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


JG300_Manfred
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JG300_Manfred

5 October 1940

 

Northern Front

 

 

The RAF decided to test another form of operation by sending three Vickers Wellesley of No.47 (RAF) Squadron and two Gloster Gauntlet : K5355 (Flight Lieutenant A.B. Mitchell) and K4295 (Pilot Officer Arthur N.W. Johnstone) of No.430 (RAF) Flight for an armed reconnaissance between Metemma and Gondar, in order to attract the Italian fighters, between 05:20 and 10:05. Three Gloster Gladiator of No.1 (SAAF) Squadron, including Captain Brian J.L. Boyle (N5852), are on hold to if the trap works. No Italian aircraft is reported and the bombers decide to attack Fort Gallabat without being able to observe the result. A Wellesley is reported damaged by AA.[1]

 

Southern Front

 

Due to lack of action, No.2 (SAAF) Squadron organises training during the month of October. Thus, on 5 October, three Junkers Ju.86 of No.12 (SAAF) Squadron take off for simulating an airstrike on Mombasa. Three Hawker Fury take off immediately to intercept them, but they are unable to find them. In addition nearly 20 to 30 minutes (due to motors) are necessary to reach 6 000 meters, while the coolant often begins to boil at 941 meters above sea level. Unfortunately, during another training, over Wajir, Lieutenant Dirk C. Uys fell into a spin and crashed with Hawker Fury N°206. Severely burned, he is extracted from the debris by a Gold Coast Regiment soldier and evacuated to Nairobi. Cured, he will rejoin his unit on 14 November.[2]

 

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Hawker Fury n°206. Collection : SAAF Museum, via Tinus le Roux

 

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[1] « 5 october 1940 », No. 47 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 27 / 463 ; SHORES C., RICCI C. « East Africa ». In : Dust Clouds in the Middle East – The Air War for East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Madagascar, 1940 – 1942. London : Grub Street, 2010. p. 66 ; SUTHERLAND J., CANWELL D. Air War East Africa 1940 – 1941. The RAF versus the Italian Air Force. Barnsley : Pen & Sword, 2009. p. 68 ; GUSTAVSSON H. « Gloster Gauntlet ». In : Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War : http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/gauntlet.htm

 

[2] SCHOEMAN M. Springbok Fighter Victory – Volume 1 : East Africa (1940 – 1941). Nelspruit : Freeworld Publications, p. 67, 136 et 181 ; SHORES C., RICCI C. « East Africa ». In : Dust Clouds in the Middle East – The Air War for East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Madagascar, 1940 – 1942. London : Grub Street, 2010. p. 66.

 

5oct40_aoi.jpg?fit=920%2C106&ssl=1

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JG300_Manfred

7 October 1940

 

Northern Front

 

Vickers Vincent, from No.8 (RAF) Squadron, are sent on mission, the last operation (mentioned in the ORB) being in August. The attacks, however, did not take place in East Africa, but over British territory. In this case, it is a series of punitive bombings, during the whole day, carried out against rebel tribes of the Protectorate of Aden, in the area of As Sada – Urkub with six Vickers Vincent and six Blenheim[1].

 

Some transfers also take place. Flight Lieutenant W.T. Ratcliffe and Pilot Officer M.K. Holland left No.203 (RAF) Squadron to join No.8 (RAF) Squadron and No.11 (RAF) Squadron respectively. At the same time, Pilot Officer L.G. Leech left No.8 (RAF) Squadron to join Sheikh Othman Station Headquarters and was replaced by Pilot Officer F.M. Veasey.

 

Southern Front

 

 

Three Ca.133 (31bis Gruppo ?) are reported between Wajir and Dif, probably for photo reconnaissance, around noon. Hawker Fury of No.2 (SAAF) Squadron are placed on alert on Wajir, while three Hartbees of No.40 (SAAF) Squadron take off to search for them but without result. [2]

 

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[1] « 7 october 1940 », No.8 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 27 / 114.

[2] « 7 october 1940 », October – Narrative Norther Operations SAAF. Kew : TNA, AIR/54/8

 
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JG300_Manfred

8 October 1940

 

Northern Front

 

After several weeks of break for training on Blenheim, No.14 (RAF) Squadron is back in action with Vickers Wellesley as Flight Lieutenant Cecil Rowan-Robinson, with K8631 (17:00 – 22h40), carries out an attack on the Mai Edaga airfield.[1]:

 

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[1] « 8 october 1940 », No. 14 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 27 / 192.

 

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JG300_Manfred

Hello,

 

After a (very) long delay..., but a lot of obligation with the work these last months. Difficult to find free time. I propose the continuation this Chronicle about Air Operations in East Africa (1940 - 1941), if some are still interested.

 

9 October 1940

 

Northern Front

 

No.14 and No.223 (RAF) Squadron attacked the airfields of Gura and Mai Edaga with two (L2657 and K7767) and two (L2715 and K774) Vickers Wellesley respectively, between 16h35 and 22h45 hours. Here again, it is difficult to assess the impact of these bombings, as the results could not be observed by the crews. A significant anti-aircraft defence is however reported.[1]

 

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[1] « 9 october 1940 », No. 14 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 27 / 192 et « 9 october 1940 », No.223 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 27 / 1373.

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JG300_Manfred

10 October 1940

 

Southern Front

 

 

Around 15:45, three Caproni Ca.133 (31bis Gruppo) attack the Wajir airfield. They are followed, five minutes later, by three other aircraft of the same type on the Lodwar airfield. In both cases, the bombardment does not seem to give significant results. The South African archives mention the injury of a native and the destruction of three huts in Lodwar.

 

However, these two attacks show defects of a totally obsolete air detection system, limited to a few soldiers perched in vague watchtowers or trees. Captain Servaas van Breda Theron of No.2 (SAAF) Squadron is then charged with an officer of the Gold Coast Regiment to think about a new system, without convincing results for lack of means.

 

10oct40_aoi.jpg?fit=1024%2C127&ssl=1

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JG300_Manfred

11 October 1940

 

Northern Front

 

At approximately 09h45, HMS Auckland [1] reported an unsuccessful attack by two Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 from an estimated altitude of 3 500 meters off Aden. The Bristol Blenheim MkIVF L9042 (Flying Officer Grice, Sergeant Jenkins, Leading Aircraftman Ffoulkes, Aircraftman Woolford) of No.203 (RAF) Squadron attack the Italian bombers, but they can escape.[2]

 

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HMS Auckland. Collection : Imperial War Museum.

