16 January 1941

Northern Front

The day is notably marked by the missing of the Bristol Blenheim Mk I L8456 of No.8 (RAF) Squadron. The latter took off from Aden at 16:20 to bomb the Djidjiga airfield where a Fiat CR.32 was damaged (although the latter could have been destroyed by L6648, which also operates over Djidjiga between 06:00 and 10:45). ). The British bomber is, however, himself a victim of the Italian fighters. Severely damaged, the aircraft is forced into a forced landing on the French Somaliland Coast where the crew (Flying Officer Kenneth A. H. Lawrence, Sergeant William H. Tamlin and A. B. Houston) is interned. [1]

No. 8 (RAF) Squadron retrieves two Bristol Blenheim Mk IV (L9042 and L9044) from the No.203 (RAF) Squadron [2], while 89 airmen arrive in reinforcement. [3] Same for No.47 (RAF) Squadron with 40 men [4], as well as No.203 (RAF) Squadron with 131. [5] Finally, six Vickers Wellesley of No.223 (RAF) Squadron, under the command of Squadron Leader Jack F. Roulston, are joining the Gordons Tree field for future operations.

In addition to two non-successful reconnaissance sorties, No.14 (RAF) Squadron is tasked with experimenting with a night patrol to help protect Port Sudan from Italian bombers. Three aircraft take off at approximately 2 700 m, 3 300 m and 4 000 m. The idea being that, on a moonlit night, the crews are able to observe the sky over a distance of about 150 m above and below. However, the conclusion is negative, the airmen recognizing that they were unable to observe anything except at very short distance despite the presence of several Gloster Gladiator, of K Flight, responsible for simulating interception attempts. [6]

 

Southern Front

On the southern front, General Alan G. Cunningham continues to prepare his plan for the future offensive from Kenya. The preparation should begin with the capture of El Yibo and El Sardu water points on the border to facilitate logistics. The task is entrusted to South Africans, in this case Brigadier F.L.A. Buchanan’s 2nd South African Infantry Brigade, with the 1st Natal Mounted Rifles of Lieutnant-Colonel N.D. McMillian supported by five vehicles of No.2 (S.A.) Armored Car. In parallel, the patriots of the 2nd Abyssinian Irregulars are responsible for harassing the Italian troops on the back. Finally, the No.40 (SAAF) Squadron Hartbees must provide air support.

The group heads to the El Yibo – El Sardu sector on January 16, the attack to begin the next day. Nevertheless, climatic conditions seriously complicate the advance :

“Even the Abyssinians, having consumed their water, fell back in distress. In their iron-clad armoured cars the crews roasted in temperatures up to 150°F”. 

No.40 (SAAF) Squadron pilots also report particularly difficult conditions :

“We knew that appaling district well. We had been over it for weeks watching the tracks the Italians might use of an invasion of Kenya. Heat was terrific, the glare from the salt and soda desert blinding, mirages fantastic in their distortions”. 

At the end of the afternoon, No.40 (SAAF) Squadron crews report that the five armored cars have not yet traveled halfway, while the troops are behind schedule.


Allied Claims
No.8 (RAF) Squadron 1 Fiat CR 32 damaged Bristol Blenheim Mk I L8456 ou L6648. Bombardment Djidjiga (between 06h00 – 10h45 ior after 16h20).
Allied loses
No.8 (RAF) Squadron Bristol Blenheim Mk I L8456 Flying Officer Kenneth A.H. Lawrence ; Sergeant William H. Tamlin et A.B. Houston (interned at Djibouti). Damaged over Djidjiga ; forced-landing north of Ras Bir (Djibouti). After 16h20.

[1] No.8 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kiew : TNA, AIR 27/114 ; SHORES, Christopher ; RICCI, Corrado. Dust Clouds in the Middle East – The Air War for East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Madagascar, 1940 – 1942. London : Grub Street, 2010 (Reprinted). p.96.

[2] SHORES, Christopher ; RICCI, Corrado. Dust Clouds in the Middle East – The Air War for East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Madagascar, 1940 – 1942. London : Grub Street, 2010 (Reprinted). p.96.

[3] No.8 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kiew : TNA, AIR 27/114.

[4] No.47 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kiew : TNA, AIR 27 / 463.

[5] No.203 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kiew : TNA, AIR 27/1198.

[6] No.14 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 27/192 ; K Flight : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kew : TNA, AIR 29 / 858.

[7] J.-A. BROWN, The War of a Hundred Days, Springboks in Somalia and Abyssinia (1940 – 1941), Johannesburg, Ashanti Publishing, 1990, p.108 – 109 ; KATZ, David Brock. South Africans versus Rommel : The Untold Story of the Desert War in World War II. Stackpole Books, 2017.

One thought on “16 January 1941

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.