40 Squadron in North Africa diary

 Here a summary of events as was recorded in the squadron war diaries.

The squadron commander (OC) for the first battle period was Lt. Col. Ed Biden and for the second battle period Lt. Col. Murray Gardner.

The squadron consisted of 3 flights: A, B and C flights, each lead by a flight commander with the rank of captain. The administration contingent was large and consisted of staff from various air force and army units.

The squadron used two landing grounds simultaneously (LG's) during the operations phases: a) Forward landing ground "ALG" close to the front. b) Base landing ground "BLG" that is situated at a safe distance from the front. The flights were continuously being rotated between the two LG's. 

The events of No.40 SAAF squadron while Michael was with them can be grouped in four phases:

1) Sept 1941-Jan 1942            Training, equipping and staffing, base camp at Burg-El-Arab in Egypt

2) Feb 1942- July 42                Campaign in Lybia, retreat to Alamein Line, stayed at various LG's

3) August 42 -October 42         Regroup in Egypt at Wadi Natrune, Al-Fridan and LG-201 

4) October 42 - February 43     Advance from Alamein  through Lybia into Cyrenaica, stayed at various LG's

In the first battle period the sqdn flew ancient Hurricanes Mk 1 and Tomahawks. In the second battle period they flew Hurricanes Mk 2 and Tomahawks. Just after Michael left the squadron it was equipped with Spitfires.

Two kinds of reconnaissance missions were usually flown: photograph- (photo/r) and tactical reconnaissance (tac/r)

Reconnaissance flights were flown usually in pairs with the "weaver" flying behind the reconnaissance plane. Sometimes single aircraft flights were used. 


LG     : Landing Ground

POW : Prisoner of War

OC    : Officer Commanding

AA     : Anti Aircraft

A/C    : Aircraft

U/S    : Unservicable

KIFA  : Killed in Flying Accident

RTU  : Returned to Union

KIA    : Killed in Action

OTU  : Operational Training Unit

Summary of SAAF No. 40 squadron war diary beginning of operations February 1942


19/02/42  move from Burg-El-Arab to LG-117  near Maarten Bagush and Fuka

02/03/42  Capt Blaauw with 6 pilots left for Sidi Aziz as attacment to RAF 208 sqdn. (Cobbledick, Foulds, Nel, Waugh, Mitchell,Stott)

05/03/42  First Tomahawks arrive

17/03/42  C flight left for El Adem (Tiny Nel, Mellor, Acutt, Kleynhans, Ross, Mitchell, Nel, Foulds)

18/03/42  sqdn move to Sidi-Azeiz (via Sidi Barrani, Sollum, and Capuzzo)

21/03/42   Doug Mellor missing, POW

23/03/42  Lt Ross's aircraft hit in tail by AA, returned to base, A/C unservicable

23/03/42  Lt Kleynhans RTU under arrest

28/03/42  Lt Flekser force landed near Tobruk, Lt Ross's prop was holed by AA

31/03/42  B flight (Blaauw, Stott, Gouws, Nicol, Macdonald, Borain, van Niekerk, Lazerus, F Acutt) releived C flight at El Adem 

31/03/42  Current stats: 19 x Hurricane mk 1, 2 x Tomahawks used but 2 x  AC lost.

01/04/42  Jack Webb hit by AA and force landed, walked and found 1 SA div, AC destroyed, lift back to base

 06/04/42  Jimmy Egner got shot down and became POW. The sqdn was warned of enemy AC in tac/r area. Pilots very unhappy about these events.

09/04/42  Gamat Gouws shot down and became POW.

09/04/42  Jannie Blaauw force landed due to engine trouble, AC retrieved

09/04/42  Attack by Bf-109's at El Adem LG, bombs dropped, 1 Cape Corps wounded, 1 RA gunner KIA

10/04/42 Capt Ed Biden promoted to Lt Col.

10/04/42  Lt "Van" van Niekerk shot down and killed

13/04/42  2 x German Bf-109 attacks on El Adem LG, 1 AC damaged

15/04/42 Lt Andrew's AC hit by AA, landed safely

16/04/42 Lt Ross shot down on tac/r sortie and killed.