 

 

Southern Front

 

Three Fairey Battle of No.11 (SAAF) Squadron: No. 905 (Captain Johan L.V. de Wet, Air Sergeant RJ van Heerden), No. 909 (Lieutenant B.L. Hutchinson, Air Sergeant S.H. Hipkin and P.J. Lamont) and No. 902 ( Lieutenant Cornelius A. van Vliet and Air Sergeant J.L. Wright) are sent to Neghelli from Archers Post. The South African pilots decide to focus on a concentration of vehicles on which three 250 lb. and two 20 lb. bombs are dropped causing serious damage.[3]

 

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Bombing of a concentration of vehicles at Neghelli by Fairey Battle of No.11 (SAAF) Squadron. This could be on 11 October 1940. Collection : SAAF Museum Swartkops Allen Taylor via Tinus le Roux.

 

 

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[1] The ship will be sunk on 24 June 24 1941, off Tobruk, by German bombers. http://uboat.net/allies/warships/ship/3910.html ou http://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chrono-18SL-HMS_Auckland.htm

[2] « 11 october 1940 », No. 203 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 27 / 1198.

[3] « 11 october 1940 », October – Narrative Norther Operations SAAF. Kew : TNA, AIR/54/8 ; « 11 october 1940 », No.11 (SAAF) Squadron : War Diary. Kew : TNA, AIR/54/3.

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cardboard_killer

[80 years ago today] "• Heavy fighting continues at Keren, with an Italian counter-attack being broken up by Indian artillery

- This Wellesley Mk-I is attacked and set on fire by two Italian CR-42 fighters in the Keren area of East Africa. It makes it back but crash lands due to damage."

 

183725517_VickersWellesleycrashed25March1941.jpg.cbe5a172641965d807b2c40a48d5182e.jpg

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JG300_Manfred

12 October 1940

 

Southern Front

 

On the night of 12 to 13 October, the SAAF organized a combined bombardment with No.11 and No.12 (SAAF) Squadron on the Italian airfield of Yabelo between 22:00 and 01:30.

 

The attack began with a first formation of four Junkers Ju.86 [1] who, thanks to the light of the full moon, performs a semi-dive bombing from an altitude of about 1 500 meters.

 

They are followed by three Fairey Battle: No. 907 (Captain Piet J. Robbertse, Air Sergeant H.V. Barfield), No. 909 (Lieutenant Brian L. Hutchinson, Air Sergeant S.H. Hipkin) and No. 906 (Lieutenant Bernard S.M. Hamilton; Sergeant I.S. Thorburn) who drop their bombs in low flying, while several anti-Italian leaflets are dropped in the vicinity. Note that the bombing is done individually by each aircraft, with thirty minutes.

 

In all, 6 300-pound bomb load is dropped on the airfield, along with 5 000 leaflets. The result appears, however, very limited with the destruction of one AA, and unknown damage to the hangars.

 

The presence of Italian planes is difficult to determine and documents from No.11 (SAAF) Squadron report a possible bomber destroyed on the ground, while those of No.12 (SAAF) Squadron regret the lack of any aircrafts.[2]

 

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[1] Unfortunately, the mission order in the squadron’s ORB is difficult to read and does not make it possible to determine the names of the crews and serials of aircrafts involved.

[2] « 12 october 1940 », October – Narrative Norther Operations SAAF. Kew : TNA, AIR/54/8 ; « 12 october 1940 », No.11 (SAAF) Squadron : War Diary. Kew : TNA, AIR/54/3 ; « 12 october 1940 », No.12 (SAAF) Squadron : War Diary. Kew : TNA, AIR/54/4.

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JG300_Manfred

13 October 1940

 

Northern Front

 

A Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 of 44bis Gruppo BT (6a Squadriglia BT) makes an attack on Aden at around 07:55. Flying Officer Gordon S.K. Haywood (L9047) of No.94 (RAF) Squadron takes off on alert and succeeds to seriously damaged the italian bomber. The Bristol Blenheim L8384 (Squadron Leader Alan McD Bowman) of No.39 (RAF) Squadron is then sent on patrol in the Berbera – Zeilah sector in search of the Italian aircraft, but the Sottotenente Italo Gherardini succeeds to return to his base with two crew members killed.[1]

 

No.45 (RAF) Squadron takes off with three Bristol Blenheims at 16:30 to attack Dekemhare airfield. After the loss of the Squadron Leader on 2 October, the Squadron still knows bad luck. Indeed, one of the aircraft is forced to turn back because of a motor problem, while the other two : L8463 (Flying Officer Gordon C.B. Woodroffe [2], Sergeant Eric B. Ryles [3], Sergeant Albert A. Meadow [4]) and L8502 (Pilot Officer George A. Cockayne [5], Sergeant Trevor A. Ferris [6], Sergeant Robert W. Reader [7]) fall on Fiat CR.42 of 412a Squadriglia CT. The two aircraft crash in the vicinity of Sagheneyti, all crews killed, victim of Capitano Mario Visintini.[8]

 

13oct40_aoi.jpg?w=1073&ssl=1

 

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[1] « 13 october 1940 », No.94 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kiew : TNA, AIR 27 / 1198 ; « 13 october 1940 », No.39 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kiew : TNA, AIR 27 / 407 ; SHORES C., RICCI C. « East Africa ». In : Dust Clouds in the Middle East – The Air War for East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Madagascar, 1940 – 1942. London : Grub Street, 2010. p. 66 et 67 ; SUTHERLAND J., CANWELL D. Air War East Africa 1940 – 1941. The RAF versus the Italian Air Force. Barnsley : Pen & Sword, 2009. p. 69 ; GUSTAVSSON H. « Wing Commander Gordon Stanley Keith Haywood ». In : Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War : http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/commonwealth_haywood.htm

[2] Casualty details : Woodroffe, Gordon Cyril Butler : Commonwealth War Graves Commission : http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2272250/WOODROFFE,%20GORDON%20CYRIL%20BUTLER

[3] Casualty details : Ryles, Eric Bromley : Commonwealth War Graves Commission http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2272205/RYLES,%20ERIC%20BROMLEY

[4] Casualty details : Meadows, Albert Alfred  : Commonwealth War Graves Commission : http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2272148/MEADOWS,%20ALBERT%20ALFRED

[5] Casualty details : Cockayne, George Angus : Commonwealth War Graves Commission : http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2272046/COCKAYNE,%20GEORGE%20ANGUS

[6] Casualty details : Ferris, Trevos Ascott : Commonwealth War Graves Commission : http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2272077/FERRIS,%20TREVOR%20ASCOTT

[7] Casualty details : Reader, Robert William : Commonwealth War Graves Commission : http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2272193/READER,%20ROBERT%20WILLIAM

