24 December 1940

24 December 1940

Northern Front

The No.237 (Rhodesia) Squadron experiences one of its rare confrontations when Flying Officer Alexander S. MacIntyre [1] and Sergeant John O.R. Collins (Hawker Hardy L5923) meet a formation of three Caproni Ca.133 bombing British troops to the north of Kassala, between 14:15 and 15:30. During the short confrontation, a destroyed enemy aircraft is claimed on both sides.[2]

According to Flight Lieutenant Eric Smith:

«It was during this period that the incident took place resulting in the now-recorded signal doggerel rhyme being sent to HQ by B Flight. What happened was that HQ fondly believed that propaganda pamphlets should be dropped on every target was too hectic for us to have time to heave bumph around. We dutifully sent reports that the leaflets had been dropped rather that face the wrath of HQ but of course, the pamphlets accumulated.

Masservy then informed us that he was definitely closing down the war over Christmas from 24th to 26th inclusive and we were free to amuse ourselves. I decided to have a grand bumph raid and to get rid of the offending pamphlets once and for all. Targets were drawn for and a cheer went up when Sandy Mac [Flying Officer Alexander S. MacIntyre] drew the hot spot Kassala. Not only was the flak so thick that one could put wheels down and taxi on it but one could also clearly see the dust trails of Italian fighters taking off from Tesseni some ten miles (16 km) away.

Sandy Mac went in but despite the desperate heacing of his gunner, John O.R. Collins, he faced the dismal prospect of having to make another run. Taking a wide circuit to catch his breath, he suddently saw bursts on our side of the line and wandered over to find five Caproni bombing. He attacked without hesitation believing he could get in before the escorting fighters could intercept. He pressed home the attack and broke away downwards fully expecting to be kept busy by the fighters. To his amazement, the fighters had disappeared. He turned back and went after the Caproni again but now there were only four ; the damaged one was missing. He attacked again closing right in but on his second burst his solitary gun stopped firing. He continued to close and he was in close formation with the Caproni, a manoeuvre that effectively shielded him from the fire of the 21 gunners in the other three Caproni. Collins concentrated on the port engine but so close were they that he was forced to fire between the Hardy’s wings, shooting all the interplane struts away but briging the Caproni down in flames. Immediately they were exposed to gunners from the other Caproni and Sandy Mac broke away in hurry?.

Back at the flight, by unanimous vote it was decided that this was a worthhy occasion to breach our much-treasured 56 jars of rum. One wireless operator and the Orderly Officer, Flying Officer Jack Taylor remained on duty. After all Masservy had offically closed down the war. Belatedly I remembered that HQ should receive an operational report but by now ciphers were unmanageable and in plain language I sent the doggerel : Happy Xmas unto thee, Wa have downed a 133, If we only get our due, We will down a CR 42 »[3]

Southern Front

Lieutenant John D. Niblock-Stuart [4], of No.2 (SAAF) Squadron is killed, when his Hawker Fury K5663 crash near Archer’s Post.[5]

[1] After the East Africa Campaign, he join No.266 (Rhodesia) Squadron in England, august 1942. Squadron Leader, he is shot down on 15 august 1943, probably by a Fw.190. He is buried at Le Folgoët (France). https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/2813975/ALEXANDER%20STEWART%20MACINTYRE/ ; https://www.the-saleroom.com/en-gb/auction-catalogues/dix-noonan-webb/catalogue-id-2745195/lot-5745829 ; http://francecrashes39-45.net/page_fiche_av.php?id=4065&PHPSESSID=4b8f7e4a0ab755e574ea7b395b7fe98b 

[2] No.237 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew: TNA, AIR 27/1450 ; 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. 88 ; SUTERLAND, Jon ; CANWELL, Diane. Air War East Africa 1940 – 1941 : The RAF versus the Italian Air Force. Barnsley : Pen and Sword Aviation, 2009.  p.83.

[3] SALT, Beryl. A Pride of Eagles : The Definitive History of the Rhodesian Air Force (1920 – 1980). Johannesburg : Covos Day, 2001. p.73 et 74.

[4] Born on 28 March 1917 at Umtata (South Africa), he join the SAAF in 1938. Lieutenant John Douglas Niblock-Stuart (47 700 V) is the borther of  Major Noel G. Niblock-Stuart, C.O. of No.3 (SAAF) Squadron. He is buried at Nanyuki (Kenya). http://www.southafricawargraves.org/search/print.php?id=18721

[5] No.2 (SAAF) Squadron, War Diary. The National Archives (Kew). AIR 54 / 2 ; BRENT, Winston. 85 Years of South African Air Force. Nelspruit : Freeworld Publications, 2005. p.45 ; CRAWFORD, Alex ; LISTEMANN, Phil H. Allied Wings : Hawker Fury. 2010. p. 45 ; SCHOEMAN, Michael. Springbok Fighter Victory : East Africa (1940 – 1941). Nelspruit : Freeworld. p. 75 et 137 ; 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. 88

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