Information

No. 17 Squadron (SAAF): Second World War


No. 17 Squadron (SAAF) during the Second World War

Aircraft - Locations - Group and Duty - Books

No.17 Squadron S.A.A.F. went through two incarnations during the Second World War - a short-lived period as a transport squadron in 1939 and a longer period as a maritime patrol squadron.

The first incarnation of No.17 Squadron was formed on 1 September 1939 and was equipped with Junkers Ju 52/3m transport aircraft taken from South African Airways. This version of the squadron only lasted for three months, before on 1 December it was merged with Nos.18 and 19 Squadrons to form No.50 Squadron.

No.17 Squadron was reformed on 8 October 1942 at Zwartkop. It then moved to Aden, where it was equipped with Bristol Blenheims, using them to fly anti-submarine patrols for five months. In May 1943 these aircraft were flown to Egypt and distributed to other units, while No.17 Squadron's pilots were dispersed amongst transport units.

The squadron came back together in August 1943 when it received its Lockheed Venturas. These were used to fly anti-submarine patrols from bases in Palestine, before in April 1944 the squadron moved to the western Mediterranean - first to Gibraltar and then quickly on to Bone. For the rest of the year the squadron flew anti-shipping patrols off the southern French and northern Italian coasts as well as carrying out bombing raids on coastal targets.

In January 1945 the squadron was split, with the ground echelon moving to Algeria and the aircraft to Egypt. The squadron was non-operational from 23 February in preparation for conversion to the Vickers Warwick, but the end of the war came before the squadron could convert to the new aircraft. A number of Wellingtons were used until the Warwicks arrived, but were left behind when the squadron returned to South Africa.

Aircraft
1 September-1 December 1939: Junkers Ju 52/3m

January-May 1943: Bristol Blenheim Mk.V
August 1943-February 1945: Lockheed Ventura Mk.V
May-September 1945: Vickers Wellington Mk.XIII
May 1945-March 1946: Vickers Warwick Mk.V

Location
8 October 1942-: Zwartkop

January-May 1943: Little Aden
May-October 1943: Bilbeis
October 1943-March 1944: St. Jean
March-April 1944: Ramat David
April 1944: Gibraltar
April-July 1944: Bone
July-November 1944: Alghero
November 1944-January 1945: Rosignano
January 1945: Alghero
January-February 1945: Algiers
February-September 1945: Gianaclis

Squadron Codes: T (Ventura)

Duty
September-December 1939: Transport Squadron
October 1942-April 1944: Anti-submarine patrols, Eastern Mediterranean
April 1944-January 1945: Anti-shipping strikes, Western Mediterranean

Books

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No. 17 Squadron (SAAF): Second World War - History

You are welcome to contact me HERE

I am an engineer and worked for 14 years in the SA arms industry mainly designing rocket motors and aircraft parts. For the past 17 years I have been in the private sector working in the flour milling industry.

My interest in WW2 SAAF history was inspired by conversations I had with WW2 pilots back in 2010. Since then I have traced and visited many ex-WW2 SAAF pilots and aircrew, recording their stories. This fascinates me and it always strike me how incredible humble these people are regarding their war service. Through the internet I have been contacted by many family members who's ancestors served and want information on their whereabouts. It thrills me if I discover something that is of importance to these families.

In my opinion the history of our South African forces' participation in the second world war has been badly neglected over the years since 1948, when a new government came to power that opposed SA's involvement to the war. Unlike other Allied Commonwealth countries where their WW2 military achievements and sacrifice are cherished and honoured through school syllabus, media and commemoration events, this is not happening in South Africa with the same level of importance. Our war hero's with the likes of Sailor Malan, Thomas Pattle, etc., never featured in any school history books and remained unknown to the public. Same with the 330 000+ South African volunteers that served in the war. They never got their deserved and rightfull place of honour in our rich South African history.

The situation has further deteriorated when a new government came to power in 1994. This government understandably has absolute no interest in this part of the South African history and now even the three SAAF museums are under threat due to budget and resource allocation cuts.

My goal with the WW2 SAAF heritage work is to promote this aspect of our history and make it accessible to public via the internet as token of homage, appreciation and respect to our WW2 servicemen. I try to locate and video interview veterans and copy their precious photograph albums and log books. I also strive to get hold of family members of those who served in an effort to copy historical memorabilia and make it available on the internet for the public in appreciation for what they did.

For me as an enthusiast I do all of this as a hobby with no commercial intent.


The Border War

Conversion to the new Mirage III occurred in 1963 and the squadron moved to AFB Hoedspruit at the end of 1978. The squadron fought in several engagements during the South-West Africa/Angola Border War.

