23 – 24 October 1940

23 - 24 October 1940

Southern Front

This day is relatively insignificant in terms of activity. Two Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 make a surprise visit 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 Air Force Base 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.

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. This tradition of ‘Flying Cheetahs’ is still carried on by the No.2 (SAAF) Squadron on the JAS 39 Gripen aircraft in issue. 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.

2 Responses

  1. a gray says:

    Your posts are always fascinating and put a face on regions of World War II that are rarely covered. Thank you for your effort.

    • ajcrou says:


      Thank you also for following my website (and previously older versions of this work). There have been several reboot of my research on East Africa, but normally this is the final version (although I still hope to find new sources: archives / publications to go further), to continue gradually until November 1941. In particular, I did a lot of work for the 1941 period to integrate information on ground operations and not just only air operations.
      I also plan to write on other exotic WWII topics (I hope from this summer or automne…, but unfortunately with the Covid crisis19, I’m blocked to get copies of some necessary archival documents, the British archives being closed to consultation…).

      Best Regards,
      Alexis Rousselot

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