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 Indian Ocean and equipped with Lockheed Venturas. The Madagascar Campaign ended in September ‘42 and the Japanese threat dissipated before the squadron could relocate to Durban. The result was a fully manned and equipped squadron “languishing on a daily diet of training routines” (Squadrons of the SAAF).




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 (Pretoria) to Cape Town in the process!!


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 Freetown. Because of its speed it travelled without an escort, on a zigzag course.


15 Apr    The Queen Mary arrived safely in Freetown (Sierra Leone).


19 Apr    The Commanding and Senior Officers and 14 Pilots flew by air from Freetown to Takoradi to prepare for the arrival of the remainder of the Squadron.

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 Llanstephan Castle.


4 May     The remainder of the Squadron arrived in Takoradi on the Troopship "Llanstephan Castle".


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 Wellington aircraft. The Wellington, or Wimpy as it was popularly called, was one of the most famous aircraft of WW2.


The Squadron spent the period from 6 to 23 May 1943 in training to fly the Wellingtons, ("conversion course") and was divided into three flights.


‘A’ Flight, under OC, Major JI Nash at Pointe Noire, French Congo

‘B’ Flight, under OC: Major Perkins at Lagos, Nigeria.

‘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 Accra at 1111hrs there was a cross-wind blowing of approximately 20 mph and aircraft on landing tended to swing to wind, and the pilot was unable to rectify this swing owing to insufficient braking power. The port undercarriage collapsed causing damage to port main-plane and air-screw. No injuries were sustained by either occupant.


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 Wellington was totally burnt out. This Wellington, powered by two Hercules Mk.VI engines, had been built on 7 February 1943 and had flown only 59.4 hours. Ted had flown a total of 443 hours in all types of aircraft, but only 1 hour in Wellingtons


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 Wellington was subjected to an accident inquest, (in particular the port engine which survived relatively intact) to ascertain whether the crash was due to pilot error or mechanical failure. (The archives were recently unable to find the accident report so it is not known whether they were able to reach a conclusion). According to the records available there were another dozen or so accidents involving 26 Squadron Wellingtons.


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 (Liberia) and Ikeja (Nigeria) did little to alleviate boredom and frustration of (mostly) uneventful flying over (mostly) featureless sea, aggravated by unbearable humidity which lowered resistance to malaria and other tropical illnesses.


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 Takoradi. Those killed were:


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:


DHG Lawrence, DE McNab, IV Rowe, P Cronin, WR Scott, RLB Fillis and DC Long, Air Mechanics ER Andrews & FB Sundstrom.


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 Dakar, and together with aircraft from 95, 204 and 334 Sqns RAF, they established a continuous parallel sweep (4 aircraft at a time) between Dakar and the Cape Verde Islands from 4-7 April in search of a U-boat known to be in the area. It escaped detection and 26 Squadron was back at Takoradi by 13 April.


5 May     All 26 Squadron aircraft at Pointe Noire return to Takoradi


6 May     Two Wellingtons fly to Ikeja to undertake moonlight sweeps together with aircraft from Takoradi. No U-boats were seen.


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 Wellingtons after daybreak. By that evening 7 of the crew had been found; the body of the last crewman (2nd Lt CL Rogers) was found by Gold Coast troops 3 days later at the foot of a giant tree in almost impenetrable forest. It seemed his parachute had caught in the upper branches and, misjudging the height, he had released his harness and fallen to his death.


31 May   By the end of May 1944, after exactly a year in West Africa, 26 Squadron had completed 1,232 sorties totalling 7694 hours. 10 aircraft and 28 lives had been lost on operations.


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 Sunderland flying-boat in distress. A second Sunderland, while searching, spotted the wreckage of an aircraft burning on the surface of the sea that evening, and the hospital ship "Chantilly" picked up the crew of the originally missing flying-boat in a completely different locality. No trace of the 26 Squadron Wellington could be found.


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 Wellington released its flares but carried on its dive straight into the sea, broke up and burst into flames.  Crew members known to be aboard were :


Lieutenant CM Botha, Lieutenant EJ Rollnick, WO II S Sackstein


                Only six sorties were flown by Wellingtons during the second half of October, owing to intensive training.


Nov        onwards : Lt-Col Jones’ crews of 26 Squadron were virtually unemployed operationally. U-boats seemed to have disappeared” (Eagles Victorious)


30 Dec  




17 Jan   A Wellington (HZ709) took off from Ikeja for Kano on a photo-reconnaissance operation but failed to arrive; the wreck was found 6.5k from Ipapa; all 9 on board died. They were:


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 Indian Ocean; no sign was seen of the vessel.


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 Wellingtons to RAF at Takoradi. It is believed that the Wellingtons were subsequently flown to the Middle East for disposal.


26 May   All operations ceased.


30 May   Personnel embarked for South Africa on May 30.


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