17/04/42 Lt "Gert" Lazarus overboost a Tomahawk, A/C became U/S.

               Lt Macdonald retracted U/C before airborne, A/C became U/S.

21/04/42  Lt Nicol had engine failure, belly landed

23/04/42  Cobbledick promoted to act capt

26/04/42  Lt Booth shot down (Tomahawk) by 109's and crashed, died on way to hospital, buried by Free French at Bir Hacheim.

27/04/42  Lt Grimes and Lt de Gale report for duty

28/04/42  A flight (Capt Cobbledick) relieve B flight at El Adem

02/05/42 Lt Welchman made an accident  with a Tomahawk as the U/C folded on landing

04/05/42 Lt Heald force landed at Gumbut, U/C collapsed

               Lt Cook and Lt van der Riet reported for duty.

06/05/42 Jan Blaauw force landed and walked to Sidi Azeiz LG next day

07/05/42 Lt Webb and Lt Sturgeon shot down 2 x MC-202's, one each.

08/05/42 Lt Foulds A/C badly damaged by AA

09/05/42  Jack Webb force landed in Enemy area, walked and picked up by friendly armoured car, 

10/05/42  Jack Webb walked into camp, 3d time

                Natie Flekser shot down, POW

                "Cobbles" Cobbledick shot down and killed

13/05/42  Peter Andrew promoted to A Capt

14/05/42  Lt Acutt force landed but OK.

15/05/42 Lt Heald's A/C hit and damaged by AA

               Lt Freemantle reported for duty

23/05/42  Col Biden claimed MC-202 probable

25/05/42  Lt Nicol shot down and killed

                 Lt's C M Beath, R Macdowall and P Wegemoed reported for duty.

27/05/42  Lt Grimes was hit by AA over Sidi Rezegh and force landed at Gambut.

                Sidi Azeiz LG bombed for first time

28/05/42  Lt Webb claim Bf-109 shot down probable

                El Adem LG bombed, strafed and shelled

                Lt Mitchell force landed at Gambut

                 Lt de Gale swung on landing

29/05/42  El Adem LG bombed and strafed

31/05/42  El Adem LG bombed, strafed

01/06/42  El Adem LG attacked, 30 bombs dropped, no casualties, 1 Tomahawk damaged

                Capt Blaauw leave 40 sqdn

                Lt Boraine left 40 sqdn for ? fighter squadron because he is "temperamentally not suited for tac/r duty"

                Azeiz LG  heavily bombed at night

02/06/42  Azeiz LG bombed and accidently shelled by friendly 3.7 inch AA guns from Capuzzo, AA officer came down to apologize.

03/06/42  Azeiz LG bombed

04/06/42  Azeiz LG bombed

                El Adem LG bombed

05/06/42  Lt van der Riet attacked by a Bf-109 while on Photo/r. Got wounded and nursed the damaged A/C home.  The 109 followed and shot him down in flames at 50 feet near the drome. He crashed but escaped with severe burn wounds. Evacuated to Tobruk hospital.

                 One 20 mm shell from the a Bf-109 struck the officer's mess and the occupants received a fright.

                 Azeiz LG bombed

06/06/42  El Adem detatchment moved to Gubbi in Tobruk area, enemy was to close to El Adem and his gun flashes were observed.

                Lt Freemantle crashed a Tomahawk when one wheel came off on landing, unhurt.

09/06/42  Lt R W B Acutt's A/C damaged by AA fire.

11/06/42  Lt Mitchell fainted in his A/C at high altitude but recovered at 500 feet

12/06/42  Lt de Gale belly landed at Tobruk LG, unhurt, A/C written off

                Mc-202 shot down by Bofors AA near Tobruk LG

13/06/42  A Flight (Capt Andrew) took over from  ? Flight at Tobruk detachment.

