, two Bristol Blenheims (Flying Officer Gordon C.B. Woodroffe and Flight Sergeant William Beverley) of No.45 (RAF) Squadron return, in the afternoon, to the port of Massawa, where they managed to damaged the Torpedo boat Giovanni Acerbi causing the death of sixteen sailors, as well as twenty wounded. The ship was subsequently sunk to block the harbor before it was captured on 4 April 1941.

 

The Glenn-Martin 167F No. 102 (Flight Lieutenant Jacques Dodelier and Roger Ritoux-Lachaud, Flight Sergeant Raymond Rolland and Emile Lobato de Faria) makes a reconnaissance, from 07h40 to 11h40, deeply in the Ethiopian territory toward Dessie to observe the movements of troops on the ground. Several convoys are reported, while an extremely important AA prevents the aircraft from approaching the Dessie airfield safely.

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7 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

The day is relatively calm in British Somaliland, with each side seeking to strengthen their positions, while the RAF and Regia Aeronautica multiply reconnaissance flights and attacks on opposing positions.

 

For example, No. 8 (RAF) Squadron sends two Bristol Blenheims above Hargeisa, while five other aircraft of No. 11 and No.39 (RAF) Squadron, take off at 09h30 to bomb the airfield of Dire Dawa to try to disrupt the Regia Aeronautica.

 

Finally, in order to relieve the few Gladiator Gladiators, two Bristol Blenheim Mk IVF are sent on patrol above Berbera between 12h20 and 17h00. If no Italian aircraft is seen, both crews have a fright when, returning to Aden, they receive an intense reception by the AA of the Royal Navy.

 

After securing Hargeisa, the Italians decided to build an advanced airfield to accommodate some aircrafts, in the immediate vicinity of the area of operation.

 

 

Southern Front

 

On the South African side, several changes are taking place.

 

 

Indeed, Lieutenant Adrian Colenbrander is ordered to join Wajir with three Gloster Gladiator Mk II : n°5826, n°5851 (Second Lieutenant Pieter de Jager Fritz) and n°5856 (Second Lieutenant Basil Guest). These aircraft were initially deployed in Mombasa to protect the deployment of the 1st (S.A.) Infantry Brigade. However, the lack of air threat eventually convinced the commanders of the need to deploy them along the border.

 

Still to reinforce : A and B Flight of the No.1 (SAAF) Squadron, currently being converted to modern fighters in Egypt, begins its transfer to Kenya under the command of Captain Schalk van Schalkwyk with nine Gloster Gladiator Mk IIs piloted by Second Lieutenants Brian Boyle, Johan Coetzer, Andew Duncan, John Hewitson, Wellesley Morris, A. McKellar, Leonard le Clues Theron and Servaas de Kock Viljoen.

However, when they arrived in Khartoum, Air Commodore Leonard H. Slatter had the transfer halted and obtained the right to keep the two flights under the command of the No.203 (RAF) Group.

 

This decision marks the division between A and B Flight of the No.1 (SAAF) Squadron based in Sudan, and the C Flight to form the No.2 (SAAF) Squadron operating in Kenya.

 

165.jpg?resize=768,554&ssl=1

 

The No.1 (SAAF) Squadron detachment during its stay in Egypt (13 May 1940). From Left to Right: ? ; Lieutenant B. Ronald Dimmock (killed May 7th, 1941); Lieutenant Alfred Q. Masson (killed July 29, 1941); Major Schalk van Schalkwyk (killed November 7, 1940); Lieutenant John S.R. Wells; Lieutenant Servaas de Kock Viljoen; Lieutenant Wellesley H. Morris (killed November 24, 1940); Second Lieutenant Johan J. Coetzer (killed February 21, 1941); Lieutenant Basil Guest; Lieutenant Leonard the Clues Theron (captured August 6, 1942); Lieutenant Pieter de Jager Fritz (killed May 7, 1941); Lieutenant Terence B. Whelehan (killed on September 6, 1942); Lieutenant John L. Hewitson; Lieutenant Adrian M. Colenbrander (killed on November 13, 1942). Collection: SAAF Museum via Tinus le Roux.

 

166.jpg?w=583&ssl=1

Second Lieutenant Andrew Duncan (killed May 31, 1942); Lieutenant Adrian M. Colenbrander; Captain Brian J.L. Boyle. Collection: SAAF Museum via Tinus le Roux.

 

 

167.jpg?w=404&ssl=1

Lieutenant A.A.D. McKellar. His tour with No.1 (SAAF) Squadron was relatively short as he was repatriated and hospitalized on 13 July 1940. He then served on transport aircraft with No.28 and No.44 (SAAF) Squadron. Collection: SAAF Museum via Tinus le Roux.

 

192.jpg?w=678&ssl=1

Alignment of Gloster Gladiator of No.1 (SAAF) Squadron in Egypt (Abu Sueir) in June 1940 before departing for Kenya. The N5818 is noted in the foreground. The aircraft will be damaged on October 13th 1940 by Lieutenant L.R. Dudley at Port Reitz (Kenya). It will however be repaired. Returned to the RAF in June 1941, it was later transferred to No.112 (RAF) Squadron. Collection: SAAF Museum via Tinus le Roux.

 

193.jpg?w=651&ssl=1

Gloster Gladiator of the No.1 (SAAF) Squadron in Egypt (Abu Sueir) in June 1940 before leaving for Kenya. Collection: SAAF Museum via Tinus le Roux.

 

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8 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

As General Carlo De Simone orders the launch of the offensive towards Tug Argan, Regia Aeronautica decides to strike a blow to definitely gain air superiority over British Somaliland.

 

Thus, two Fiat CR.32 (Capitano Corrado Ricci and Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Tellurio) of 410a Squadriglia CT and two Fiat CR.42 (Tenente Luciano Cacciavillani and Sottotenente Miroslav Komjanc) of 413a Squadriglia CT are sent from Hargeisa against the airfield of Berbera. On the spot, two Gloster Gladiators of No.94 (RAF) Squadron are on alert, when the Italians fall on them. One of the pilots tries to take off immediately (N5778) before its destruction by the Capitano Corrado Ricci. The second (N5890) is attacked by Sottotenente Miroslav Komjanc and Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Telluri and reduced to ashes. The detachment based at Berbera is now virtually eliminated.

