15 December 1940

15 December 1940

A Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 [1] is reported over Port Sudan (5 500 meters) around 12:50. The AA opened fire, while two Hawker Hurricanes of No.1 (SAAF) Squadron: Major Lawrence A. Wilmot (n ° 285) and Captain Kenneth W. Driver (n ° 274), as well as two Gloster Gladiator of K Flight: Flying Officer Geoffrey B. Smither (L7619) and Flight Sergeant Sumner (K6143) take off. All of the fighters landed between 13:20 and 13:50 without being able to catch the Italian bomber. [2]

A second takeoff on alert took place later in the afternoon (15:35 – 15:40) with the same two South African pilots and planes, as well as Flying Officer Robert H. Chapman (L7619) and Pilot Officer Alan Tofield (K6143). The flight is, however, short-lived and the unidentified aircraft turned out to be a De Havilland DH.89.

As in the previous nights, the RAF is attacking various Italian targets. The No.14 (RAF) Squadron sends six Bristol Blenheim against Asmara and Gura (22:00 – 06:40). They are, however, expected by the Regia Aeroanautica and several clashes take place against 412 Squadriglia CT. This is the case of Flight Sergeant Leslie H. Moulton (T1819) who is forced to push back following the attack of a Fiat CR.42. Several Italian bombers are also reported over Port Sudan to await the return of the British crews. [3]

A Bristol Blenheim of No.14 (RAF) Squadron taking off from Port Sudan. Collection : No.14 (RAF) Squadron Association.

The situation is more difficult for No.223 (RAF) Squadron, whose three Vickers Wellesley are intercepted above Gura, between 03:23 and 04:55 by two Fiat CR.42. The L2690 (Flying Officer James Wallace) is badly damaged. If the pilot succeeds in bringing back the aircraft on the airfield of Wadi Gazouza, this last is struck off strength. The K7720 (Flight Sergeant Leonard W. Bangley) is more lightly damaged and several impacts are noted after landing.[4] The interception seems to have been carried out by Capitano Antonio Raffi and Tenente Mario Visintini. Two bombers are claimed damaged by the Italians during this night.[5]

[1] An aircraft of the 44bis Gruppo BT ? The unit has just been moved to Gura, and one of the aircraft would have been sent to Port Sudan for a reconnaissance mission. 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. 86.

[2] Curiously, the participation of the two South African pilots is not reported in the (short) document summarising the activity of No.1 (SAAF) Squadron during this period. They are, however, listed in the ORB of K Flight. K Flight : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 29/858.

[3] 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.

[4] No.223 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 27/1374. Reconnaissance Report et Combat (Bomber) Report : Sergeant Bangley, Flying Officer Wallace et Pilot Officer Wild : No.223 (RAF) Squadron, Appendices. Kew : TNA, AIR 27 / 1379.

[5] EUSEBI, Eugenio, LAZZARO, Stefano et SLONGO Ludovico. Le vittorie aeree di Mario Visintini in Africa Orientale, in Storia Militare, n°246, 2014, p. 63 ; GUSTAVSSON, Håkan. Capitano Mario Visintini Medaglia d’oro al valor militare. Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War :  http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/italy_visintini.htm ;  GUSTAVSSON, Håkan. Capitano Antonio Raffi. Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War : http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/italy_raffi.htm