                Lt Sturgeon's A/C was hit in the fuel tank by a Breda shell, A/C returned

                New pilots reported for duty; Lts. Rose, Clive le Roux, C G Orpen, J J O Kavanagh

14/06/42  Tobruk detachment evacuated to the 40 sqdn base camp at Sidi Azeiz LG. Lt's Sturgeon, Waugh and Andrew stayed at Tobruk together with a few mechs.

14/06/42  Lt Jackson crash landed a Tomahawk, unhurt

                Sidi Azeiz camp given notice to be on stand-by for short notice evacuation.

15/06/42  Lt Waugh wounded in legs by AA shell hit in the cockpit in Tobruk vicinity. He brought the A/C back, was taken to Tobruk hospital.

15/06/42  Sidi Azeiz evacuated and the sqdn convoy camped at Bir Shefferzen on the way to LG 103

                 Lt Welchman, Lazarus and Cohen crash landed due to U/S aircraft.

                 One Hurricane was abandoned and destroyed by the army.

16/06/42  The squadron convoy reached and camped at Sidi Barrani

17/06/42  The sqdn convoy reached their destination, LG 103

                 Capt Thomson rejoined

18/06/42  an A.L.G. established west near the wire

                 Thomson was Killed with a flying accident; engine cut after take-off, he turn, spun and crashed.This was his first flight in a Tomahawk, happened in front of squadron staff.

19/06/42   Thomson buried at Maaten Busch

                  Only 3 pilots stayed at the ALG at LG155

21/06/42   The 3 pilots returned to LG 103 from LG155 as it will be overrun by the Germans soon.

                 Received news of the fall of Tobruk

25/06/42   LG 103 bombed

                 Party of mechanics sent to Azeiz reported missing

26/06/42   sqdn convoy move out of LG 103

27/06/42   sqdn convoy arrives at LG 100

28/06/42   ALG moved from LG155 to LG104, 30 miles east.

29/06/42  Jack Heald struck a Bedford? loaded with ? that exploded while taking off in misty conditions and Jack was killed. Happened at LG 104

                 ALG moved to LG 39

30/06/42   Sqdn moved east to RAF base Heliopolis

02/07/42   Lt's C W Lambon, R T Nicholson, R H van der Poel reported for duty

06/07/42   Lt Jackson hit by AA fire, force landed, POW.

                 Lt Foulds promoted to acting Capt.

                 Capt Andrew RTU

10/07/42   Lt Lambon A/C hit by shell in cockpit, force landed, uninjured

                 Lt  Macdowall transferred to SAAF base on medical grounds

                 Lt Lazarus transferred to the Union for compassionate reasons

11/07/42   Lt Kavanagh force landed due to engine trouble.

12/07/42   squadron moved west to LG 100

17/07/42   Capt Blaauw returned from East Africa

19/07/42   Lt F E Black reported for duty

                 Jack Webb immediate DFC awarded

21/07/42   Lt Rose force landed, engine trouble.

22/07/42   40 sqdn stopped with operational duties to be re-grouped

                 Lt's G LLoyd and R D Steinbach reported for duty

                 R W B Acutt promoted to Captain

29/07/42   Withdrew from operations move to Wadi Natrune

August 42 Move to Qassasin

                 Squadron moved to Al Fridan

                 Received Hurricanes mk 2

20/08/42  Capt J Orr transferred to squadron

28/08/42  Lt Col Murray Gardner returned as new OC

03/09/42  Lt Col Ed Biden finished his tour as OC

08/09/42  Murray Gardner collided with his first flight in a Tomahawk with an Egyptian truck on landing, driver killed. 

14/09/42   C Flight moved to LG 201 as advance party

15/09/42   Squadron moved to LG 201

September  much training with 10 Corps

26/09/42   Jan Blaauw promoted to Major and transferred to 7 sqdn as OC

                 DFC's awarded to Jannie Blaauw and Tiny Nel

01/10/42  Peter Campbell returned to the squadron

05/10/42   Johnny Human gave lectures on air tactics

                 Lt Freemantle had accident with A/C while taxi; cat 2 damage

12/10/42   Maj Tiny Nel returned and promoted to sqdn 2 IC

14/10/42  Lt's A E Brokensha, J H P Miles and M H C Shepherd

20/10/42  ALG moved to LG 39, main part of squadron, near Burg-El-Arab

21/10/42  Jack Webb promoted to Captain

23/10/42  Opening attack of Alamein battle barrage watched by sqdn members

24/10/42  Squadron re-entres operations.