They continued to fly the Mirages until October 1990. They later re-equipped with the Atlas Cheetah C and D, but remained 'on the books' during the hiatus between Mirage and Cheetah, not being officially disbanded at that point. Reconnaissance was also performed using Vinten Vicon 18 Series 601 pod. Regular night flying was performed and the aircrew also performed air-to-air refuelling operations with the Boeing 707 aircraft of 60 Squadron, until these were retired in 2007. The squadron participated in the annual SANDF force preparation exercises which includes using live weapons. During joint exercises with the German Luftwaffe in 2006, 40 live V3S "Snake" short-range air-to-air missiles were fired at the Denel Overberg Test Range. [8]

Moving to Louis Trichardt (now AFB Makhado) in January 1993, 2 Squadron became the sole front line combat jet squadron in the SAAF. Till 2 April 2008 the squadron operated the Cheetah C/D fighter aircraft and was equipped with 28 examples. The squadron flew 1010 hours in 2004. [9]

The last of the Cheetahs were retired on 2 April 2008, later that month the first new JAS 39 Gripen arrived. The SAAF accepted its first Gripen D in April 2008 and the final two Gripen D aircraft arrived in South Africa in July 2009. The first two Gripen Cs arrived on 11 February 2010 with deliveries ongoing as at October 2011. The squadron operates all the SAAF's Gripens except for the first Gripen D, which is assigned to the Test Flight and Development Centre at AFB Overberg.


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  • The Wartime Memories Project has been running for 21 years. If you would like to support us, a donation, no matter how small, would be much appreciated, annually we need to raise enough funds to pay for our web hosting and admin or this site will vanish from the web.
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  • The Wartime Memories Project is run by volunteers and this website is funded by donations from our visitors. If the information here has been helpful or you have enjoyed reaching the stories please conside making a donation, no matter how small, would be much appreciated, annually we need to raise enough funds to pay for our web hosting or this site will vanish from the web.

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16th June 2021 - Please note we currently have a large backlog of submitted material, our volunteers are working through this as quickly as possible and all names, stories and photos will be added to the site. If you have already submitted a story to the site and your UID reference number is higher than 255865 your information is still in the queue, please do not resubmit without contacting us first.

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The Wartime Memories Project is the original WW1 and WW2 commemoration website.

  • The Wartime Memories Project has been running for 21 years. If you would like to support us, a donation, no matter how small, would be much appreciated, annually we need to raise enough funds to pay for our web hosting and admin or this site will vanish from the web.
  • Looking for help with Family History Research? Please read our Family History FAQ's
  • The Wartime Memories Project is run by volunteers and this website is funded by donations from our visitors. If the information here has been helpful or you have enjoyed reaching the stories please conside making a donation, no matter how small, would be much appreciated, annually we need to raise enough funds to pay for our web hosting or this site will vanish from the web.

If you enjoy this site

please consider making a donation.

16th June 2021 - Please note we currently have a large backlog of submitted material, our volunteers are working through this as quickly as possible and all names, stories and photos will be added to the site. If you have already submitted a story to the site and your UID reference number is higher than 255865 your information is still in the queue, please do not resubmit without contacting us first.

We are now on Facebook. Like this page to receive our updates.

If you have a general question please post it on our Facebook page.


Traces of World War 2 RAF - No. 24 Squadron 01/01/1940 - 30/06/1940

No. 24 began its wartime career with a wide variety of aircraft of civil design, including Rapides taken over from civil airlines which were later impressed. For the first nine months of the war, communications and mail flying between the U.K. and France was a major task but after June, 1940, flying was confined to the U.K. with the exception of a few special flights.

Station: Hendon (the entire war)

Operations and losses 10/05/1940 - 31/05/1940
Not all operations listed those with losses are.

23/05/1940: 2 Planes lost, 2 KIA, 1 POW
17/06/1940
: Bristol Bombay crash, East Dean, Sussex? 5 KIA

LOSSES 01/01/1940 - 09/05/1940

13/01/1940, Vega Gulf III, P1752 of 24 Sqn, crashed in forced landing Wentworth GC (Gliding Centre), Surrey.