[8] GUSTAVSSON H., SLONGO L. Gladiator vs CR.42 Falco (1940 – 1941). Botley : Osprey, 2012. p. 42 ; SHORES C., RICCI C. « East Africa ». In : Dust Clouds in the Middle East – The Air War for East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Madagascar, 1940 – 1942. London : Grub Street, 2010. p. 66 et 67 ; SUTHERLAND J., CANWELL D. Air War East Africa 1940 – 1941. The RAF versus the Italian Air Force. Barnsley : Pen & Sword, 2009. p. 69 ; EUSEBI E., LAZZARO S., SLONGO L. Le vittorie aeree di Mario Visintini in Africa Orientale, in Storia Militare, n°246, 2014, p. 61 ; GUSTAVSSON H. « Capitano Mario Visintini ». In : Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War : http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/italy_visintini.htm

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JG300_Manfred

14 October 1940

 

Northern Front

 

It should be noted that the Italian anti-aircraft defence claimed the destruction of a British aircraft over the port of Massawa[1], the plane falling into the sea. There is, however, no record of this incident in the British archives. The only presence of a British aircraft is that of Vickers Wellesley K7715 (Sergeant James A. Burcher), No.14 (RAF) Squadron, which carried out a bombing mission on the port without incident to report.[2]

 

The Italians decide to increase the pressure against the British convoys in the Red Sea. Thus a fight began, at the end of the morning, between two Italian bombers (probably Savoia Marchetti SM.79 of 44bis Gruppo BT) and the Bristol Blenheim T2072 (Flying Officer Kenneth B. Corbould) of No.203 (RAF) Squadron. The action does not seem to have any consequences.[3]

 

 

Southern Front

 

Four Fairey Battle of No.11 (SAAF) Squadron: No.905 (Captain Johan L.V. de Wet ; Air Sergeant R.J. van Heerden), No.916 (Captain D.W. Allam ; Air Sergeant J.B. Lockwood), No.902 (Lieutenant Cornelius A. van Vliet; Air Sergeant J. L. Wright) and n°918 (Lieutenant Murdoch Macdonald ; Air Sergeant Paul C. Marais and Albert Schrooder) took off from Archers Post to attack the Jimma airfield at 09h45. The last aircraft istasked to carry out a photographic reconnaissance after the attack.

 

They are intercepted, after the bombing, by two Fiat CR.32. In the ensuing battle, the Italian pilots claimed two damaged aircraft. Indeed, n°902 and n°905 returned damaged to Lodwar airfield. On the South African side, a Caproni Ca.133 is reported destroyed on the ground.[4]

 

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Captain Johan L.V. de Wet and Lieutenant J.E. Lindsay of No.11 (SAAF) Squadron at Archers Post Airfield. Collection : SAAF Museum Swartkops  via Tinus le Roux.

 

 

According to Lieutenant Cornelius A. van Vliet:

 

 

« to set the compass for the course to the target, and on returning to merely steer the reciprocal, i.e. red on red to the target, and red on black for home. It was all pilot navigation and no luxuries such as radio, or even oxygen. After formating on Jannie de Wet for about 45 minutes, I happened to take a more serious look at my compass and was amazed to see it was red on red and not red on black! I immediately closed my formation position with Jannie and made violent arm signals for him to turn back (no radio), but he didn’t understand my signals. I was on the point of turning back myself when a large river showed up ahead of us. Navigation at that time was a matter of map reading and compass and Jannie realised we had got to the Blue Nile – in fact we weren’t very far away from Addis Ababa !

He waved me forward to lead and I immediately turned 180 degrees for home. On a rough calculation I knew we would be lucky to get out of enemy territory, and fuel economy was vital. I climbed to 21 000 feet which I felt was the maximum we could risk as we were not fitted with oxygen, and throttled back to minimum cruising revs. By this time I had been in the air for about six hours and badly needed relieving. This was achieved with the aid of an empty Verey cartridge shell which I normally used as an ashtray. After that incident the perspex covering never lost its stains.

I was making for a landing strip at Lodwar as I was not aware of one at Lokitaung at the north end of Lake Rudolf Jannie knew of the existence of Lokitaung and, when he broke away to land, I thought he was out of fuel. I knew I wouldn’t make Lodwar with my fuel but thought it best to get as far as possible. Being a semi-desert area, I felt I had a good chance of doing a dead engine forced landing and decided to fly to the last drop of fuel. I am still amazed how I missed all the boulders when I finally had to land. From 21 000 feet the ground looked like one big areodrome, but at 500 feet you see all sorts of unpleasant things especially when you have a dead engine and no chance of going round again! Anyway, my luck held, and I did a successful wheels down landing. Air Sergeant Wright (my gunner), and I, collected the canisters of water and iron rations, and started our hike to Lodwar some 60 miles away. I had seen a road track from the air which we reached fairly soon. We walked until some time after dark when we saw car lights in the distance. I was fairly sure we were out of enemy territory, and waved the vehicle to stop. It was an army vehicle going to Lokitaung. We got there to find Jannie de Wet had crash-landed as the fighters at Shashamanna had damaged his elevator controls.

The following day we returned to my aircraft with some fuel and I carried on to Lodwar for a proper re-fuel. The total time in the air was 7 hours 40 minutes which I think remained the record on the Squadron with the normal fuel capacity, without special tanks.»[5]

 

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Extract from the logbook of Lieutenant Cornelius A. van Vliet. Collection : Chris Teale / Elize Grobbelaar of SAAF museum Ysterplaat, via Tinus le Roux.

 

 

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Bombing of Jimma airfield by Fairey Battle No.11 (SAAF) Squadron. There were several Caproni Ca.133s. It could be the mission of 14 October 1940. Collection : SAAF Museum Swartkops via Tinus le Roux.

 

14oct40_aoi.jpg?fit=1024%2C400&ssl=1

 

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[1] SHORES C., RICCI C. « East Africa ». In : Dust Clouds in the Middle East – The Air War for East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Madagascar, 1940 – 1942. London : Grub Street, 2010. p. 67 ; SUTHERLAND J., CANWELL D. Air War East Africa 1940 – 1941. The RAF versus the Italian Air Force. Barnsley : Pen & Sword, 2009. p. 69.

[2] « 14 october 1940 », No.14 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 27 / 192.

[3] « 14 october 1940 », No.203 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 27 / 1198.

