Royal Air Force

In June 1940, the British had about 10,000 men distributed between Sudan, British Somaliland and Kenya, troops mainly trained for colonial police missions. The Sudan Defense Force is composed of only 4,500 poorly equipped men, without artillery. They receive quickly a few elements of Indian Division 4th and 5th (three battalions). But Major-General William Platt can only line up 7 000 soldiers.

In Kenya, the forces at Lieutenant-General Alan G. Cunningham’s disposal are not superior, since he has only two brigades of the Kings African Rifles, one for the defense of the coast and the other for the interior.

Finally, the troops of British Somaliland, under the command of Colonel Arthur R. Chater, are composed of only 1 465 men, including the Somaliland Camel Corps and a battalion of the regiment of Northern Rhodesia. 

The RAF decided to detach the impressive (by name) No.254 (RAF) Wing or the Advanced Striking Force composed of No.47 (RAF) Squadron (Wing Commander John G. Elton), No.14 (RAF) Squadron (Squadron Leader Anthony D. Selway) and No.223 (RAF) Squadron (Squadron Leader J.C. Larking), all three equipped with light bomber, completely outdated, Vickers Wellesley. To these three Squadrons are added the D Flight of the Sudan Defense Force with seven Vickers Vincent, reinforced by nine Gloster Gladiator of K Flight (No.112 Squadron). In August, Air Commodore Leonard H. Slatter took command of the new No.203 (RAF) Group.

To these units may be added the Aden Protectorate (on the other side of the Red Sea) under the command of Air Vice-Marshall George R.M. Reid, with No.8 (RAF) Squadron (Squadron Leader Dudley S. Radford) with Blenheim MkI and Vickers Vincent, No.94 (RAF) Squadron (Squadron Leader William T.F. Wightman) on Gloster Gladiator and No.203 (RAF) Squadron (Wing Commander James R. Scarlett-Streatfield) on Bristol Blenheim IVF. Moreover, Bristol Blenheim Mk.I of No.11 (RAF) Squadron and No.39 (RAF) Squadron in transfer from India. 

Kenya, on the other hand, has no elements of the RAF in its territory. However, a Squadron from the Southern Rhodesian Air Force (SRAF) is in charge of cooperating with the army, with its Hawker Harts, Hardy and Audax scattered over four airfields : Wajir (A Flight), Malindi (B Flight), Garissa (C Flight) with four aircraft each and Nairobi (HQ) with seven in reserve.

This unit has its origins in 1935, when the Parliament of Southern Rhodesia votes a financial participation in the defense of the Empire in Africa. The Air Section was set up in 1937-1938 with six Hawker Harts and a dozen pilots (the majority in formation). In September 1938, following the signing of the Munich Agreement, Sir Brooke-Popham, Air Chief Marshal and Governor of Kenya, sent a secret note to the Governor of Southern Rhodesia in order to know if the air unit is available and about the possibility of deploying them in Kenya.

Events accelerated in the summer of 1939 with instructions to take all necessary measures to allow the rapid dispatch of Southern Rhodesia Squadron in Kenya if circumstances dictate. The Secretary of State in London then receives confirmation that the Southern Rhodesia Air Unit would be able to reach the bases in Kenya within 24 hours of such an order.

On 26 June 1939, aircrafts were ordered to take off the following day at 06:00 in the direction of Nairobi. All aircraft are on-site on 29 june at 8.30 and begin 24 hours after their first patrols along the border with Somaliland. The Air Unit then has four Audax, two Harts and three Rapids. The unit changed its name on 6 September to become the No.1 (SRAF) Squadron. Its existence is very brief, however, since the government is forced to acknowledge its inability to financially and materially manage the growth of its air force. In December an agreement was signed with the RAF to integrate the 1 Squadron, renamed No.237 (Rhodesia) Squadron.

The British, however, enjoyed a considerable advantage, namely easy access routes for a regular supply of troops and the gradual arrival in the second half of 1940 of reinforcements coming from Commonwealth territories such as India , The Gold Coast, Nigeria and especially South Africa.

Order of Battle, Royal Air Force (June 1940)

Sudan, No.254 (RAF) Wing : Group Captain Donald M.T. Macdonald / No.203 (RAF) Group : Air Commodore Leonard H. Slatter

No.14 (RAF) Squadron (Port Sudan) : 22 Vickers Wellesley, Squadron Leader Anthony D. Selway

No.47 (RAF) Squadron (Erkowit) : Vickers Wellesley, Wing Commander John G. Elton

No.223 (RAF) Squadron (Summit) : Vickers Wellesley, Squadron Leader J.C. Larking

D Flight (Erkowit) : 7 Vickers Vincent

K Flight (Summit) : 9 Gloster Gladiator, Flight Lieutnant Kenneth H. Savage

Aden (Air Vice-Marshall George R.M. Reid)

No.8 (RAF) Squadron (Khormaksar) : Bristol Blenheim Mk.I and Vickers Vincent, Squadron Leader Dudley S. Radford

No.11 (RAF) Squadron (Sheik Othman) : Bristol Blenheim MK.I, Flight Lieutnant Samuel A. Ellaby

No.39 (RAF) Squadron (Sheik Othman) : Bristol Blenheim Mk.I, Squadron Leader Alan McD. Bowman

No.94 (RAF) Squadron (Sheik Othman) : Gloster Gladiator, Squadron Leader William T.F. Wightman

No.203 (RAF) Squadron (Khormaksar) : Bristol Blenheim Mk.IVF, Wing Commander James R. Scarlett-Streatfield


No.237 (Rhodesia) Squadron, Squadron Leader V.E. Maxwell

  • A Flight (Wajir) : 2 Hawker Hart
  • B Flight (Malindi) : 8 Hawker Hardy
  • C Flight (Garissa) : 5 Audax

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