27 December 1940

27 December 1940

Northern Front

The day is mainly marked by a surprise attack by 412a Squadriglia CT on the airfield of Gedaref with six Fiat CR.42 taking off from Gura and by Capitano Antonio Raffi, Tenente Niso Provinciali, Sottotenente Filippo Sola and Rosmina, as well as Sergente Maggiore Enzo Omiccioli. The identity of the last aviator is unknown. We could, however, hypothesize the presence of Sergente Maggiore Luigi Baron, whose claim of 25 December remains enigmatic.[1]

The attack appears to be a success and the British are taken by surprise. An aircraft is reported destroyed on the ground. Five Gloster Gladiator of No.1 (SAAF) Squadron are ordered to take off from Azzoza at 06:20. But only three fighters (Captain Gerald J. le Mesurier; Lieutenant Thomas Condon and Second Lieutenant E.A. Jarvis ) can actually take off and intercept opposing aircraft.

The South Africans continue to suffer technical incidents and Captain Gerald J. le Mesurier must break off the fight following the clutching of his machine guns. At the same time, Lieutenant Thomas Condon’s propeller (N5789) is damaged. He succeeded, however, to damage a Fiat CR.42 which fell in flames eight km east of Gedaref, resulting in the Sottotenente Filippo Sola death. Lieutenant Leonard le Clues Theron and Second Lieutenant P.H. Smith can finally take off after having fixed their engine problems, but only to see the last Italian planes leaving the sector.[2]

On the Italian side, four victories are claimed, including two for Sergente Maggiore Enzo Omiccioli, the latter indicating that one of his opponents made a forced landing, while the other would have fallen in flame.[3]

The multiple technical problems of South Africans are not surprising. Thus, the functioning of armaments is reported as very unsatisfactory due to the lack of spare parts and equipment. According to Lieutnant-Colonel W.A.J. Gillham, then mechanic:

« Pilots ran their aircraft engines on the ground to recharge the batteries, and mechanics (augmented by RAF personnel) were still without such elementary equipment as wing-jacks. Aircraft were lifted off the ground on to tins filled with sand. Spares did not exist and damaged aircraft had to be cannibalised to keep others running. (…) Egyptian coins with a hollow centre were used as washers. At Gedaref, an aircraft with a portion of the metal trailing edge shot away was repaired with a sharpened twig forced into the tubing. The whole job was so well doped that mechanics at Kartoum would not have found it except for a pencilled noted on the wing : Large hole under patch. » [4]

Southern Front

Despite the deplorable condition of its Avro Anson, the No.34 (SAAF) Flight is able to carry out its first patrol between Dar-es-Salam and Mombasa for a duration of 02:30.[1]

[1] GUSTAVSSON, Håkan. Sergente Maggiore Luigi ”Gino” Baron. Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War  : http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/italy_baron.htm

[2] No.1 (SAAF) Squadron, War Diary. The National Archives (Kew). AIR 54 / 1. 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 et 89 ; 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 et 84 ; SCHOEMAN, Michael. Springbok Fighter Victory : East Africa (1940 – 1941). Nelspruit : Freeworld. p.49 à 50 et 137 ; GUSTAVSSON, Håkan. Capitano Antonio Raffi. Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War : http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/italy_raffi.htm

[3] GUSTAVSSON, Hakan ; SLONGO Ludovico. Gladiator Vs. CR.42 Falco (1940 – 1941). Oxford : 2012, Osprey. p.59 et 60.

[4] BROWN, James Ambrose. A Gathering of Eagles : The campaigns of the South African Air Force in Italian East Africa (1940 – 1941). Purnell, 1970. p. 134.

[5] December – Narrative Northern Operations SAAF. Kew : TNA, AIR/54/9 ; No.34 (SAAF) Coastal Flight, War Diary. Kew : TNA, AIR 54/116.

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