[4] « 14 october 1940 », October – Narrative Norther Operations SAAF. Kew : TNA, AIR/54/8 ; « 14 october 1940 », No.11 (SAAF) Squadron : War Diary. Kew : TNA, AIR/54/3 ; BROWN J. A. A gathering of Eagles, the campaigns of the South African Air Force in Italian East Africa 1940 – 1941. Cape Town : Purnell, 1970. p. 85 ; MCLEAN S. Squadrons of the South African Air Force and their aircraft (1920 – 2005). Cape Town : [s.n.], 2005. p.4 ; SHORES C., RICCI C. « East Africa ». In : Dust Clouds in the Middle East – The Air War for East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Madagascar, 1940 – 1942. London : Grub Street, 2010. p. 67 ; SUTHERLAND J., CANWELL D. Air War East Africa 1940 – 1941. The RAF versus the Italian Air Force. Barnsley : Pen & Sword, 2009. p. 69.

[5] TIDY P.D., South African Air Aces of World War II, Major Cornelius A. van Vliet ; in South African Miliaty History Journal, vol 2, n°6, décembre 1973 : http://samilitaryhistory.org/vol026dt.html 

 

 

 

 

 

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JG300_Manfred

15 October 1940

 

Northern Front

 

The days of 15 and 16 October are marked by the events related to the deployment on Gedaref.

 

On 12 October, eight Vickers Wellesley, No.47 (RAF) Squadron, under the command of Squadron Leader James E. Pelly-Fry, took off at 09h20 to reach the forward airfield of Gedaref. They are joined on the spot by at least two Vickers Vincent of No.430 (RAF) Flight. The aircraft are to support operations conducted by the Ethiopian “Patriots” in the Lake Tana region.

The details of these missions are not known. The Italians seem to know their presence and several Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 and Caproni Ca.133 are reported over the airfield on 14 and 15 October. These were mainly reconnaissance aircrafts but a few bombs are dropped, although without consequence for the British.[1]

 

In the afternoon of 15 October, three Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 of 6a Squadriglia BT (44bis Gruppo BT) took off from Dire Dawa to attack sea convoy BS 61/4 at about 13h00.

The British attack them with the Brisol Blenheim Mk IVF L9173 (Pilot Officer Heslop M.F. Barnitt) of No.203 (RAF) Squadron. A fight broke out during which one of the Italian bombers is seriously hit. Losing the use of two of the three engines, the Sottotenente Italo Gherardini tried to take the direction of Djibouti, but eventually lost control of the aircraft and crashed into the sea, killing all the crew (Sergente Maggiore Romolo Petrucci; Primo Aviere Ennio Grandi and Gastone Ceciliot ; Aviere Ottavio Coronati). The crew of HMAS Parramatta is able to confirm the tragic fate of the Savoia-Marchetti SM.79. [2] The Medaglia d’oro al Valor Miliare will be awarded posthumously to Italo Gherardini. [3]

 

15oct40_aoi.jpg?fit=1024%2C614&ssl=1

 

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[1] « 15 october 1940 », No.47 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kiew : TNA, AIR 27 / 493.

[2] « 15 october 1940 », No.203 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kiew : TNA, AIR 27 / 1198 ; SHORES, Christopher ; RICCI, Corrado. Dust Clouds in the Middle East – The Air War for East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Madagascar, 1940 – 1942. London : Grub Street, 2010 (Reprinted). p.67.

[3] Wikipedia, l’encyclopédie libre. Italo Gherardini : https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italo_Gherardini

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JG300_Manfred

16 October 1940

 

Northern Front

 

Due to the British presence in Gedaref, the Italians decide to launch an attack on the airfield. For this purpose, General Pietro Piacentini (responsible for the North Sector) joins the Barentu airfield to coordinate the bombing. He took off at 05:25 aboard a Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 followed by eight Fiat CR.42 of 412a Squadriglia CT (Capitano Antonio Raffi, Tenente Carlo Canella, Raimondo Di Pauli and Mario Visintini, Sottotenente Giovanni Levi and Fiorindo Rosmino, Sergeant Maggiore Luigi Baron, Sergeant Pietro Morlotti).

 

The bombing began at 06:55 when the Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 dropped the first bombs. If the result seems insignificant, the Italian fighters attack the airfield between 07:00 and 07:20. The eight Vickers Wellesley of No.47 (RAF) Squadron (K7742, K7762, K7779, K7781, L2650, L2675 , L2677 and L2688) are completely destroyed on the ground. The two Vickers Vincent (K4657 and K4731) of the No.430 (RAF) Flight, then in preparation for a mission, try to take off to escape but they are immediately shot down by Capitano Antonio Raffi. In addition to the ten destroyed planes, Italians leave the supply of ammunition on fire, while various vehicles are damaged to varying degrees. Miraculously, no human loss is to be deplored.

 

The Italian operation appears to have been particularly well prepared as the telephone line to the Azzoza airfield is reported to have been cut off, preventing contact with No.1 (SAAF) Squadron. As a result of this particularly successful attack, Capitano Antonio Raffi receives the Medaglia d’Argento, while the other pilots are decorated with the Medaglia di Bronzo. For its part, the No.47 (RAF) Squadron detachment is ordered to evacuate Gedaref at noon. With these heavy losses, the availability of Vickers Wellesley, already reduced, collapses. No.14 (RAF) Squadron is ordered to send his last seven Vickers Wellesley and finish his transformation on Bristol Blenheim. [1]

 

From Aden, the French (Flight Lieutenant Jacques Dodelier, Warrant Officer Yves Trecan, Flight Sergeant Ronan Michel and Joseph Portalis) attached to No.8 (RAF) Squadron continue their patrols on the Glenn-Martin 167F No. 102 with a photographic mission above the sector Say Dawa – Shinile – Urso between 09:20 and 14:40. [2]

 

16oct40_aoi.jpg?fit=1024%2C498&ssl=1

 

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[1] « 16 october 1940 », No.47 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 27 / 493 ; CANWELL, Diane ; SUTHERLAND, Jon. Air War East Africa (1940 – 1941). The RAF versus the Italian Air Force. Barnsley : Pen and Sword Aviation, 2009. p.69 ; SHORES, Christopher ; RICCI, Corrado. Dust Clouds in the Middle East – The Air War for East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Madagascar, 1940 – 1942. London : Grub Street, 2010 (Reprinted). pp.67 – 68 ; GUSTAVSSON, Håkan. Capitano Antonio Raffi. Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War : http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/italy_raffi.htm

[2] « 16 october 1940 », No.8 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 27 / 114 ; MORIEULT Yves. Les French Flights, des escadrilles françaises au sein de la RAF. Aéro Journal, 2003, octobre – novembre, n°33, p. 14.