 

According to Capitano Corrado Ricci :

 

“I was the first to take off, with Tellurio at my wing; soon after started Cacciavillani and Komjanc, but the first skipped on ground, and then stood with tail up: what could have happened to him? Komjanc joined us. I checked my compass with a pocket light to keep the course. After half an hour of flight, the light is coming, but we could not yet see Berbera; five minutes more: nothing again... I again checked the chart; the course is right, but I have no reference point on the ground because it is so flat; I know that the wind is strong, and its direction change as the sun rise, but I can't evaluate it. I continue a little bit on chance. At the end, I decide to turn 90-degrees left; after a few minutes, a sparkling ahead makes me happy: it's the sea! I start a light dive, and I increase it as we are approaching, so we find us to fly grazing to the yellowish sand: it's the only way to come unseen! I can see the town, it's small, whitish; there's a ship in the harbour. Here is the airfield: two dark aircraft, side by side, stand out. They are Gladiators. My wingmen close at me, and this bothers me; slowly, I gain speed and I put them away from me. We are skimming the ground and some small hills cover us to enemy's sight; just a little bit... Here we are! With a steep climb, I gain 500 m height, then I dive on the fighter at left; while I'm aiming a man leaves it and falls headlong... what a long-legged he is! I shoot: a strong wind disturbs my shoot, my rounds are on ground, but some hit the target. I pull hard, quite skimming the wing of the enemy aircraft; I hear behind my shoulders that Tellurio and Komjanc are firing too. The anti-aircraft weapons awake; bluish tracer shells, shrapnel explosions; the ships fires like a volcano, the machine-guns in their nest at the airfield's edge are shooting: the air is hot! A big turn: the other Gloster is burning, mine is not, but with a second burst, I get it burning too. We can go! I take a snapshot with my old camera that I bring with me at every flight: I have to prove the results of the action. We go away, with a grazing flight. A sand column rise just in front of me; here another and other around: they are the British grenades. I climb to 200 m altitude: black burst around us, some other sand gush here and there, then all is over.”

 

Following these losses, the RAF decided to urgently recall, at Aden, the two aircrafts based in Laferug. From now, the British can only rely on the Bristol Blenheim Mk IVF of No.203 (RAF) Squadron, the only fighter aircraft with the necessary autonomy. No.203 (RAF) Squadron are not, therefore, inactive and the L9459 (Pilot Officer Kenneth B. Corbould) fight with three Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 above the harbour of Berbera, claiming one destroyed (the latter managed to return damaged, with a dead on board).

Edited by 615sqn_Manfred

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9 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

 

In order to finish the job, two Fiat CR.32 of  410a Squadriglia CT (Tenente Elio Pesce and Ubaldo Buzzi) and a Fiat CR.42 of 413a Squadriglia CT (Sottotenente Miroslav Komjanc) take off from Hargeisa toward Berbera at 06h00. Italian pilots can confirm that no more British aircraft are operating from the airfield. Otherwise, some vehicles are strafed, while a very strong AA is always reported.

 

Despite the loss of advanced airfield, the RAF manages to conduct seven flights over British Somaliland: four by No. 8 (RAF) Squadron, one by No. 11 (RAF) Squadron, and two by No. 203 (RAF) Squadron.

 

In Sudan, Vickers Wellesley are also very active. Five aircraft of No.14 (RAF) Squadron, with three Bristol Blenheim Mk I of No.45 (RAF) Squadron, took off from Port Sudan to bomb the Regia Aeronautica HQ in Massawa around 06h15. According to the crews, several hits were reported against buildings despite the intervention of two opposing fighters.

 

The attack by five other aircraft ofNo.47 (RAF) Squadron is more eventful. They were responsible for the destruction of an ammunition depot located in Gura. Although the bombing seemed to be successful again, this time the Regia Aeronautica's reaction was more energetic and several aircraft were damaged, including K7756 in which Sergeant George R. Pope was fatally wounded.

 

Southern Front

 

No.40 (SAAF) Squadron suffered a casualty when Hartbees n°856 is attacked during a reconnaissance mission by Italian aircraft. With the engine damaged, Captain A.R. Lemmer is forced to land his aircraft on Italian territory where he is captured. His machine gunner, Air Sergeant Sydney L. Lazarus tried to escape. However, he is killed in a short exchange of fire.

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10 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

 

On 10 August, the British command decided to change its strategy in Somaliland following a meeting between General Sir Archibald Wavel and Winston Churchill. From now, the conservation of the territory appears to be a necessity. It was therefore necessary to ensure the defence of Tug Argan while reinforcements were disembarking in order to later lead the offensive on Italian territory.
In order to implement this new strategy, Major General Alfred R. Godwin-Austen arrived in Berbera in the morning. The new reinforcement plan foresees the imminent arrival of an infantry battalion and an artillery battery from India, as well as an artillery regiment and an anti-tank battery from Egypt. In addition, the 4th Indian Infantry Division had to detach several machine guns. In practice, none of these units will be able to reach Somaliland.
Only a few reinforcements from Aden were able to disembark in the morning, namely the 2nd Black Watch which joined Tug Argan to relieve the 3/15 Punjab ; as well as three anti-aircraft guns for the defense of Berbera port.

 

In view of the impending offensive, the Italians continue to strengthen the Regia Aeronautica closer to the fighting zone. For example, one Fiat CR.42 and two additional Fiat CR.32s are deployed at Hargeisa, while five Savoia-Marchetti SM.79s of 44bis Gruppo BT are joining Dire Dawa.

 

At the same time, the RAF is not inactive as several Britsol Blenheim Mk I of No.8 (RAF) Squadron are sent to attack Italian troops in the immediate vicinity of Tug Argan. However, these operations are not easy. The first three Bristol Blenheim are attacked by a Fiat CR.42 that claims a victory, however the L8433 can return damaged to Khormaksar. In the afternoon, three more aircraft take off, under the command of Squadron Leader Dudley S. Radford, to bomb the village of Dhubbato. Unfortunately soon after two : L8503 (Flying Officer Aubrey G. Curtis, Sergeant Vernon H.F. Witt, Leading Aircraftman Harold J. McEleavy) and L8506 (Pilot Officer Albert J.G. Bisson, Sergeant Norman F. Wilson, Leading Aircraftman Donald J.R. Wilson ) collide, killing all crew members. In all, sixteen flights take place over British Somaliland.

 

At the same time, HMAS Hobart is ordered to launch its Supermarine Walrus to attack the Italian HQ in Zeila. The seaplane returns slightly damaged, but claims the destruction of several vehicles on the target. This attack was immediately reported by the British press as a real triumph, with the Times headline that "One of our seaplanes stops the Italian offensive". In practice the damage according to Italian documents was minimal. However the repeated bombardments by the Royal Navy and the deplorable state of the coastal road blocked General Passerone's column and prevented any pursuit towards Berbera.

 

The French Glenn-Martin 167F No. 102 (Flight Lieutnant Jacques Dodelier, Flight Sergeant Raymond Rolland, Flight Sergeant Emile Lobato de Faria, Sergeant Joseph Portalis) take off between 13h40 and 17h45 to attack italian troops near Tug Argan. The attack is a success and at least one artillery is claimed destroyed and a British observation post indicates serious damage to the Italian position.

 


 

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11 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

 

According to an officer of the 1st Battalion Northern Rhodesian Regiment :

 

“The road from Hargeisa to Berbera ran through the gap. It was the only way they could come. We Rhodesians, with four guns of the East African Light Artillery were holding four positions astride the gap. My company was on Knobbly Hill. They came at us in open order… about 2 000 of them. Our gunfire drove them back in disorder. We saw an Italian officer in a black jacket, white riding breeches and black top boots on a white charger, trying to reform them. A shell burst wiped him and his staff clear away.”