04/11/42 Capt Jack Webb got shot down by AA near Tel-El-Eisa. He force landed in a mine field setting off a mine. His body was found by the Durham Light Infantry regt and he was buried next to his aircraft..

                Mike Welchman made acting Flight commander

06/10/42  ALG Sqdn moved to LG 104

07/10/42  LG 104 bombed at night

                ALG Sqdn move to Maaten Bagush

08/19/42  BLG move from LG 39 to Bagush

09/11/42  Peter Campbell claimed damage to a Ju-87

09/11/42 van der Poel engaged Bf-109's for 25 minutes as his no.1 could do the tac.r; DFC recommended

                sqdn move from Maaten Bagush to LG 07

10/11/42  Chris Beith shot down and taken POW in Sollum area.

                 Steinbach claimed a probable shot down EA

11/11/42   ALG sqdn moved to LG 2, Sidi Barrani

                 BLG moved to LG 7

12/11/42   ALG move to Sidi Azeiz

14/11/42   BLG moved to El Adem

16/11/42   ALGmove to Martuba 3

17/11/42   ALG move to Martuba 2

                 Lt's Hodgson and Aronson joined the sqdn

18/11/42  Lt's Black and Campbell's A/C's pitched over due to soft spots on the taxi path

22/11/42  ALG move to Tmimi 2

25/11/42 Peter Campbell shot down by AA  Mersa Brega -  Agheila area.

26/11/42 Lt Freemantle shot down near Agheila by Bf-109's, belly landed, walked 12 miles, picked up by own forces and returned to base.

26/11/42 Lt LLoyd had a fight with Bf-109's in the Agheila area protecting his shot down mate Lt Freemantle. A/C damaged but returned safely with completed tac/r info.

27/11/42 ALG move from Tmimi to Magrum

29/11/42 First tac/r with Spitfire escourt of RAF 92 sqdn.

30/11/42  BLG move from El Adem to Tmimi 2

                ALG at Magrum bombed

10/12/42  ALG move to Nogra

13/12/42 Lt Shepherd shot down and wounded in the foot. Crash landed and walked a far way, picked up bu friendly forces and sent to hospital.

                BLG moved from Tmimi to Belinia

                Belinia Bombed by Ju-88's

18/12/42  ALG move to Marble Arch

20/12/42  Lt Welgemoed flew to Cairo and returned with six dozen whiskey's and 80 gallons of brandy  in the long range tanks

28/12/42  Pilots leave the sqdn: Stott, Ross

30/12/42 New pilots arrive: Lt's D I G Gibson, H B Gibson, A F  Wilby, E G Isles

               ALG move to Alem El Gsina

                BLG move to Marble Arch

09/01/43  ALG moved to Hamraiet

12/01/43   v d Poel and Welgemoed's aircraft slightly damaged by AA fire

13/01/43  Lt Visscher report for duty

18/01/43  ALC moved to Sedada

19/01/43  Lt Black shot down, force landed, returned to squadron 22/01/42

                 ALC moved to Darragh West

                 Lt " Brokie" Brokensha KIA

21/01/43  BLG moved to Tamet

24/01/43  ALG move to Castel Benito

25/01/43  Visscher killed in flying accident near Buerat, buried next to his burnt out plane

26/01/43  Lt van der Poel shot down, returned to sqdn on 30/01/42

03/02/43 BLG moved to Gasr Garabuli

06/02/43  Lt Clive le Roux shot down by AA, returned next day to sqdn

09/02/43  Lt's Cook and Welgemoed promoted to Captains

                Foulds transferred to 74 OTU

                Welchman and Acutt RTU

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