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JG300_Manfred

18 October 1940

 

Northern Front

 

After the events of 16 October, No.1 (SAAF) Squadron is instructed to attack Barentu Airfield. Captain Brian J.L. Boyle (N5830), Lieutenant Andrew Duncan and Robin Pare take off for this purpose. As the Italians, the South African pilots appear on the target at ground level and are able to take the opponent by surprise. Three Fiat CR.42, rolling to line up on the runway, are immediately destroyed, while six bombers (one Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 and five Caproni Ca.133) are damaged. If the destruction of the fighters seems confirmed by the Italian documentation, that of the bombers is more doubtful or at least the damage would have been limited. [1]

 

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Captain Brian J.L. Boyle in front of his Gloster Gladiator N5824 of No.1 (SAAF) Squadron at Atbara or Port Sudan (September 1940). Collection : Brendan Boyle via Tinus le Roux.

 

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[1] CANWELL, Diane ; SUTHERLAND, Jon. Air War East Africa (1940 – 1941). The RAF versus the Italian Air Force. Barnsley : Pen and Sword Aviation, 2009. p.69 ; GUSTAVSSON, Håkan ; SLONGO, Ludovico. Gladiator vs. CR.42 Falco (1940 – 1941). Oxford : Osprey, 2012. p.57 ; SCHOEMAN, Michael. Springbok Fighter Victory : East Africa (1940 – 1941). Nelspruit : Freeworld. p.43 et 136 ; SHORES, Christopher ; RICCI, Corrado. Dust Clouds in the Middle East – The Air War for East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Madagascar, 1940 – 1942. London : Grub Street, 2010 (Reprinted). p.68.

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JG300_Manfred

19 October 1940

 

Northern Front

 

The French continue their reconnaissance flights aboard Glenn-Martin 167F n°102 (Flight Lieutenant Jacques Dodelier, Warrant Officer Yves Trecan, Flight Sergeant Ronan Michel and Robert Cunibil) with the sector Dire Dawa – Shinile – Zeilah between 08h15 and 12h00. One Caproni Ca.133 is seen on the airfield of Dire Dawa, while a Fiat CR.42 takes off, but without catching the reconnaissance aircraft.[1]

 

Southern Front

 

Three Caproni Ca.133 of 25bis Gruppo BT take off from Gobwen to attack Garissa airfield in the evening.[2] They claim the destruction of two aircraft on the ground. Two pilots of No.2 (SAAF) Squadron take off aboard their Hawker Fury to intercept them at around 18h05. Lieutenant Hendrik J.P. Burger (N°200) claims a destroyed Italian aircraft, while Lieutenant Japie Wiese is not able to catch up with the other two bombers because of the darkness. Indeed, one Caproni Ca.133 is forced to a crashed-landing and his crew captured (Sergente Maggiore Miniati). On their side the Italians claim an enemy aircraft shot.[3] On the ground, the damage remains moderate with the destruction of a transport vehicle and a blow on a stock of explosive. In addition, four ground personnel are injured.

 

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Excerpt from the logbook of Lieutenant Hendrik J.P. Burger. Collection : SAAF Museum, via Tinus le Roux

 

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Carcass of the Caproni Ca.133 (Sergente Maggiore Miniati) shot by Lieutenant Hendrik J.P. Burger (Hawker Fury No. 200) on 19 October 1940.. Collection : SAAF Museum via Tinus le Roux.

 

 

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[1] « 19 october 1940 », No.8 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 27 / 114 ; MORIEULT Yves. Les French Flights, des escadrilles françaises au sein de la RAF. Aéro Journal, 2003, octobre – novembre, n°33, p. 14

[2] The incident is reported by Christopher Shores on October 20, while James Ambrose Brown reports on 29 October. Nevertheless, South African documents give the date of October 19, a hypothesis supported by Michael Schoeman.

[3] « 19 october 1940 »,War Diary, No.2 Fighter Squadron. Kew : TNA, AIR/54/2 ; « 19 october 1940 », October – Narrative Norther Operations SAAF. Kew : TNA, AIR/54/8 ; BROWN, James Ambrose. A Gathering of Eagles : The campaigns of the South African Air Force in Italian East Africa (1940 – 1941). Cape Town : Purnell and Sons, 1970. p.74 ; CANWELL, Diane ; SUTHERLAND, Jon. Air War East Africa (1940 – 1941). The RAF versus the Italian Air Force. Barnsley : Pen and Sword Aviation, 2009. p.69 – 70 ; CRAWFORD, Alex ; LISTEMANN, Phil H. Hawker Fury, Part 1. Boé : Allied Wings, 2010. p.38 ; SCHOEMAN, Michael. Springbok Fighter Victory : East Africa (1940 – 1941). Nelspruit : Freeworld. p.68 et 136 ; SHORES, Christopher ; RICCI, Corrado. Dust Clouds in the Middle East – The Air War for East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Madagascar, 1940 – 1942. London : Grub Street, 2010 (Reprinted). p.68 ; GUSTAVSSON, Håkan. Brigadier Hendrik Johannes Piet Burger. Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War : http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/commonwealth_burger.htm

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JG300_Manfred

20 October 1940

 

Northern Front

 

As previous days, the Italians continue to attack British ships in the Red Sea (convoy B.N. 7) with Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 and Savoia-Marchetti SM.81. Around noon, a Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 of 44bis Gruppo BT is attacked by the Bristol Blenheim Mk IVF T2112 (Flying Officer Heslop M.F. Barnitt [1] and Sergeant Albin J. Finch [2]) of No.203 (RAF) Squadron. Heslop M.F. Barnitt claimed a victory after seeing the aircraft dive to the sea south of Massawa. This is his second victory, although according to Italian documents the bomber returns to his base without damage.[3] Unfortunately, he is killed when his plane crashed during takeoff after a motor failure at 15:00.[4] He will receive the DFC, becoming the first New Zealander to be decorated with it during the war in the Middle East.

 

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Source : Auckland War Memorial

 

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[1] Casualty details : Barnitt, Heslop Miles Frederick : Commonwealth War Graves Commission : http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2208447/BARNITT,%20HESLOP%20MILES%20FREDERICK

[2] Casualty details : Finch, Albin James  : Commonwealth War Graves Commission : http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1536632/FINCH,%20ALBIN%20JAMES

[3] « 19 october 1940 », No.203 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 27 / 1198 ; SHORES, Christopher ; RICCI, Corrado. Dust Clouds in the Middle East – The Air War for East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Madagascar, 1940 – 1942. London : Grub Street, 2010 (Reprinted). p.68.

