23 - 24 October 1940
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.