5 January 1941

5 January 1941

Northern Front

No.14 (RAF) Squadron begins a series of attacks on Massawa, that will continue over the next few days. Flight Sergeant Patey took off at 07:05 in a Bristol Blenheim MkIV (T1868) for a photographic reconnaissance, which is in fact aimed at attracting Italian fighters. At the same time, six other bombers are tasked with attacking the docks housing two Italian submarines, from an altitude of about 1 200 metres. Despite the absence of the Italian fighters, the bombing did not seem to have any concrete result. The whole formation landed at Port Sudan between 11:50 and 12:55.[1]

Taking advantage of the lull in operations and in anticipation of the forthcoming offensive, No.94 (RAF) Squadron and K Flight carried out a series of training exercises during the first days of January. Two Gloster Gladiators of No.94 (RAF) Squadron took off at 07:00 from Sheikh Othman airfield for an aerial combat training session.[2]

K Flight sees more action as a Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 is reported over Port Sudan, at about 14:50, at an altitude of about 7 500m. Hawker Hurricane Mk I n°274 (Captain Brian J.L. Boyle) and n°265 (Captain Kenneth W. Driver), from the South African detachment, took off immediately (at 14:50), but they could not catch up with the Italian aircraft. They landed at 15:35 and 15:15 respectively.[3] Note that the War Diary of No.1 (SAAF) Squadron provides a different version of the event as it mentions a third Hawker Hurricane Mk I (Lieutenant Andrew Duncan) and further states that Captain Kenneth W. Driver managed to catch up with the aircraft, which turned out to be a Bristol Blenheim. [4] It is worth noting that Bristol Blenheim Mk IV L8874, of No.14 (RAF) Squadron, is operating in the vicinity of Port Sudan on an anti-submarine patrol between 13:18 and 15:35.[5]

Logbook of Captain Brian J.L. Boyle.

[1] No.14 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 27/192 ; NAPIER, Michael. Winged Crusaders : The Exploits of 14 Squadron RFC & RAF 1915 – 1945. Barnsley : Pen & Sword, 2013.

[2] Unfortunately, the ORB does not provide the identity of the pilots and aircraft involved. No.94 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kiew : TNA, AIR 27 / 1198.

[3] K Flight : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 29 / 858.

[4] No.1 (SAAF) Squadron, War Diary. The National Archives (Kew). AIR 54 / 1.

[5] No.14 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 27/192.

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