[4] « 19 october 1940 », No.203 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 27 / 1198

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JG300_Manfred

21 October 1940

 

Northern Front

 

Three Wellesleys of No.223 (RAF) Squadron took off between 19:20 and 20:20 to bomb the airfields of Asmara and Gura. Once again, the results are difficult to evaluate. Unfortunately, when landing at Summit, around 01:00, the Vickers Wellesley L7774 suddenly stalled at an altitude of about 100 m. The crew (Sergeant Vernon C. Durrant, Raymond M.C. Edwards and Arthur A. Heaney) is killed instantly.

 

21oct40_aoi.jpg?w=1075&ssl=1

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JG300_Manfred

22 October 1940

 

Northern Front

 

The day is essentially marked by the organization of a "massive" attack by the three Squadrons based at Aden, on airfields of Alamata and Dessie (northern Ethiopia). The distance between Aden and Alamata requires the organization of a refueling on the island of Perim in the Red Sea. Three Gloster Gladiators of No.94 (RAF) Squadron are sent to provide protection between 07:20 and 13:10 : N5787 (Squadron Leader William T.F. Wightman), L9047 (Flight Lieutenant Gordon S.K. Haywood) and N2290 (Sergeant Price).

 

The first three Bristol Blenheims of No. 8 (RAF) Squadron took off at 08:10 from Khormaksar to land at Perim at about 09:00, and then left an hour later for the two targets. They are followed by three other of No.11 (RAF) Squadron taking off at 09:30 from Sheikh Othman (refueling between 10:10 and 10:55), although one of them (L4919) has to abandon the mission because of a motor problem. Finally, three other Bristol Blenheim of No.39 (RAF) Squadron take over at 10:00 (refueling between 10:40 and 11:40). Several Italian planes (at least four Caproni Ca.133) are reported on the ground. If once again, several hits are reported against the hangars, various buildings and potential reserves of fuels and ammunition, the reports recognize the difficulty of apprehending the real results.

 

In the opposing side, Sergente Maggiore Ugo Zoino of 411a Squadriglia CT has a very eventful day. The latter takes off, aboard his Fiat CR.32, to oppose three aircraft probably the first of No.8 (RAF) Squadron. He is, however, the victim of a weapon problem causing damage in his oil tank. He decides to attack an isolated Bristol Blenheim with one of the machine guns still functional. However, his armament still refuses to work, and he decides to damage the tail of the ennemy aircraft with his propeller. With his glasses now full of oil, he decides to give up and made a successful landing. He is, however, forced to quickly abandon his Fiat CR.32 which is beginning to attract the attention of the British. Taking advantage of a lull, he tries to shelter his plane. He is however forced to retreat when two bombers of No.11 (RAF) Squadron rise above the ground.

 

22oct40_aoi.jpg?fit=1024%2C202&ssl=1

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JG300_Manfred

23 - 24 October 1940

 

Southern Front

 

This day is relatively insignificant in terms of activity. Two Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 make an attack on the Kenyan airfield of Malindi. Nevertheless, these very small attacks probably have only a psychological objective in order to keep the opponent under pressure.

 

Yet 24 October is a major turning point. Except for K Flight, British have very few modern fighters in this area. There are, of course, two units based in Aden : the No.203 (RAF) Squadron with its Bristol Blenheim MkIVF of a relative efficiency except for patrolling and possibly scared bombers, and No .94 (RAF) Squadron with its Gladiator Gladiator whose limit range prevents any operation over Italian territory, with a strictly defensive role. On the South African side, the situation is not more favorable. In the South, the No.2 (SAAF) Squadron essentially aligns a mix of some Gloster Gladiator and especially Hawker Fury, just able to catch the slow Caproni Ca.133. If the situation is somewhat better in Sudan with the Gloster Gladiator of No.1 (SAAF) Squadron, it is clear that the lack of fighters both qualitatively and quantitatively. Moreover the level of training of South African pilots is relatively low.

 

The arrival of No. 3 (SAAF) Squadron aircraft on 24 October in Nairobi is changing the game. The unit was formed on 9 September 1940, at Waterkloof  near Pretoria, under the command of Major Lawrence A. Wilmot, with nine Hawker Hurricane Mk.I (completed quickly by seven other aircraft). As with No.11 (SAAF) Squadron and its Fairey Battle, the presence of a complete Squadron with an equivalent, or even superior, aircraft to those of the adversary will completely upset the situation on the southern front as will be proven by the next day’s events. However, this development will also condemn No. 2 (SAAF) Squadron, to a long period of scarcity, during the rest of the campaign. Indeed, following the arrival of Hawker Hurricane, order is given to send Gloster Gladiator north, leaving only the obsolete Hawker Fury.

 

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Two members of No.2 (SAAF) Squadron with the two mascots: Vickers and Spitfire. The two cheetahs, donated by white Kenyan farmers or indigenous leaders (depending on the version), will give the names and different variations of the badge worn by the squadron. The story of the two cheetahs is, sadly, more tragic as they are believed to have been shot down later in a series of incidents. Source : Imperial War Museums.

 

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JG300_Manfred

25 October 1940

 

Southern Front

 

Three Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 are sent to bomb Port Reitz, near Mombasa, at an altitude of about 4 500 meters. Two Hawker Fury of No.2 (SAAF) Squadrons take off, with Lieutenant Hendrik J.P. Burger (N°200), to intercept them at 05:10, but the South African pilots are unable to catch up with them or even to reach the necessary altitude. The frustration is widely expressed in War Diary "Damn these Furries". Another detachment based in Ndege’s Nest has also the same result.

 

It appears necessary to put the Hawker Hurricanes into action as quickly as possible. A double problem arises, however. First the No.3 (SAAF) Squadron pilots have just arrived and have no familiarity with the area of operation. The idea is then to temporarily send some aircraft to No.2 (SAAF) Squadron. However, it is clear that its members have often no experience on the Hawker Hurricane and have never piloted a monoplane. Due to the limited stock of aircraft, it is considered necessary to minimize the risks. Finally, two aircraft are assigned to Lieutenant Douglas H. Loftus and Flight Lieutenant Robert S. Blake.

 

Flight Lieutenant Robert S. Blake is a very special case. South African, he was born in Pretoria of a family settled in the country since four generations and studied at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Passionate about aviation, he must recognize that the opportunities are relatively small in his country and even more with the SAAF. He decided, therefore, to join London to apply for the RAF, which he obtained a Shorte Service Commission in September 1935. At the time of war, he served as a Flight Commander with No.54 (RAF) Squadron equipped with Spitfire. He obtained, however, in May 1940 the authorization to be provisionally released by the RAF to join the SAAF in order to communicate his experience to his compatriots. He is then assigned to No.2 (SAAF) Squadron operating in Kenya.

