29 December 1940

29 December 1940

Southern Front

Following the reconnaissance carried out the previous day by the Martin Maryland of No.14 (SAAF) Squadron, four Hawker Hurricane of No.2 (SAAF) Squadron took off from Ndege’s Nest at 15:25 to attack Bardera airfield: Flight Lieutenant Robert S. Blake (V7382), Captain Alfred Q. Masson (R4103), Lieutenant Adrian M. Colenbrander (P3254) and Jacobus A. Kok (R4104).

When they arrived above the aerodrome, they engaged in classic machine-gunning, damaging an armored car and three Savoia-Marchetti SM.81. At the same time, the dust generated by a Fiat CR.42 on takeoff is noted. He is immediately engaged. The enemy’s aircraft is damaged while Sergente Strano is injured. The Italian pilot managed, however, to escape and land.

At the same time, the South Africans did not note the takeoff of two other Fiat CR.42 of 413a Squadriglia CT: Tenente Franco De Micheli and Sottotenente Osvaldo Bartolozzi. Without real aerial coverage, Flight Lieutenant Robert S. Blake suddenly sees the two Italian fighters who are attacking. Without a radio, he could not warn the other pilots. Lieutenant Jacobus A. Kok’s plane is quickly shot down by Tenente Franco De Micheli, and the injured South African pilot jumped in parachut.  [1], Sottotenente Osvaldo Bartolozzi quickly did the same with the Hawker Hurricane of Flight Lieutenant Robert S. Blake.[2] Short of ammunition, the other two pilots must break off the fight to return to their lines.[3]

Lieutenant Adrian M. Colenbranderon Wajir airfield. Collection : SAAF Museum via Tinus le Roux.

[1] Captured, he was liberated at the end of the East African Campaign. On his return, with No.2 (SAAF) Squadron, he was shot down and killed on 29 July 1941 in North Africa. 

[2] Wounded in the foot, slightly burned in the leg, he had great difficulty in extracting himself from his aircraft and fell heavily to the ground (his parachute barely managed to deploy). He remained in hospital for some time, before being liberated at the end of the East Africa Campaign. He continued his career in the RAF, finishing as a Wing Commander. He then returned to South Africa and died in 1984 in Cape Town.

[3] December – Narrative Northern Operations SAAF. Kew : TNA, AIR/54/9 ; No.2 (SAAF) Squadron, War Diary. The National Archives (Kew). AIR 54 / 2 ; 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 ; GUSTAVSSON, Håkan. Tenente Franco De Micheli. Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War : http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/italy_demicheli.htm ; Wing Commander Robert Somerset Blake. Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War : http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/commonwealth_blake.htm ; Tenente Osvaldo Bartolozzi. Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War : http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/italy_bartolozzi.htm ; SCHOEMAN, Michael. Springbok Fighter Victory : East Africa (1940 – 1941). Nelspruit : Freeworld. p.75 à 78 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. 89 à 90 ; SUTERLAND, Jon ; CANWELL, Diane. Air War East Africa 1940 – 1941 : The RAF versus the Italian Air Force. Barnsley : Pen and Sword Aviation, 2009.  p.84 et 85.

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