 

 

At dawn, Generale Carlo De Simone launched the assault on the Tug Argan position to break all resistance and open the road towards Berbera. Nevertheless the British troops, now under the command of Major General Alfred R. Godwin-Austen, had an advantageous situation. The one and only road crossed a gap flanked by several heights to block any adverse advance. However, this potentially favourable situation suffered of two weak points: very limited artillery and almost non-air support due to the lack of a nearby airfield, as opposed to the Regia Aeronautica based in the immediate vicinity of the front. The defence can be summarised as follows: the Rhodesians were positioned on the five hills (Black Hill, Knobbly Hill, Mill Hill, Observation Hill and Castle Hill) bordering the entrance to the gap with the only four guns available ; elements of the Punjab Regiment were in charge of protecting the left flank on the western slope of the Assa Mountains by holding the Punjab Ridge ; the 2nd Battalion Kings African Rifles had to cover the rear on Block Hill and Jerato Hill ; finally the 2nd Black Watch served as a reserve if required.

 

tug-argan.jpg?resize=768,1155&ssl=1

Bataille de Tug Argan. Source : I.S.O. PLAYFAIR (MAJ GEN), The Mediterranean and Middle East, The early successes againt Itay (to may 1941), Uckfield, The Naval & Military Press, coll. « History of the Second World War, United Kingdom military series », 2004, p. 175.

 

Regia Aeronautica actively supports troops and at least six Caproni Ca.133 of 27bis Gruppo BT and three Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 are sent to Punjab Ridge at 08h00, where several shelling and strafing are carried out, despite the loss of one of the Savoia-Marchetti SM.81.

 

Following these bombardments, which are considered a success, the Italian artillery opened fire in anticipation of the assault planned for around noon. Indeed, it is decided to bypass the main defences by attacking Punjab Ridge with the XV Colonial Brigata (Colonello Graziosi), while the XIV Colonial Brigata (Generale Tosti) has to fix the defences of Observation Hill and Knobbly Hill. Finally, in parallel, the II Colonial Brigata (Colonello Orlando Lorenzini) had to advance northwards to envelop the British position.
Violent clashes took place throughout the afternoon and evening allowing the partial capture of Punjab Ridge, while the hills were held by the Rhodesians after several cycles of attacks / counter-attacks.

 

At the same time, three Fiat CR.32 take off from Hargeisa towards Laferug where several vehicles and a fuel tank are claimed destroyed. They are followed, shortly thereafter, by a Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 of 44bis Gruppo BT which drops some bombs on the British HQ.

 

The RAF is also trying to influence the fate of the battle as six Bristol Blenheim of No.8 (RAF) Squadron intervened against the Italian artillery near Observation Hill, but without success.

 

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12 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

Following the partial failures of the previous day, the XIV Brigata coloniale (Generale Tosti) resumed the assault on the positions held by the Rhodesians (Black Hill, Knobbly Hill, and Mill Hill). Here again, the Rhodesians succeeded in holding their opponent, conceding only the loss of Mill Hill in the evening. However, before leaving, the soldiers are forced to sabotage the two guns deployed on the spot. The situation was aggravated by the fact that the two others on Knobbly Hill had only seven shells left.
At the same time, the II Brigata coloniale, under Colonello Orlando Lorenzini, continued to bypass the British defence from the north. However, the terrain conditions greatly slowed the advance.

 

As in the previous day, Regia Aeronautica actively supports the operations and at least six Caproni Ca.133s of 27bis Gruppo BT are reported above Laferug. Unfortunately again the lack of available archives does not allow to know more.

 

Now the British are no longer able to isolate the battlefield unlike the Italians.

 

At dawn, two Bristol Blenheim of No.11 and No.39 (RAF) Squadron take off at 05h00 to attack artillery positions. Above the objective, the crews are confronted with a high concentration of shots coming from the ground, but especially with three Fiat CR.42 (including Tenente Luciano Cacciavillani and Sergente Maggiore Gaetano Volpe). Both aircraft are heavily damaged while trying to flee, one being forced to land at Berbera (L8387).

 

Shortly thereafter, at 07h30, three more aircraft were sent by No.39 (RAF) Squadron. Here again, the British are intercepted by the Italian. The Fiat CR.32 of Sottotenente Alberto Veronese (410 Squadriglia CT) immediately attacks the leader of the formation, but his attack is interrupted when Flight Sergeant Bertram J. Thomas, in command of the L8402, decides to intervene. Making a face-to-face, he manages to damage his opponent, but at the same time his Blenheim takes many shots killing his observer, Sergeant Geoffrey M. Hogan. He is himself badly wounded in the left shoulder, but nevertheless manages to return to Berbera. The Distinguished Flying Medal will be awarded shortly thereafter.

 

The day is, however, not over as the Bristol Blenheim Mk IVF L9173 of No.203 (RAF) Squadron, in charge of providing Berbera's air cover, is damaged and its crew injured during an attempt to intercept three Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 above the harbour.

 

 

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13 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

The Rhodesians continue to resist all day, however, the situation worsen in the night when the Italians begin to infiltrate from the southern flank and the Assa mountains. A column of the 2d Battalion Black Watch in charge of supplying the advanced positions, is ambushed.

 

To support this bypass attempt, several Caproni Ca.133s of 27bis Gruppo BT are bombarding Jerato Pass at regular intervals, while Fiat CR.32s are being sent strafing the Berbera airfield to prevent the recovery of two Bristol Blenheims that landing there he day before.

 

In Aden, the RAF can only send three No.8 (RAF) Squadron aircraft to attack Jijiga airfield in order to try to stop the action of the Regia Aeronautica, but without results. In a last desperate effort, No.223 (RAF) Squadron and his eleven Vickers Wellesley are ordered to join Aden from Sudan.

 

Southern Front

 

Note that on the southern front, Christopher Shores mentions the loss of a Fairey Battle of No.11 (SAAF) Squadron, when Captain Johan L.V. de Wet crashed near Lokitaung (northwestern Kenya). This event however poses a real problem. Although a Fairey Battle is correctly reported lost in the SAAF casualty reports for August 1940, the exact date and identity is not known. Furthermore, the War Diary of No.11 (SAAF) Squadron shows absolutely nothing for that day, only the simple mention of "nill" for the day of 13 August 1940. The same is true of the SAAF command in Kenya. Moreover, the same documents as well as the various South African works consider that the first mission of No.11 (SAAF) Squadron was carried out on 19 August.

 

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14 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

If attacks against the various Rhodesian positions still fail, the situation begins to deteriorate very seriously for the British. The Italians continue, indeed, to infiltrate and threatening Tug Argan of encirclement. At the same time, on the coast, the column of General Sisto Bertoldi managed to capture the port of Zeila, despite the bombing of the Royal Navy and to threaten Berbera from the west. Considering the hopeless situation, Major General Alfred R. Godwin-Austen sends a telegram to General Henry M. Wilson informing him that the only alternative would be an evacuation that can saving about 70% of the force.  Although Berbera is indefensible, he specifies that he and his troops are ready to fight.

