24 Aug SAAF 26 Squadron was formed at AFS Zwartkop as a torpedo-bomber-reconnaissance (TBR) unit. It received a large number of men from 16 Squadron. It was earmarked for service on the Union’s East coast to counter the perceived threat of Japanese action in the
8 Feb The squadron was posted to Germiston and the crews had their first inkling that they might, at last, be headed for an operational posting.
15 Mar Lieutenant Colonel DA du Toit assumed command. The Squadron departed for embarkation, escorting Italian POWs from Zonderwater (
9 Apr The men of 26 Squadron, with their Special Signal Services (SSS) radar section of eight men, embarked on the Queen Mary, which had been converted into a troopship, for
15 Apr The Queen Mary arrived safely in
19 Apr The Commanding and Senior Officers and 14 Pilots flew by air from
Takoradi was a well-equipped RAF base with a good level landing strip, although take-offs had to be over the sea
24 Apr The rest of the squadron embarked on the
4 May The remainder of the Squadron arrived in Takoradi on the Troopship "
The squadron was declared operational as a General Reconnaissance unit under 298 Wing RAF and took delivery of their first Vickers Wellingtons. They were fitted out with 16
The Squadron spent the period from 6 to 23 May 1943 in training to fly the
‘A’ Flight, under OC, Major JI Nash at Pointe Noire,
‘B’ Flight, under OC: Major Perkins at
‘C’ Flight, under OC: Captain IG MacPherson at Takoradi, Gold Coast. (Squadron Headquarters)
Once the conversion course was completed, the Squadron was assigned two main duties; convoy escort and anti-submarine sweeps. German U-Boats were regularly sighted and attacked where possible, and in this time one allied merchant ship (Norwegian) was sunk, with one fatality.
6 May Barend Daniel Tolmay was reported missing, presumed drowned whilst bathing in the sea. His body was recovered on the beach early in the morning on 8th May. He was accorded a military funeral at 10h00hrs on the 9th May 1943.
18 May Lieutenant E.A. Baxter (Pilot) and Lieut. J.J. de Villiers (2nd Pilot) were instructed to pilot Wellington XII No.708 to practice circuits and landings. On landing at
1 Jun At 0915hrs a Wellington Mk XI (No.572) piloted by Lieutenant Edward Alexander (Ted) Baxter on a non-operational training flight, crashed off the seaward end of Takoradi aerodrome and immediately burst into flame. The
Including Ted there were four other crew on board : 2nd Lieutenant S.S. Beattie was the 2nd Pilot, Flight Sgt R.V. Murray and Flight Sgt T. O'Leary were the Radio Operators / Air Gunners and Lieutenant Habergham was the Observer. Lt. Habergham was thrown clear of the crash, but the other four were killed instantaneously. These four were buried with full military honours on the same day as the accident. Lt. Habergham died at 1610 hrs as the result of multiple burns and shock and was buried the following day, 2 June 1943. The wreckage of the
17 Jun C Flight was absorbed into the other 2 Flights. Operational duties comprised anti Uboat sweeps, shipping escorts and general coastal reconnaissance.
Jul Operational flying with rotational detachments thru Pointe Noire, Robertsfield (
Sept Letter sent by Lieutenant Colonel du Toit to Wing HQ pleading for a change in unit’s posting to a more active theatre; request denied.
Oct Lt Col du Toit hands over command to Major JI Nash
7 Nov Wellington (MP591) crashed into the sea shortly after take-off from Takoradi, killing all on board. They were: DN Campbell, DC Morrison, A Fell, RM Schadwell, AG Lamb, L Morland and a Belgian serviceman GB Janssens.
2 Dec Wellington (LN384) dived into the sea off turn and blew up off the coast of
Major RM Perkins, Captain HO Macdonald, 2nd Lieutenant EL Saul, Flight Sergeant CG Motley and Air Mechanics DE Van Zyl and AL Bee.
