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An Abyssinian Fairey tale ...
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Author:  Kremlin [ 17 Sep 2016, 12:21 ]
Post subject:  Re: An Abyssinian Fairey tale ...

Fairey Battle, 924-M, N°11 sqdn, Gumbar Dug, Ethiopia, April 1941.

On the 19th April 1941, Hawker Hurricanes, Fairey Battles and Junkers Ju-86's of N°'s 3, 11 & 12 squadrons (SAAF), undertook a concentrated nine aircraft offensive in support of the advancing 1st S.A. Brigade. The 1st SA Brigade, under the command of Brigadier Dan Pienaar, which included the 1st Royal Natal Carbineers, Duke of Edinburgh's Own Rifles, 1st Transvaal Scottish, No. 3 S.A. Armoured Car Company and the 4th Field Brigade S.A. Artillery, were advancing towards the town of DESSIE in Abysinnia.

The combined SAAF operation employed wave tactics, with the three squadrons scheduled to be over the DESSIE area in 30 minute intervals. The three Hurricanes of N°3 squadron, which were operating from ADDIS ABABA, were to patrol the road from DESSIE to HAIKH, and clear the area of any enemy aircraft prior to the arrival of the SAAF bombers. Piloted by the N°3 sqdn O.C. Major Pretorius, with Capt. Frost and Lt. Marsh, the Hurricanes were over the target at 09:00, and commenced patrolling whilst awaiting the arrival of the bombers. The three Ju-86 bombers from N°12 sqdn, which had taken off from ADDIS ABABA, arrived over the target at 9:30. The last wave of the attack was carried out by the three Fairey Battles of N°11 sqdn, who were over the target area at 10:00. The Fairey Battles, which had taken off from GUMBAR DUG at 08:45, were flown by the N°11 sqdn. O.C., Maj. C. Gey van Pittius, with Capt. Johannes Frederick Britz and Lt. Stanley William Murray.

After bombing motor transport and troop concentrations in the DESSIE area, the Fairey Battle of Capt. Britz (924-M), was hit by small arms fire. He had heard the aircraft being hit and with a strong smell of petrol in the cockpit, the engine cut. Unable to restart the engine, he realised he would have to force land the aircraft and turned towards COMBOLCIA. Capt. Britz intended to glide to the aerodrome, which had been reported to be under the control of friendly troops. The town of DESSIE was situated high in the mountains. At an elevation of 8,000 feet, it was at the top closed end of a long horseshoe valley. The aerodrome was around 5 miles lower down in the valley at a height of about 3,000 feet. It's long sloped gravel runway had been laid across the valley from side to side. This resulted in pilots nearly always encountering crosswinds and severe wind shear on landing. This was extremely challenging during normal flight, but Capt. Britz now attempted this approach whilst gliding in his Fairey Battle. Due to the extreme contours of the land, he was unable to reach the aerodrome. With the undercarriage only halfway down, he force landed in an adjoining field to the south and just short of the aerodrome.

To their surprise, upon exiting the aircraft, Capt. Britz and 2/Lt. C.B. Hangar immeditely came under small arms fire from enemy troops. The enemy signalled the two SAAF airmen to keep down and come over to them as small arms fire was now also endangering the enemy troops. Meanwhile a Fairey Battle piloted by Lt. Stanley William Murray, which had been on the same raid, landed on the aerodrome in an attempt to rescue them. Under a storm of bullets, Capt. Britz and Lt. Hangar ran towards the aircraft which had taxied around and was now in a position to take-off. They got to within 100 meters of the aircraft when Capt. Britz motioned for Lt. Murray to take-off. He had realised that even if they reached the aircraft, that the continous enemy fire would damage it, with the damage possibly preventing it from taking off. Lt. Murray took off immediately whereafter the enemy fire, which had been targeting his aircraft, died down. Capt Britz and Lt Hangar now waited to be taken as prisoners of war. Initially the two were taken to the HQ of the Infantry at COMBOLCIA, where they were interrogated. Thereafter they were taken to the Military Police HQ before being moved to the Hospital in DESSIE on the 20th. In the evening of the 26th April, the 1st Transvaal Scotish entered the town of DESSIE, freeing the two airmen. The were returned to N°11 sqdn from where they continued flying operations. Capt. Britz and Lt. Hangar had spent only 8 days as POW's.

Source: The War of a Hundred Days - Springboks in Somalia and Abyssinia 1940-41 by James Ambrose Brown (1990)

Source: N°11 sqdn Operations Record Book for April 1941.

Author:  Mistral [ 26 Oct 2016, 18:08 ]
Post subject:  Re: An Abyssinian Fairey tale ...

Nice ! Now we need Airfix to release a 48th scale one [-o<

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