11 December 1940

11 December 1940

Northern Front

Three Bristol Blenheim Mk.IV of No.14 (RAF) Squadron take off at 14:00 to bomb a bridge inside the city of Asmara. The target, surrounded by residential areas, requires special instructions as the crews are asked to clearly identify it before any bombing. Squadron Leader Deryck C. Stapleton (T2167) is forced to return quickly to Port Sudan (15:10) due to left engine trouble. The two other aircraft continued on to Asmara. Above the city, Flying Officer William D. Matthew (T1857) managed to find the old fort on a hill, which is supposed to provide the course to follow. However, he had to make four laps over Asmara to find the objective and attack, without success. Flight Lieutenant John K. Buchanan (T2185) does not succeed in obtaining a visual and according to the instructions he decides to go towards the secondary target: the Asmara airfield. Here again, the bombing is a failure.[1]

Southern Front

Six Fairey Battle Mk.I of No.11 (SAAF) Squadron takes off to attack Yabelo airfield. The South African planes operate in three waves of two and dives from an altitude of 1 200 meters between 07;50 and 09;45. The bombing appears to be a success and three Caproni Ca.133 are claimed destroyed, as well as three others damaged. One of the Fairey Battle: n°925 (Captain Johannes F. Britz, Air Sergeant Michael A. Oberholzer and E. Murphy) is however damaged by AA. The oil tank hit, the pilot is forced to land near Gombo, after crossing the Kenyan border. The plane will be repaired the next day to reach Archers Post airfield.

Note that a second aircraft: No. 915 (Lieutenant W.M.P. Matthias, Air Sergeant R.J. van Heerden) encountered engine problems on the return. A forced landing is also carried out near Laisamis (50 km from Archers post). The contact with the ground is more violent and the wreckage is not considered recoverable.

Fairey Battle of No.11 (SAAF) Squadron in Kenya. Collection : SAAF Museum, via Tinus le Roux.

[1] No.14 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 27/192 ; NAPIER, Michael. Winged Crusaders : The Exploits of 14 Squadron RFC & RAF 1915 – 1945. Barnsley : Pen & Sword, 2013.

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