 

The two Hawker Hurricanes are then deployed on the evening of 24 October on Lokitaung, near Lake Rudolf, in the north-west of the border with Ethiopia. The next morning, three Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 of 29bis Gruppo BT take off from Yabelo to bomb the Lodwar airfield, under the orders of Capitano Tito Zucconi. Flight Lieutenant Robert S. Blake (No. 285) and Lieutenant Douglas H. Loftus took off and intercepted them around 10:45.

A first bomber (Sottotenente Argento) is quickly shot down by Flight Lieutenant Robert S. Blake. The pilot is immediately killed, while the co-pilot attempts a crash landing. Unfortunately, the impact on the ground is violent, killing all the crew except the radio operator (Signorelli). At the same time, Lieutenant Douglas H. Loftus succeeded in severely damaging the bomber of Sottotenente Titi. The italian managed to land near Lokitaung. The crew quickly set fired to the aircraft before being captured by British troops. The leader, although damaged, manages to escape and return to Yabelo. This interception is, therefore, a real success for South African pilots in particular against a relatively modern aircraft as the Savoia-Marchetti SM.81. It also illustrates the growing gap between the two South African fighter squadrons, one equipped with an obsolete biplane and the other with a relatively modern monoplane. However Lieutenant Douglas H. Loftus need to return as a result of the jamming of these machine guns, and after his return a mechanics note that all the weapons except one of the Flight Lieutenant Robert S. Blake’s aircraft are no longer working.

 

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Lieutenant Douglas H. Loftus on a Gloster Gladiator. Collection : SAAF Museum, via Tinus le Roux.

 

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JG300_Manfred

26 October 1940

 

Northern Front

 

An incident is close to turning to tragedy for No.14 (RAF) Squadron.

 

The unit is still in training on the Bristol Blenheim Mk IV. For this purpose, Squadron Leader Deryck C. Stapleton is testing the Bristol Blenheim Mk IV T2057. He is however surprised by a Gloster Gladiator of K Flight which take off, on alert, to intercept bombers. Pilot Officer Geoffrey B. Smither (K7948) thinks he is dealing with a Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 and immediately attacks the unfortunate Bristol Blenheim. The attack is a success as Squadron Leader Deryck C. Stapleton is quickly wounded in the arm and wrist. He managed, however, to crashed-landing with his aircraft on Port Sudan. The damage is such that the Bristol Blenheim is struck off. At the hospital, Deryck C. Stapleton receives the visit of the pilot who comes to apologize. They are accepted on the condition of immediately drinking half a pint of vinegar mixed with tonic water.

 

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Crash-landing of a Bristol Blenheim of No.14 (RAF) Squadron (Port Sudan). Collection : No.14 (RAF) Squadron Association.

 

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JG300_Manfred

30 October 1940

 

Northern Front

 

After several days of intense training, No.14 (RAF) Squadron makes its first operation with its new Bristol Blenheim Mk IV. For this purpose, three aircraft take off with  Flight Lieutenant John K. Buchanan at 06:00 to bomb the warehouses of Massawa from an altitude of about 1 100 meters. If the bombs are reported to have hit the target, the italien AA is doing damage as two aircrafts come back damaged. Unfortunately the available documentation does not give the identity of these aircrafts.

 

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Photo of the port of Massawa taken by an aircraft of No.14 (RAF) Squadron during the bombardment of 30 October 1940. Collection No.14 (RAF) Squadron Association.

 

The French attached to No. 8 (RAF) Squadron continues their flights with the Glenn-Martin 167F No. 102. This time, they take off (Flight Lieutenant Jacques Dodelier, Warrant Officer Yves Trecan, Flight Sergeant Ronan Michel) between 10!00 and 15:10 to drop propaganda leaflets over central Ethiopia: Debra Berhan – Mojo – Dukem – Addis Ababa at an altitude of about 4 000 meters.

 

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31 October 1940

 

Southern Front

 

 

At the end of October, South African Prime Minister General Jan Smuts decides to organize an inspection tour of his armed forces in Kenya. He is accompanied for this purpose by General Pierre van Ryneveld (Chief of the General Staff). The visit also coincides with the arrival in Kenya of Major-General Alan G. Cunningham to take command of East Africa Force. Several important meetings concerning the strategy for the future offensive are taking place in Khartoum and Nairobi during this period.

 

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South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts.

 

They embark all three aboard two Junkers Ju.86 of No.12 (SAAF) Squadron, accompanied by Major-General Alfred Goodwin-Austen (Commander 2nd African Division) and Air Commodore William Sowrey (AOC East Africa), to visit the advanced airfields of Kenya. 

 

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General Pierre van Ryneveld (Chief of the General Staff, South Africa) and C.O. SAAF (1920 – 1933).

 

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Air Commodore William Sowrey (centre) during an inspection tour at Archers Post on 30 September 1940. On the left are Brigadier Hector C. Daniel (SAAF) and Major Robert Preller (No.11 Squadron). Collection : SAAF Museum

 

Two Hawker Hurricanes of No.3 (SAAF) Squadron fly for protecting personalities. However, the relatively inexperienced pilots perform the cover too high and from behind, which can seem to suggest an attempt to intercept an Italian bomber.

 

Approaching the Archers Post airfield, Captain Dennis B. Raubenheimer forgets the friendly signals : put down the landing gear and regularly flapping his wings.

 

At the same time, the absence of these elements related to the impression given by escort leads the soldiers, in charge of the watch, to alert the Hawker Fury detachment. Indeed, the slowness of these aircrafts requires, in case of potential alert, to get the aircraft off the ground as quickly as possible in the hope of compensating for the speed differential. These obsolete aircrafts are also not equipped with radio.

 

Three South African fighters take off, under the command of Captain Frank J.M. Meaker, to intercept the two unidentified aircraft. The three biplanes are sighted by Captain Raubenheimer, but he assumes they come to greet the Prime Minister’s plane. Indeed, a message announcing the passage of the two Junkers Ju.86 was normally communicated to the different airfields, but a technical problem prevented its reception at Archers Post. He does not judge necessary to carry out the signs of recognition.

