28 September 1940

28 September 1940

Northern Front

This day sees the first operation conducted by No.237 (Rhodesia) Squadron since its transfer to Sudan, when the Hawker Hardy K4055 (Pilot Officer Peter HS Simmonds, Sergeant Hall) performs two patrols (08h10 and 11h30) above the Atbara River. Indeed, following the decision to entrust SAAF with air operations on the southern front, No. 237 (Rhodesia) Squadron was ordered to move these aircraft from 13 September to join Khartoum. In addition, all original aircrafts are returned to Southern Rhodesia to be replaced only by Hawker Hardy. Nevertheless, this change is very relative, while the activity hardly changes.

According to Pilot Officer Eric Smith :

« No sooner did the ground convoy arrive than we were sent out on detachment to the front. B Flight in the nord, A Flight in the center and C in the south. The front was about 150 miles (240 km) long pivoted on Kassala, which the Italians had captured in their firsh push. This Italian desert equivalent of The Rock contained tanks and armoured cars and was backed by at least 6 000 troops with defended strong points to the nord and south. Facing them, and only in the north was Gazelle force, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Masservy (later general) with a total ration strengh of just under 1 000. This force was specifically charged with the task of bluffing the Italians that we had defence in strengh. Kassala was an easy two hours drive across firm desert to Khartoum, posing a deadly theat to our communications. »[1]

[1] SALT Beryl. A Pride of Eagles, The Definitive History of the Rhodesian Air Force : 1920 – 1980. Johannesburg : Covos Day, 2001, p. 70 à 71.

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