 

Unsurprisingly, the Regia Aeronautica is active, either on the coast where Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 of 44bis Gruppo BT bombard the British ships off Bulhar or above Tug Argan where Caproni Ca.133, Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 and Fiat CR.32 are active.

 

The RAF, meanwhile, waiting for the Vickers Wellesley to intervene in force. However, during the transfer, the squadron loses the Squadron Leader, J.C. Larking, when one engine of his aircraft catches fire, forcing him to a crash-landing near Aden. If he is quickly recovered, after five hours of walking, this incident has the effect of delaying the entry into action of No.223 (RAF) Squadron, whose presence is however strongly needed.

 

It should be noted that Sergeant Maggiore Luigi Baron (410 Squadriglia CT) is reported to have claimed responsibility for the collaborative destruction of a Wellesley over the Island of Harmil. Nevertheless, it must be noted that this victory does not correspond to any RAF losses. The only possibility could correspond to the case of Squadron Leader J.C. Larking. However, the loss report does not mention any presence of an enemy fighter and clearly attributes to a technical incident, and the distance between the place of claim (Harmil Island, off Massawa) and that of loss (Perim Island between Djibouti and the coast of present-day Yemen) makes it difficult to establish a link between the two. During a patrol over the convoy, two aircraft of No.14 (RAF) Squadron reported the discovery of Italian airfield in the Harmil - Dahlak sector, but there without any confrontation with the Italian fighters. Therefore, Håkan Gustavsson's hypothesis of a date error seems very probable.

 

 

Southern Front

 

Three Caproni Ca.133s are sent to Wajir around 12:00. They were quickly spotted and three of the new Gloster Gladiator Mk I of No.2 (SAAF) Squdron took off on alert: Lieutenant Adrian M. Colenbrander, Pieter de Jager Fritz and Basil Guest (N5856). They succeed in intercepting enemy bombers. Nevertheless, the Italians were able to escape without consequence.

 

According to Lieutenant Adrian M. Colenbrander:

 

 

“I have the honour to report that at about 12h00, three Caproni Ca.133 came over in fairly close vic. We got about four minutes warning and two of us intercepted them about two miles from the aerodrome. The third Gloster Gladiator being slightly in rear.

Second Lieutenant Guest and I did a No.2 attack but unfortunately the Caproni Ca.133 came round the wrong side of a cloud. As we came round the one side of the cloud, they passed round the other. I winged over on the No.3, doing a quarter attack and getting in a good long burst. I passed between No.3 and No.1, pulling up in front of them and going into the cloud ready for another attack. Both Second Lieutenant Guest and Fritz got in long bursts in quarter attacks but do not know what damage was done. Each one of us got in 300 rounds. Second Lieutenant Guest has three scratshes on his bottom main plane and these appear to be bullet marks, otherwise the Gladiator are untouched.

All three of us had absolutely no idea where we were firing but feel sure we must have hit something. The people on the ground reckon very little fire was returned. The enemy aircraft jettisoned all their bombs about a mile from the aerodrome imediately after our first attack. They turned imediately after our first attack and flew below the clouds, one lacking slightly behind. All three of us lost them and failed to pick them up again. The camouflage seemed to be identical to that on our cars : dark green and sickly yellow colour. I did not notice any markings but definitely recognised them to be Caproni Ca.133.

Today we had a fair warning and even then only two of us were more or less in formation. At the moment I am afraid it is every man for himself until they turn and run. After today’s effort the ground personnel are going to put down ground strips in the direction the enemy aircraft had gone. This will give us some indication where to fly. I feel sure that in their next raid, some aircraft will fail to return.”

 

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15 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

Following the telegram of the day before, General Henry M. Wilson decided to authorize the evacuation of British Somaliland from Berbera. The initial plan is to stay in Tug Argan for as long as possible, before evacuate the remaining civilians in the first place and the troops between three and four nights. Nevertheless, the situation changes radically, at the end of the afternoon, when after a new assault the defenses at Observation Hill crack leading the Rhodesians to evacuate the position to escape capture. From then, orders were given to evacuate Black Hill, Knobbly Hill and Castle Hill and retire to Berbera, while elements of the Black Watch and Kings African Riffles are responsible for delaying the Italian advance.

 

Due to the first withdrawal movements, Regia Aeronutica operates mainly on the rear of Tug Argan by attacking vehicle concentrations in Laferug and Berbera with several Caproni Ca.133, Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 and Savoia-Marchetti SM. 81.

 

No.223 (RAF) Squadron comes into action, from Aden, when seven Vickers Wellesley are sent between 06h15 and 12h20 on Dessie with two objectives: to make a low passage above the city to impress the local population and demonstrate British power against the Italian colonizer and to bomb the airfield. If the attack proves to be a failure due to a lack of visibility, one can wonder about the interest of a "propaganda operation" with probably negligible results at the very moment when the British forces are suffering from an absence of their aircrafts over Tug Argan.

 

No.8 (RAF) Squadron is very activity with no less than seven flights, again almost all is devoted to attacks on airfields in western Eritrea and northern Ethiopia without great results.

 

No.11 and No.39 (RAF) Squadron fly mainly over the coast west of Berbera to support the Royal Navy trying to block the Italian between Darboruk and Bulhar with five sorties during which several Italian fighters are seen.

 

 

Southern Front

 

The day before, a Vickers Valentia of No. 50 (SAAF) Squadron landed on one of the advanced airfields of Kenya to deliver various materials. During the discussions, his pilot: Lieutenant Charles S. Kearey and one of his passengers, Lieutenant Oscar B. Coetzee, learn about the existence of an Italian fort in Todenyang and jokingly propose to throw a bomb. Hearing the conversation, an officer of the S.A. Engineering Corps, Lieutenant Joseph G. Lentzner, proposes to make a bomb for this purpose.

 

According to Charles S. Kearey:

 

 

“Lentzner crimped the detonators into the dynamite with his teeth, removed the door of the Valentia and stood the drum in the aperture. We put down mattresses to protect the bombardiers on the run-up to the target and took off in the dark, heading east for Lake Rudolph. After circling for about twenty minutes until it grew light I told Lentzner to stand by. I was starting my run-up right down on the treetops and opened the Valentia fullout. Straight at the fort and about 60-seconds away I shouted to Lentzner to light the 60-second fuse.

In dawn light the towers of the fort twinkled with gunfire. Lieutenant Oscar Coetzee, along for the ride, was hit in the foot. Blood ran fown from a gash from the splintering instrument panel. We were below the fort walls. As we came in with the fuse burning, I pulled the Valentia up and over the courtyard at about a hundred feet. It was packed with sleeping soldiers. Lentzner and his helpers yelled they couldn’t get the drum out so I threw her on her side and out it tumbled. The blast lifted us with a tremendous jolt. I looked back to see a column of back smoke.”