18 Dec Another Wellington (HZ526) was recorded as missing at sea, off Takoradi. It was believed to have been hit by fire from a submarine. Crew members known to be aboard were Lt GS Boyd, Lt AH Giraudeau, WO DJJ Smith, WO GP Van der Vyver and Pilot Officer Samuel Evans (RAF)
3 Feb A Wellington (HZ524) trying to land at Roberts Field in darkness & fog overshot the runway and hit a tree; the burned-out remains were found 4 k from the airfield; those killed were:
This death toll in this incident, as well as the incident of 17th January, bears out veterans’ anecdotes about Air Crews, fed-up with poorly executed repairs to their aircraft, deciding to take ground crew personnel (chosen at random) along on ops! If they had to risk life & limb in poorly-maintained aircraft, so would the ground crews.
4 Mar A Wellington (HZ525) lost one engine and had to ditch in the sea; only the aircraft commander Lt RH van Eeden survived. Those killed were :
Lieutenant, GP Kreil, Lieutenant SH Rowson, WO II RW Martin, WO WJ Layde, WO PJ Joubert.
31 Mar Lt Col Nash led 11 Wellingtons of 26 Squadron to Ouakam, near
5 May All 26 Squadron aircraft at Pointe Noire return to Takoradi
6 May Two
17 May Major PJ van den Bosch’s Wellington (HZ523) got into difficulties and could not reach base. A radio message was picked up that the crew was baling out; search parties were sent out, joined by
31 May By the end of May 1944, after exactly a year in
June Lt-Col GK Jones relieved Lt-Col JI Nash as OC 26 Squadron.
Sept thru to Dec ’44. “Isolated from the rest of the SAAF, and at times feeling a bit like forgotten men, members of 26 Squadron at Takoradi spent the last 4 months of 1944 doggedly performing their duty on ant-submarine escort or sweeps. The deadly dull routine flights over the almost limitless sea sorely taxed morale . . .” (Eagles Victorious). They flew 103 sorties during September totalling 668.10 hours.
3 Oct Misfortune struck the aircraft (HZ522) piloted by Capt H. A. Dietrich after he and his crew had gone to the assistance of a
The crew comprised: Capt H. A. Dietrich, Lt HP Oosthuizen, Lt JH du Toit, 2nd Lt WT Nagel, WO NH Atwell and WO FW Aylett
The first half of October accounted for another 51 sorties averaging 7 hours each and including one air-sea rescure mission. No U-boat sightings were made.
16 Oct Another 26 Squadron aircraft (MP595) was lost during a flare-dropping and dummy attack exercise with a naval unit on 16 October. The
Lieutenant CM Botha, Lieutenant EJ Rollnick, WO II
Only six sorties were flown by
Nov onwards : Lt-Col Jones’ crews of 26 Squadron were virtually unemployed operationally. U-boats seemed to have disappeared” (Eagles Victorious)
17 Jan A Wellington (HZ709) took off from Ikeja for
Lt JS Viljoen, LT WH Currie, Lt A Klatzkin, Lt DG Sarson. The following were passengers: 2nd Lt Beattie and Flight Lt Quinn (both RAFVR) and Air Mechanics TC Hiatt, JJA Jordan and HJM McLaughlin.
Feb 26 Squadron placed on alert when they undertook sweeps in search of a U-boat known to be homeward-bound from the
4 Mar Routine patrols from Takoradi ceased, but 6 aircraft flew to Roberts Field and flew 14 more sorties from there in search of another U-boat known to be in the area.
10 Mar Another Wellington (MP681) failed to return from one of these sweeps. The crew were:
Lieutenant GC Nel, Lieutenant LP Fourie, 2nd Lieutenant IB Dell, WO GC Mayhew, WO LD Leviton, WO F Slater.
26 May SAAF 26 Squadron personnel flew all serviceable
26 May All operations ceased.
30 May Personnel embarked for
12 Jun SAAF 26 Squadron was formally disbanded.
References: Squadrons of the SAAF & their aircraft 1920-2005 – Steve Mclean
Eagles Victorious - Martin & Orpen
South African RADAR in World War II - Peter Brain.
Various internet, family members and other sources.
Please mail any additional info to fairland AT mweb.co.za