No. 31 Squadron (SAAF): Second World War

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No.31 Squadron, S.A.A.F., was a heavy bomber squadron that operated from bases in the Mediterranean from its formation in 1944 until the end of the war.

The squadron was formed in South Africa in January 1944. It moved to Egypt in 1944, where the ground crews received their Liberators while the aircrews moved on to Palestine for operational training.

Operations began on 27 May 1944 from Gebel Hamzi (on the road between Cairo and Alexandria). From here the squadron operated over Crete and the Aegean.

In June No.31 Squadron moved to Italy. Its area of bombing operations now expanded to include the Balkans, Austria and northern Italy, and the squadron also dropped supplies to partisans in Yugoslavia. The squadron was also used to drop mines into the Danube.

In the summer of 1944 the squadron took part in the invasion of Southern France. It was also one of the squadrons that took part in the costly long-range airlift of supplies to the Polish Home Army in Warsaw. On the five nights between 12-17 August these squadrons lost 17 of the ninety-three aircraft sent to Warsaw. Eight of these losses came from No.31 Squadron SAAF.

After this diversion the squadron returned to its normal duties, continuing to operate the Liberator until the end of the war. After the end of the fighting the squadron converted to transport duties, operating a shuttle service in which prisoners of war were flown from liberated Europe back to Britain on the outward journey, and South Africa troops preparing to return home were flown to Egypt on the return trip (the squadron itself remained in Italy).

In September 1945 the squadron moved to Egypt, from where it operated as a transport squadron within the Mediterranean, before disbanding on 15 December 1945.

Aircraft
April 1944-December 1945: Consolidated Liberator VI

Location
January 1944: South Africa
February-April 1944: Almaza
April-June 1944: Kilo 40/ Gebel Hamzi
June-September 1945: Celone

September-December 1945: Shallufa

Squadron Codes: -

Duty
1944: Heavy Bomber Squadron, Egypt
1944-45: Heavy Bomber Squadron, Italy
1945: Transport Squadron

Books
 Consolidated B-24 Liberator (Crowood Aviation), Martin W. Bowman. A well balanced book that begins with a look at the development history of the B-24, before spending nine out of its ten chapters looking at the combat career of the aircraft in the USAAF, the US Navy and the RAF. cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (5 November 2009), No. 31 Squadron (SAAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/SAAF/31_wwII.html

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