 

This sortie was not authorized, so everyone agrees to remain silent and Lieutenant Oscar B. Coetzee explains on his return hurt himself by walking on a bottle of beer. However, a few days later, the Italian radio tells the heroic defense led by a garrison at the borders against a bombing of the RAF. Upon reading the information, Colonel Hector Daniel summons Coetzee to find out more about his mysterious wound. After an interrogation, the latter ends up telling everything and a commission of inquiry is immediately set up, the latter deciding to send Lieutenant Oscar B. Coetzee to No.2 (SAAF) Squadron, while Lieutenant Charles S Kearey is posted to No.12 (SAAF) Squadron. At the same time, however, the various Squadrons are instructed to strongly discourage any personal initiative to use aircraft outside their normal use, under threat of immediate sanctions.

 

163.jpg?resize=768,444&ssl=1

Vickers Valentia du No.50 (SAAF) Squadron piloté par le Lieutnant Charles S. Kearey. Rien ne permet d’affirmer qu’il s’agit de l’appareil utilisé durant le « raid » du 15 août 1940. Collection : Derek Kershaw via Tinus le Roux.

 

 

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16 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

If the situation seemed close to disaster, the evening before, Generale Carlo De Simone's decision to suspend the pursuit temporarily allowed the British to organise the evacuation. It is true that the confirmation of this fact by the Regia Aeronautica may have prompted the Italians to limit unnecessary losses and confrontations for a territory whose conquest was only a matter of days.

 

Italian aircraft are mainly employed over Berbera to disrupt maritime evacuation. It is, therefore, no coincidence that the main events of the day take place in this sector. Thus, two Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 and one Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 are damaged by the anti-aircraft defence over the port.

 

The British decided to bomb the advanced airfield of Hargeisa with five Vickers Wellesley of No.223 (RAF) Squadron and three Bristol Blenheims of No.8 (RAF) Squadron. However, the weather deteriorated rapidly preventing the attack. The crews diverted to the secondary objective: Jijiga, but there again the weather conditions interfered, finally forcing the bombers to drop their bombs on the surroundings of Zeila.

 

The French of the Escadrille d'Aden claims a victory. Due to lack of available aircraft, the RAF decided to detach the two Glenn-Martin 167Fs to No.203 (RAF) Squadron to ensure the protection of the ships.

During one of the flights, around 13:30, the crew of Flight Lieutenant Roger Ritoux-Lachaud saw three Savoia-Marchetti SM.79s of 44bis Gruppo BT that are immediately engaged. One of them is claimed destroyed, but victory will not be confirmed.

 

According to Flight Sergeant Robert Cunibil :

 

« [Trécan] attacked him and shot him with 240 rounds of ammunition. As he had fired from very close range, he dived to avoid the Caproni, almost vertical, and Portalis, believing that the Glenn had been hit - he had only taken a few bullets which did not cause any damage - jumped out by parachute. He fell near an English unit that was retreating to Aden and was back a few days later. »  

 

The 44bis Gruppo BT lost one aircraft: that of the Sottotenente Luigi Conti exploded shortly after the fight according.

 

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17 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

The Italians begin their advance towards Berbera. They are however quickly stopped by the Black Watch, which throughout the day succeed in repelling the enemy, not hesitating to lead several charged with the bayonet. Nevertheless, Major General Alfred R. Godwin-Austen accelerated the evacuation during the day, before ordering the Black Watch to withdraw from their positions at night to retreat to the port.

 

Due to the immediate evacuation of British Somaliland, Regia Aeronautica is starting to make some transfers. Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 of 4bis Gruppo BT leaves Dire Dawa for Shashamane in southern Ethiopia, while Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 of 44bis Gruppo BT are sent to Addis Ababa.

 

No.11 and No.39 (RAF) Squadron can only line up a maximum of five aircrafts. Nevertheless in a final effort, five Bristol Blenheims are sent to Hargeisa, while seven others attack various vehicles and troops on the south and west roads leading to Berbera.

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18 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

The British evacuation, from Berbera, ends successfully when the rearguard formed by the Black Watch embarks aboard the last ships. Italians, always cautious, prefer to wait for the next day to enter the city, to conclude the conquest of British Somaliland. The fighting has cost about 38 dead, 102 wounded and 120 missing, mainly members of the Northern Rhodesian Regiment captured during the Tug Argan retreat. For the Italians, the losses are slightly higher : 465 killed, 1 530 wounded and 34 missing. Note that it would be necessary, also, to add the irregular troops employed, whose figures are not known with precision, some sources speaking of 2 000 on the Italian sides and 1 000 opposite.

 

The Regia Aeronautica continues to recall its units, however some Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 of 44bis Gruppo BT return to Berbera for an armed reconnaissance, along with Fiat CR.42. In the early afternoon, the Italians attack two Bristol Blenheim of No.8 (RAF) Squadron, above the ships, but without consequences.

 

The RAF is embarking on a last stand by engaging a maximum of aircraft. At dawn (05h35), three Bristol Blenheim of No.8 (RAF) Squadron take off from Aden to bombard enemy troop concentrations towards Laferug. However, above the objective, they are immediately intercepted by two Fiat CR.32 of 410a Squadriglia CT (Sottotenente Alberto Veronese and Sergente Maggiore Gaetano Volpe) and the L1479 is shot down in flame. If all three crew members can jump, only one of them Sergeant Albert T. Gay will survive, the other two: Leading Aircraftman Ernest C. Clarke and Matthew E. Porter will die of their injuries. Three other aircraft of the squadron will also meet with the Italian fighters in the afternoon, but this time without consequence.

 

Shortly after, at 05h40, five Vickers Wellesley of No.223 (RAF) Squadron took off, under the command of Flight Lieutenant Jack F. Roulston, from the temporary airfield of Perim Island toward the Airfield of Addis Ababa. Despite the distance, and the very poor weather conditions, the aircraft can bomb at 09h00 with some success. In addition to material damage, four Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 are claimed damaged, two of them seriously. Indeed, the losses are relatively heavy with one Savoia-Marchetti SM.79, one Savoia-Marchetti SM.75 and three Caproni Ca.133 destroyed, while one Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 and one Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 are heavily damaged. The attack takes the Italians by surprise and only a Fiat CR.42 manages to intercept the enemy formation. He made several passes, succeeding to damage at least two aircrafts (L2668 and L2683), but the bombers could escape in the cloud and return.

 

During the battle for British Somaliland, the RAF made 184 sorties and dropped 60 tons of bombs, losing seven aircraft (five Bristol Blenheim Mk I, two Gloster Gladiators), eleven damaged (eight Bristol Blenheim Mk I, two Bristol Blenheim Mk IVF and a Vickers Wellesley), causing the death of eleven men for four claimed victories (two Savoia-Marchetti SM.79, a Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 and a Fiat CR.32). The Regia Aeronautica reportedly lost, at least, three planes (one Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 and two Savoia-Marchetti SM.81), eight damaged (two Savoia-Marchetti SM.79, three Savoia-Marchetti SM.81, two Fiat CR.32 and a Fiat CR.42), causing the death of ten men, for twelve claims (six Bristol Blenheim and six Gloster Gladiator). However, these are only hypotheses for the Italian side because of the lack of available archives.