 

At the same time, the Hawker Fury are preparing to engage the two Italian bombers to help Hawker Hurricanes. Captain Frank J.M. Meaker is about to open fire when he suddenly notices that the rear of the aircraft consists of double control surfaces, unlike the Italians. Recognizing South African cockades, he breaks brutally to the right. But, Lieutenant Douglas D. Pannell takes the maneuver for a classic evasive action after an attack or following the jamming of guns (a regular problem on the Hawker Fury). Aware that the speed of his aircraft will allow only one attack, he immediately opens fire with all the excitement of his first fight. Quietly piloting, Captain Dennis B. Raubenheimer sees several tracers passed to the right of his cockpit. He turns sharply to the left, but the second Junkers Ju.86 is slightly touched on the wing. With his weapons stalled, angry at his missed target, Lieutenant Douglas D. Pannell breaks off the fight when he descovers that it is not Italian bombers but South African planes.

 

According to Captain Dennis B. Raubenheimer :

 

"Arriving above Archers Post, I see dust trailing on the ground. I show them to Smuts … I hope they come to greet you Sir. I watch them climb to our altitude. It looks like the perfect exercise of interception. I ask General Pierre van Ryneveld, sitting next to me, to keep an eye on them. They are approaching the opposite side of my seat, in my blind spot. A minute later, I see tracers and I immediately dive under plane of Lieutenant Glynn Davies to my left. My only goal is to keep the personalities away from the line of fire. Fortunately, the attack mainly targets the other Junkers Ju.86 on which several impacts are reported. Smuts, visibly shocked, turns to me and asks: are we are attacked ? Yes, sir we are … by our compatriots. After the landing, not planned, on Archers Post the Prime Minister observes the impacts and decides to divide the different passengers in the two aircraft for the rest of the flight so as not to put all the eggs in one basket.”

 

In his report, Captain Frank J.M. Meaker explains that :

 

“No.2 (SAAF) Squadron Detachment D operates from Archers Post, an advanced airfield that is to be regularly attacked at night and day. The Hakwer Fury have a rate of climb and a disastrous speed, we are unable to catch an enemy bomber. As a result, it is planned to take off and immediately engage a potential aggressor before the latter approaches sufficiently to be formally identified. There is not enough time to be able to observe the planes. It is, therefore, a standard procedure and validated by Nairobi.”

 

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Hawker Fury of No.2 (SAAF) Squadron. Collection : SAAF Museum Swartkops via Tinus le Roux.

 

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Archers Post airfield. Collection : SAAF Museum Swartkops

 

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Archers Post Airfield Fuel Depot. Collection : SAAF Museum Swartkops.

 

 

 

 

 

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1st November 1940

 

Northern Front

 

Ground fighting erupts in the region of Gallabat. Three Gloster Gladiators of No.1 (SAAF) Squadron are sent to escort Gloster Gauntlets, equipped with bombs, of No.430 (RAF) Flight. Several Italian vehicles are reported destroyed. At the same time, Caproni Ca.133 attack British troops. A short fight breaks out during which one of the Italian bombers is claimed destroyed by Captain Brian J.L. Boyle (N5830), Lieutenant Andrew Duncan and Robin Pare.

 

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Captain Brian J.L. Boyle, No.1 (SAAF) Squadron, reading. Collection : Imperial War Museum.

 

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Logbook of Captain Brian J.L. Boyle. Collection : SAAF museum Ysterplaat via Tinus le Roux.

 

 

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2 - 3 November 1940

 

Northern Front

 

Christopher Shores writes, in his book “Dust Clouds in the Middle East”, that during the day of 2 November, a Savoia-Marchetti 79 of 44bis Gruppo BT is involved in a fight with five Gloster Gladiatoer around 09:30. A Fighter is claimed destroyed while the Italian bomber is slightly damaged. The event wis reported to have taken place in the vicinity of Noggara (in the northwestern corner of Ethiopia forming the border with Sudan and Eritrea).

 

This action is, however, absent from the British documents.

 

However, it should be noted that at this time, Sudan has only two units operating on Gloster Gladiator: in this case K Flight and No.1 (SAAF) Squadron. It is known that K Flight is flying a training with No.223 (RAF) Squadron during the first three days of November over Summit. Given the distance, and the number of aircraft avaible on K Flight, it seems unlikely that its pilots are concerned. 

 

On the other hand, Lieutenant Andrew Duncan of No.1 (SAAF) Squadron reportedly claimed a damaged Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 over Kumbina on 3 November.[1] A sortie is actually mentioned in Lieutenant Brian J.L. Boyle’s logbook on this date, although he does not seem to be writing anything about a fight. In addition, the place of fighting according to the Italians: Noggara is located at a relatively moderate distance from the airfield of Azaza (Geraref). Thus, if both events are to be confirmed, a date error could be considered to make them coincide. Unfortunately, for lack of documents to consult, it remains a mere hypothesis.

 

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Logbook of Lieutenant Brian J.L. Boyle, 3 November 1940.

 

----------------------------------------------------

[1] In the absence of War Diaries or ORBs relating to No.1 (SAAF) Squadron during this period, there are a few pages (two) relating to the period August-November 1940. This document is compiled at a later date from Lieutenant Andrew Duncan’s Logbook, with all possible risks of error.

 

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JG300_Manfred

4 November 1940

 

Northern Front

 

One of the few existing documents relating to No.1 (SAAF) Squadron provides some details. The unit is based in Azaza (Gedaref) with eight Gloster Gladiator Mk II and the following pilots: Major Schalk van Schalkwyk, Captain Brian J.L. Boyle, Lieutenant Johan J. Coetzer, Andrew Duncan, John L. Hewitson, Robin Pare, Leonard Le Clues Theron and Servaas de Kock Viljoen.

 

Three Gladiator Glosters take off in the morning to patrol around Metemma where they meet three Fiat CR.42s of 412a Squadriglia CT. Two fighters are claimed destroyed by Lieutenant Andrew Duncan and Leonard Le Clues Theron, as well as one unconfirmed by Captain Brian J.L. Boyle (N5852). Indeed, the aircraft of Sottotenente Mario Proserpio (injured) is shot down. At the same time, a victory is claimed by an unidentified Italian pilots and a probable by Sergeant Maggiore Luigi Baron.

 

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Logbook, Captain Brian J.L. Boyle, 4 november 1940.

 

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Second Lieutenant Lieutenant Andrew Duncan, Captain Brian J.L. Boyle et Lieutenant Servaas de Kock Viljoen (L – R) in front of a Gloster Gladiator of No.1 (SAAF) Squadron at Azaza. Collection : Brendan Boyle via Tinus le Roux.

 

 

No.203 (RAF) Squadron is flying as usual with the protection of ships in the Red Sea. Flight Lieutenant James M.N. Pike aboard L9173 damages a Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 around 10:00. The latter returns to Zula with two dead and two wounded.

 

 

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