Source: Henk Welting, (Old) RAF Commands Forum, 'Unaccounted' airman 13-1-1940

Sergeant (Pilot) Raymond C. Edwards, RAFVR 904369, 24 Sqdn., age 30, 21/03/1940, Hucknall Cemetery, UK

23/05/1940: ?, France

Type: DC3
Serial number: ?, OO-AUI
Operation: ?
Lost: 23/05/1940
Sergeant (Pilot) Raymond Chartier (Belgium), BAF (VR), servicenr 258/2226, initially buried at Arcques, exhumed and reinterred 5-9-1950 at Ixelles, Belgium.
Plt Off Benson Freeman - PoW
Captain John M.H. Hoare, British Overseas Airways Corporation, age unknown, 23/05/1940, Arques Churchyard, France
Over Calais it was hit by anti-aircraft and part of the left wing was torn off. The pilot (Raymond Chartier) made a forced landing near Arques. The navigator was killed and two of the passengers wounded, while Chartier was shot by German troops as he tried to reach French lines. The remaining passengers were taken prisoner including Plt Off Benson Freeman of 24 Squadron. The engineer, Piet Vrebos, survived the crash of OO-AUI. The German troops took him POW, but released him and sent him at home because he was a civilian.

Captain Hoare was the skipper of Armstrong Whitworth Ensign G-ADSZ "Elysean". This machine was straffed on the ground at Merville by Bf-109s earlier that day. So Hoare became a passenger to come back to U.K.

Type: Armstrong Whitworth Ensign
Serial number: ?, G-ADSZ (Boac)
Operation: strafed on ground
Lost: 23/05/1940

17/06/1940: Bristol Bombay crash, East Dean, Sussex?


These five airmen's deaths are registered at Chichester:

Aircraftman 1st Class Leonard Bradburn, RAF 550047, 24 Sqdn., age 21, 17/06/1940, Tangmere (St. Andrew) Churchyard, UK
Leading Aircraftman Wilfred A. Harper, RAF 540221, 24 Sqdn., age 23, 17/06/1940, Tangmere (St. Andrew) Churchyard, UK
Pilot Officer (Pilot) Hedley E. Large, RAF 41795, 24 Sqdn., age 23, 17/06/1940, Tangmere (St. Andrew) Churchyard, UK
Flying Officer (Pilot) Colman O. Murphy, RAF 39892 (Ireland), 24 Sqdn., age 27, 17/06/1940, Chichester Cemetery, UK (DOW?)
Leading Aircraftman Ernest Wragg, RAF , 24 Sqdn., age unknown, 17/06/1940, Tangmere (St. Andrew) Churchyard, UK

They could have been the crew of Bristol Bombay Mk I L5852 of 271 Squadron, which flew into high ground at East Dean, Sussex (in the administration of Chichester). 271 Sqdn - also a transport squadron - didn't suffer casualties this day.

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SAAF WW2 UNIFORMS AND INSIGNIA

Many thanks to Mark Naude who photographed these from his private collection and sent the scans to me.

1) SAAF WW2 Service Dress Barathea with SD Cap 2

The Drab Service Dress Jacket was prescribed for officers by the 1934 Dress Regulations. It was a greenish-brown 'drab' colour, was usually made from Barathea cloth,had a step collar, two breast pockets and two expading pockets below the waist. The officers' jacket had four buttons down the front. SAAF uniforms usually had standard RAF buttons with eagle and crown.

[Note: in this display the shirt is actually a 1960s SA Army shirt as it's the nearest match I had to display it with]

2) SAAF SD cap front gilt badge

3) SAAF SD Cap bronze badge

5) SAAF WW2 SD cap side view

6) Forage Cap Blue Major: This type of cap was worn with Blue "Full Dress" and "Undress" Blue before and after WW2. Before sunset it would be worn with a white cap cover. After sunset the cover would be removed.

7) Field Service Cap Khaki Drill side view 2

8) Field Service Cap Khaki Drill side view

9) WW2 Khaki Beret as worn by ground crew and also Balkan Air Force aircrews

10) WW2 Khaki Beret as worn by ground crew and also Balkan Air Force aircrews 2

11) Cap bagde for Colonels and Brigadiers. Royal Crest embroidered on Orange, S.P.F.S.

11a) Polo Pattern Helmet - Canadian Hawley type

12) SAAF WW2 Wing Detail on Barathea Service Dress

13) SAAF WW2 Wing Detail on Khaki Drill backing 2

14) Observer Navigator half wing

15) Gilt collar on Barathea Service Dress

16) BM Collar on Light Buff Gaberdine SD

16a) Collar badge on light fawn gaberdine jacket

17) This picture illustrates two of th emost common patterns of SAAF shoulder title worn by other ranks on the shoulder strap during the Second World War. The billungual abbreviations stood for South African Air Force and Suid-Afrikaanse Lugmag. Titles were commonly made of brass/gilding metal or blackened during war time. Other ranks continued to wear them up to the early 1950s.

The titles are displayed on the "red tab" (officially 'Orange, Sealed Permanent Force Shade') which symbolised that the wearer was a volunteer. These tabs were worn throughout WW2 by members of the SAAF who signed the Africa Service Oath or General Service Oath. Note the slightly different shades of red/orange felt.