 

31.jpg?resize=768,627&ssl=1

 

Image

 

Photographs of Addis Ababa aerodrome taken during the bombardment on 18 August 1940 by No.223 (RAF) Squadron aircraft. On the first one, the presence of the various Italian bombers can be seen. Collection: Imperial War Museum

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20 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

Despite the difficult struggles of the previous days, the Aden-based units remain active. Five Vickers Wellesley of No.223 (RAF) Squadron return to Dessie airfield between 08h00 and 13h30. Several buildings are claimed to be damaged despite poor weather conditions.[1]

 

They are followed by five Bristol Blenheim Mk I of No.11 and 39 (RAF) Squadron (one and four) on Dire Dawa between 09h00 and 12h35. If the attack, against the facilities of Ala Littorria, is a success with a Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 and a Fiat CR.32 claimed damaged, the bombers are intercepted by two Fiat CR.42 of the 413 Squadriglia CT . Two victories are then claimed by Capitano Corrado Santoro. The Bristol Blenheim Mk I L8474 of No.39 (RAF) Squadron (Pilot Officer Paul E.O. Jago[2]Sergeant John A. Wilson-Law[3]Coporal John H. Wintle[4]) crashes into flames, killing his crew. In addition, No.11 (RAF) Squadron’L8535[5] (Pilot Officer William D. Rowbotham, Sergeant Jones and Young) is forced into a forced landing in Aden. The Italian fighter however is also slightly damaged.[6]

 

corradosantoro_20aout40_aoi.jpg?resize=640%2C389&ssl=1

Capitano Corrado Santoro (413 Squadriglia CT), 20 août 1940. Collection : Håkan Gustavsson – Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War

 

In Sudan, operations are slowed down by bad weather. One Gloster Gauntlet and three Vincent Vickers of No.430 (RAF) Flight were damaged by a powerful gust of wind.[7]

 

At the same time, No.47 (RAF) Squadron sends three Vickers Wellesley to Barentu. The very low cloud cover prevents the bombers from locating the target and they are forced to turn back on the Kassala fort with no probable results.[8]

 

Finally, the Escadrille d'Aden makes a new reconnaissance over Somaliland with the Glenn Marin 167-F No. 82 (Flight Lieutenant Flight Roger Ritoux-Lachand, Flying Officer Pierre Fenot de Maismont, Flight Sergeant Raymond Rolland and Emile Lobato de Faria). Several vehicles are spotted on the roads, as well as a aircraft (IMAM Ro.37bis or fighter) on the ground of Hargeisa.[9]

 

 

Southern Front

 

The day is relatively calm. No.2 (SAAF) Squadron receives six new Hawker Fury. A HartbeesNo. 864 (Lieutenant Gideon J. de Greef[10]Air Sergeant Mornie A. du Plessis[11]) is nevertheless lost during a reconnaissance mission. Despite intense research, they will never be found.[12]

 

 

20aout40_aoi.jpg?fit=1024%2C726&ssl=1

 

 

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[1] « 20 august 1940 », 223 Squadron RAF : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541), Kew – TNA, AIR 27 / 1374. C. Shores et C. Ricci, Dust Clouds in the Middle East, 2e éd., London, Grub Street, 2010, p. 55 ; J. Sutherland et D. Canwell, Air War East Africa, the RAF versus the Italian Air Force, Barnsley, Pen & Sword Military, 2009, p. 64.

[2] « Casualty details : Jago, Paul Edwin Osborne », Commonwealth War Graves Commission : http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2273310/JAGO,%20PAUL%20EDWIN%20OSBORNE

[3] « Casualty details :  Wilson-Law, John Astil », Commonwealth War Graves Commission : http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2273352/WILSON-LAW,%20JOHN%20ASTIL

[4] « Casualty details : Wintle,John Herbert », Commonwealth War Graves Commission ; http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2273353/WINTLE,%20JOHN%20HERBERT

[5] The damage seems important, and the aircraft no longer appears in the Squadron ORB.

[6] « 20 august 1940 » 11 Squadron RAF : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541), Kew – TNA, AIR 27 / 162 ; « 20 august 1940 » 39 Squadron RAF : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541), Kew – TNA, AIR 27 / 407 ; C. Shores et C. Ricci, Dust Clouds in the Middle East, op. cit., p. 55 à 56 ;  J. Sutherland et D. Canwell, Air War East Africa, the RAF versus the Italian Air Force, op. cit., p. 64 ; Håkan Gustavsson, « Generale di Divisione Corrado Santoro », Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War : http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/italy_santoro.htm

[7] C. Shores et C. Ricci, Dust Clouds in the Middle East, op. cit., p. 56.

[8] « 20 august 1940 » 47 Squadron RAF : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541), Kew – TNA, AIR 27 / 463.

[9] « 20 august 1940 » 8 Squadron RAF : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541), Kew – TNA, AIR 27 / 114.

[10] « Casualty details : De Greef, Gideon Johannes », Commonwealth War Graves Commission : http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1536436/DE%20GREEF,%20GIDEON%20JOHANNES

[11] « Casualty details : Du Plessis, Mornie André », Commonwealth War Graves Commission : http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1536524/DU%20PLESSIS,%20MORNIE%20ANDRE

[12] « 20 august 1940 » 40 Squadron SAAF, Repport on recce sorties, juillet – decembre 1940, Kew – TNA, AIR 54 / 5 ; « 20 august 1940 » Narrative northern operations SAAF, August 1940, Kew – TNA, AIR 54 / 8.

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21 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

The day is very quiet on the northern front. No.223 (RAF) Squadron is ordered to prepare for its return to Sudan the next day[1], while No.203 (RAF) Squadron undergoes a change of command with the arrival of Squadron Leader A.L.H. Solano.[2]

 

 

Southern Front

 

 

This end of August is especially marked by what the South Africans have described as Bomber Offensive a vast campaign of bombing (to be relativised by the limited aircrafts available) aimed at Italian airfields in Somalia and southern Ethiopia in order to eliminate the Regia Aeronautica. Thus, from 19 August to 30 November, the SAAF performs about 200 bombing sorties and 800 reconnaissance sorties. It begins on 19 August when SAAF launches sixteen aircrafts of No.11 and No.12 (SAAF) Squadron on four different targets.

 

The second series begins on 21 August, when nine Fairey Battle Mk I of No.11 (SAAF) Squadron take off for Mogadishu in three formations of three aircraft at half an hour apart.

 

fairey_battle_21aout40.jpg?resize=1920,5

Fairey Battle of No.11 (SAAF) Squadron at Archers Post. Collection : SAAF Museum, via Tinus le Roux

 

If the former are forced to cancel the attack due to heavy cloud cover, the other six are able to drop twenty-four 250-lb bombs. The bombardment is a success and the crews claim three Caproni Ca.133 destroyed, six heavily damaged, as well as various material damage on the airfield (five Caproni Ca.133 would indeed have been destroyed). The air defense is however intense and at least two aircraft are damaged: No. 905 and 913 (Lieutenant Cornelius A. van Vliet and W.J.B. Chapman being wounded[3]).[4]

 

cornelius_vanvliet_21aout40.jpg?w=388&ss

Lieutnant Cornelius Arthur van Vliet – No.11 (SAAF) Squadron. The photo is taken later in North Africa, while serving as a fighter pilot in No.1 (SAAF) Squadron. Collection: Tinus le Roux –SAAF WW2 Heritage

 

 

No.40 (SAAF) Squadron sends three Hartbees to attack Italian positions, on the road to Moyale, where forty 20-lb bombs are dropped.[5]

 

 

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[1] « 21 august 1940 » 223 Squadron RAF : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541), op. cit.

[2] « 21 august 1940 » 203 Squadron RAF : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541), Kew – TNA, AIR 27 / 1198.

[3]  A noter que les différentes sources diffèrent s’agissant de l’appareil dans lequel le Lieutnant W.J.B. Chapman était présent. Ainsi, selon, J.-A. Brown, A gathering of eagles, the campaigns of the South African Air Force in Italian East Afica (1940 – 1941), Cape Town, Purnell, coll. « South African Forces World War II », 1970, p. 60 ; P.D. Tidy, « Major Cornelius Arthur van Vliet, DFC », in Military History Journal, vol. 2, no 6, Décembre 1976, http://samilitaryhistory.org/vol026dt.html,  une fois blessé, celui-ci aurait confié l’appareil photo à l’Air Sergeant Wright. Or, selon l’operation order n°14, l’Air Sergeant Wright était dans un autre appareil, 11 Bomber Squadron SAAF, War Dirary, Kew – TNA, AIR 54 / 3.

[4] « 21 august 1940 » 11 Bomber Squadron SAAF, War Dirary, op. cit.; « 21 august 1940 » Narrative northern operations SAAF, August 1940, op. cit.; J.-A. Brown, A gathering of eagles, the campaigns of the South African Air Force in Italian East Afica (1940 – 1941), op. cit., p. 59 à 60; C. Shores et C. Ricci, Dust Clouds in the Middle East, op. cit., p. 56; J. Sutherland et D. Canwell, Air War East Africa, the RAF versus the Italian Air Force, op. cit., p. 64; P.D. Tidy, « Major Cornelius Arthur van Vliet, DFC », op. cit.

[5] « 21 august 1940 » 40 Squadron SAAF, Repport on recce sorties, juillet – decembre 1940, op. cit.; « 21 august 1940 » Narrative northern operations SAAF, August 1940, op. cit.

 

aoi_21aout40.jpg?w=1066&ssl=1

 

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22 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

Five Vickers Wellesley of No.14 (RAF) Squadron take off at 05h00 to attack ships reported on Dahlak Bay. However, the bad weather forces the aircraft to divert on the island of Harmil where the formation descends to 300 meters of altitude in order to make the bombardment. If the attack causes only reduced damage, the air defense is relatively intense as Sergeant Albert H.W. Matthews[1] is killed in his gunner position. An aircraft is also damaged and must divert to Aquiq to make the necessary repairs[2].

 

11-1.jpg?resize=768,553&ssl=1

Vickers Wellesley (left) and Fairey Gordon (right) of N° 14 (RAF) Squadron at Amman (Jordanie), 1938- 1939. Source : No.14 (RAF) Squadron Association

 

The No.223 (RAF) Squadron, split into two Flight (Squadron Leader J.C. Larking and Flight Lieutenant Jack F. Roulston), returns to its base in Summit after a flight of approximately 6 hours[3].

 

 

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[1] « Casualty details : Matthews, Albert Harry Walter », Commonwealth War Graves Commission : http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2273878/MATTHEWS,%20ALBERT%20HARRY%20WALTER

[2] « 22 august 1940 » 14 Squadron RAF : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541), Kew – TNA, AIR 27 / 192 ; M. Napier, Winged Crusaders: The Exploits of 14 Squadron RFC & RAF 1915-45, Barnsley, Pen & Sword, 2013.

[3] « 22 august 1940 » 223 Squadron RAF : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541).

 

22aout40_aoi.jpg?w=1066&ssl=1

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23 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

 

On this relatively calm day, several units are experiencing various changes. No.11 (RAF) Squadron sees the arrival of two pilots: Pilot Officer Moore and Sergeant Thornton as well as two Bristol Blenheim Mk I (L1434 and L4910) previously belonging to No.39 (RAF) Squadron. Flight Lieutnant Stevens is promoted to Squadron Leader.

 

L1434_23aout40_aoi.jpg?resize=768,566&ss

The Bristol Blenheim Mk I L1434. The aircraft is in service with No.211 (RAF) Squadron on the Paramythia Airfield (Greece) in February – April 1941. The aircraft will be lost in air combat on 13 April 1941, over Albania. Source : Imperial War Museum

 

 

Southern Front

 

A Caproni Ca.133 is reported over Garissa, between 04h15 and 05h30, where some bombs are dropped without consequence [1].

 

Three IMAM Ro.37bis from the 110 Squadriglia RT leave Dire Dawa to join Mogadishu, they will be joined in the following weeks by the rest of the unit [2].

 

Finally, No.40 (SAAF) Squadron continues to multiply its armed reconnaissance sorties on the borders.

 

According to Major James T. Durrant :

 

« The Hartbees were actually in no-man’s-land outside the barbed wire of the defended perimeter, vulnerable to infiltrating bande (of whom gruesome tales were circulated). Officers and men slept on their aircraft with loaded weapons. The Hartbees were parked, defensively, in a laager in the bush could be patrolled at hourly intervals by pickets from the fort.

Airmen were deeply sunburned, salted and blooded in battle and had suffered the various burning itches, open sores and bladder pains caused by brak water and sand flies. They flew in khaki shirts, open at the neck, short trousers and carried sidearms and waterbootle. Standing Orders stated that every pilot should carry a pair of army boots in case of forced landing due to fuel shortage or ground fire.

Water at Wajir was rationed to two gallons a day per man. This problem was easily solved for No.40 Squadron. Brigadier C.E.M. Richards of the West African Brigade was informed that well water would affect the engines. Unaware that radiators were filled with glycol coolant the brigadier agreed that the flight at Wajir should have the use of 1 000-gallon tanker from Nairobi. Visitors to the mess related how a scrap of canvas and a few branches of thorn-tree constituted a shelter, of dining on bully beef, black coffee and biscuits. And of peculiar crockery looted from the abandoned Indian dukas. For porrige they used bowls, for tea-cups smaller bowls and when it came to driking it was bowls again.