18) Womens Auxillary Air Force / Vrouehulplugmag

Despite the official Afrikaans title being written as a single word the shoulder title broke it into four letters as an abbreviation.


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As some of us still, 73 years on, care to recall the events that occurred on and after D-Day, the largest invasion by air and sea of a continent in recorded history, we remember the heroism and sacrifices made by many thousands of South African soldiers, airmen and sailors which helped in no small way with the eventual victory over Germany in May 1945

Many South African pilots achieved notable success by knocking many enemy aircraft out of the sky, or by strategic bombing of enemy military or industrial targets. Names like Marmaduke Pattle (51 kills) and “Sailor” Malan (32 kills) will live for ever. In this company, one must add the name of Squadron Leader Chris le Roux. He shot down 17 planes and for his efforts was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with two bars. This is equivalent to winning the DFC three times!

Johannes Jacobus le Roux joined No. 73 Squadron, Royal Air Force as a twenty-year old in 1940, when that squadron was part of the Advanced Air Striking Force in France during that strange period of World War II known as the "phoney war". It was to this odd war that No.73 Squadron flew their Hurricanes in 1939

When the Luftwaffe opened the assault in May, the AASF and the RAF Component escaped lightly. Soon, however, Chris (as he had been known throughout his service in the RAF) le Roux was in the thick of the fighting, for the AASF fighters had to cover the evacuation of the ground staff, and the three remaining British divisions. For the defence of Nantes and St. Nazaire there were but three squadrons, Nos.1, 73 and 242 all equipped with Hurricanes yet in spite of this sparse air cover the evacuation of the troops was entirely successful. The Luftwaffe dropped bombs by day and mines by night but achieved remarkably little

By the afternoon of 18th June, 1940, the ground forces had made good their escape, and the fighters, most of which had flown six sorties on the previous day, were free to depart. After No. 73 Squadron had flown the final patrol, the last Hurricanes left Nantes for Tangmere and the mechanics set fire to the unserviceable machines

Chris le Roux was credited with 8 victories with No. 91 Squadron in 1941, 4 with No. 111 in North Africa, and with No. 602 in 1944, making a total of 17. By January, 1941, the whole squadron was equipped with Spitfires, and Chris le Roux shot down a Me 109E on 17th August, 1941, followed by another on the 29th. Before he was rested from operations he claimed four l09Fs one on 4th September, 1941, one on 28th October and another on 11th November

On his return to operations as a Flight Commander with No. 91 Squadron, he destroyed two FW 109s on 31st October, 1942. He had by this time received both the DFC and Bar. He had flown more than 200 operational sorties including shipping reconnaissances, ground installation attacks, escort missions, and fighter sweeps

At the end of 1942 he was posted to No.111 Squadron in No.324 Wing in North Africa, and became Commanding Officer of that famous squadron (known as the "Black Arrows" with their aerobatic teams of later years) in 1943. On 14th November, 1942, No.111 Squadron flew into Bone airfield, and were immediately attacked by enemy aircraft, and suffered severe casualties to both aircraft and ground crews. Despite these difficulties, Chris le Roux damaged a Me 109 on 14th January and another on the 19th, and destroyed yet another on the same day. On 3rd April he shot down a FW 190, and on 23rd another FW 190 and a Me 109. By May the German and Italian fighters had been swept from the Tunisian skies, the 7th Armoured Division (the famous Desert Rats) occupied Tunis and the Americans took Bizerta. The Germans finally capitulated on 12th and 13th May and the war in Africa was over. The experience gained was to serve the air forces well in Europe

Chris le Roux took command of No.602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron in France in the summer of 1944, with Spitfire 9s, having received a second Bar to his DFC for his North African successes. He led this squadron through the fierce fighting of the invasion of Normandy, and moved it to French soil on 25th June. He shot down a FW 190 and a Me 109 on 15th July, 1944, and another FW 190 on 16th. On 17th he destroyed two Me 109s and damaged two more, and the squadron nearly succeeded in killing the German Commanding General, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Diving on his car, they caused it to overturn near the village of Sainte Foy de Montgomerie, and Rommel was flung into a ditch and sustained a fractured skull. He survived, only to kill himself on 14th October, rather than stand trial for complicity in the plot against Hitler of 20th July

By 25th August, 1944, Paris had been liberated, and on 3rd September, five years after the outbreak of war, the Welsh Guards entered Brussels. Chris le Roux did not live to enjoy the fruits of the victory. Like so many gallant and brilliant fighter pilots, he was destroyed, not by enemy gunfire, but by an aircraft accident, on 19th September, 1944.


No. 17 Squadron (SAAF): Second World War - History

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