The servant shortage was eased by an offer from the District Commissioner to take over a murdered awaiting trial in the local jail. The D.C. asked the Squadron to take him on and keep an eye on him. Bokari remained with the airmen until the end of the campaign. »[4]

 

The situation of No.1 (SAAF) Squadron in Sudan is hardly better as it has no medical officer and technical officer, while advanced terrain consists only of a vague area with a fuel tank, and without any material.

 

 

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[1] « 23 august 1940 » 237 Squadron RAF : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541), Kew – TNA, AIR 27 / 1450; « 23 august 1940 » Narrative northern operations SAAF, August 1940, op. cit.

[2] Håkan Gustavsson, « Generale Romano Palmera », Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War ; http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/italy_palmera.htm

[3] Storing aircrafts in a rectangle or circle, in the pure Afrikaner tradition, to constitute a defensive formation.

[4] J.-A. Brown, A gathering of eagles, the campaigns of the South African Air Force in Italian East Afica (1940 – 1941), op. cit., p. 69 à 70.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Hello

 

I don't think there's much interest. But for information, I'm going to self-publish the first volume of a Chronicle about Air War over East Africa (1940 - 1941) with three volumes in total.

 

The first volume deals with the period June - December 1940, i.e. the Italian operations to secure East Africa (June - August 1940) then the progressive reinforcement of the RAF / SAAF to prepare the offensives at the beginning of 1941. 
The book should contain about 300 pages, 200 photos, few maps, a list of losses/claims and an index.

 

The book will be in French only. I'm sorry for this because I know that it is unfortunately a barrier for potential readers.

 

I hope for a publication by the end of June / beginning of July (the price will probably be around 30 euros).

 

For information: a first draft of the cover.

 

COVER-FINAL-4-3.jpg

 

 

Edited by JG300_Manfred
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24 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

No.430 (RAF) Flight is sending two Gloster Gauntlets and two Vickers Vincents from Al-Qadarif Airfield to bomb Fort Galabat.[1]

 

Southern Front

 

Following the 21 August attack, No.11 (SAAF) Squadron returns to Mogadishu. The four Fairey Battle Mk I, under the command of Captain Johan L.V. de Wet[2] leave Archer’s Post at 08h00. After a refueling at Habaswein, they arrive above the target where the bombs are dropped on the fuel depot. However, photographs taken by Lieutenant Edward G. Armstrong (No. 906) confirm the failure of the bombing. Three IMAM Ro.37bis from 110 Squadriglia RT take off to intercept South Africans, but they can not catch up with them.[3]

 

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[1] C. Shores et C. Ricci, Dust Clouds in the Middle East, op. cit., p. 57; J. Sutherland et D. Canwell, Air War East Africa, the RAF versus the Italian Air Force, op. cit., p. 65; Håkan Gustavsson, « Gloster Gauntlet », Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War : http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/gauntlet.htm

[2] Again, the documents inside the War Diary differ. Thus, the entry of 24 August summarizes the attack by indicating that aircrafts were under the orders of Lieutenant Piet J. Robbertse. By contrast, Operation Order n°15 indicates that it is Captain Johan L.V. de Wet who is in charge, while Robbertse does not appear on the list of crews. Archival problems are not unique to this Squadron. In fact, No.1 (SAAF) Squadron has no War Diary for the period August – December 1940, while that of No.40 (SAAF) Squadron presents surprising omissions, fortunately partially offset by the reconnaissance reports.

[3] « 23 august 1940 » 11 Bomber Squadron SAAF, War Dirary, op. cit.; « 23 august 1940 » Narrative northern operations SAAF, August 1940, op. cit.; C. Shores et C. Ricci, Dust Clouds in the Middle East, op. cit., p. 56 à 57; J. Sutherland et D. Canwell, Air War East Africa, the RAF versus the Italian Air Force, op. cit., p. 64.

 

24aout40_aoi.jpg?w=1068&ssl=1

 

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25 August 1940

 

Northern Front

 

Six Bristol Blenheim Mk I of No.11 and No.39 (RAF) Squadron (three and three), having joined the advanced airfield on the island of Perim the day before, are sent to bomb concentrations of vehicles, near Dessie, between 06h00 and 09h30. It is, however, not possible to know the result. The adverse reaction is reduced and is limited to a few shots of the anti-aircraft defense [1]. Note that the Bristol Blenheim Mk IVF L9173 of No.203 (RAF) Squadron (Flight Officer Nelson and Holmes, Leading Aircraftman Ffoulkes) take off for a patrol over the airfield of Perim between 08h30 and 09h30 [2].

 

The French of the Escadrille d’Aden continue their reconnaissance flights. Glenn Marin 167-F No. 102 (Flight Lieutenant Jacques Dodelier, Warrant Officer Yves Trecan, Flight Officer Pierre Fenot de Maismont, Flight Sergeant Robert Cunibil) makes a reconnaissance, between 06h25 and 10h55, over the north of ‘Éthipoie. Among the observed elements, we can note three Caproni Ca.133 at Mieso [3].

 

Southern Front

 

At 07h00, the Bristol Battle Mk I No. 909 (Lieutenant B.L. Hutchinson, Air Sergeant S.H. Hipkin, Air Corporal P.C. Sewell) took off from Archer’s Post for a photo reconnaissance of the El Wak airfield at an altitude of about 2 200 meters. Once the mission is completed, the aircraft lands at Nanyuki to send photos to No.40 (SAAF) Squadron [4].

 

 

No.237 (Rhodesia) Squadron receives some reinforcements with the arrival of six Hawker Hardy [5]. If the Squadron continues to have a relatively large activity (three to four sorties per day), these are still reconnaissance flights without significant events.

 

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[1] Contrary to what is written, notably by C. Shores et C. Ricci, Dust Clouds in the Middle East, op. cit., p. 57, the bombing of Dessie did not take place on the 24th, but on the 25th. Although the formation had reached the forward field at Perim the day before, the documents relating to 11 and 39 (RAF) Squadron clearly confirm that the bombardment was not carried out until dawn the next morning. Moreover, it was not only 3 Blenheims from 11 (RAF) Squadron, but a joint operation with 39 (RAF) Squadron. “Three of our aircraft and 3 of No.11 Squadron took off and landed at Perim to refuel. At first light on 25 August, 1940, the formation took off to attack (…),« 25 august 1940 » 39 Squadron RAF : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541), Kew – TNA, AIR 27 / 407  and “24 : Three aircraft and crews proceeded to Perim prior to raid on Dessie (…). 25 : The above aircraft bombed (…), three aircraft of No 39 Squadron (…),« 24 and 25 august 1940 » 11 Squadron RAF : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541), Kew – TNA, AIR 27 / 162. .

[2] « 25 august 1940 » 203 Squadron RAF : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541), op. cit.

[3] « 26 august 1940 » 8 Squadron RAF : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541), op. cit.

[4] « 26 august 1940 » et « Operation Order no.16 » 11 Bomber Squadron SAAF, War Dirary, op. cit.; « 25 august 1940 » Narrative northern operations SAAF, August 1940, op. cit.

[5] « 26 august 1940 » 237 Squadron RAF : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541), op. cit.

 

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