No. 40 Squadron (SAAF): Second World War

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No.40 Squadron, S.A.A.F., was first formed as an army co-operation squadron, but spent most of the Second World War serving as a tactical reconnaissance unit equipped with single engined fighters.

The squadron was formed in South Africa on 30 May 1940 as an army co-operation squadron. It was equipped with the Hawker Hartbees, a version of the Hart produced in South Africa, and it used these aircraft throughout the campaign in Italian East Africa.

After returning from Ethiopia No.40 Squadron was reformed as a fighter squadron, equipped with Hurricane Is and a few Tomahawks. These aircraft were taken to Egypt, and it began operations on 1 January 1942. During this period one of the squadron's Hurricanes was one of the first Allied aircraft to spot Rommel's preparations for the attack of May 1942 when it saw Italian forces moving into a forward position.

In August 1942 the squadron converted to the Hurricane IIB, using them during the pursuit after El Alamein in an attempt to locate the retreating Axis forces. The squadron accompanied the Eighth Army throughout the remaining fighting in North Africa.

In June 1943 No.40 Squadron, by now equipped with the Spitfire, moved to Malta, from where it flew tactical reconnaissance missions during the invasion of Sicily. It also began to fly a number of offensive sweeps during this period.

In September 1943 the squadron moved to Italy, where it flew a mix of tactical reconnaissance and ground attack missions. This pattern of operations continued until the end of the war. A detachment was sent to Greece in December 1944-January 1945 to support the Allied forces that prevented a Communist take-over after the German retreat.

After the end of the war the squadron was used to fly reconnaissance missions along the Yugoslav border, a tense area as Tito made claims on Italian territory. The squadron finally disbanded on 20 October 1945, and its aircraft went to No.225 Squadron.

Aircraft
May 1940-?August 1941: Hawker Hartbees
January-August 1942: Hawker Hurricane I
March-August 1942: Curtiss Tomahawk IIB
August 1942-May 1943: Hawker Hurricane IIB
February-June 1943: Supermarine Spitfire VB
June 1943-October 1945: Supermarine Spitfire IX
September-October 1945: Supermarine Spitfire XI

Location
May 1940: Waterkloof
June 1940-August 1941: Kenya, Italian Somaliland, Ethiopia
August-December 1941: South Africa

January-February 1942: Burg el Arab
February-March 1942: LG.117
March-June 1942: Sidi Azeiz
June 1942: LG.103
June-July 1942: LG.100
July 1942: LG.39
July-August 1942: LG.100
August 1942: Qassassin
August-September 1942: El Firdan
September-October 1942: LG.201
October-November 1942: LG.39
November 1942: LG.07
November 1942: LG.02
November 1942: Sidi Azeiz
November 1942: El Adem
November 1942: Gazala II
November 1942: Martuba III
November 1942: Tmimi II
November-December 1942: Magrun
December 1942: Belandah
December 1942: Benina
December 1942: Marble Arch
December 1942-January 1943: Alem el Gzina
January 1943: Hamraiet
January 1943: Sedada
January 1943: Darragh West
January-February 1943: Castel Benito
February 1943: El Assa
February-March 1943: Nefatia
March 1943: Nafatia South
March-April 1943: Bu Grara
April 1943: Gabes Town
April 1943: La Fauconnerie
April-May 1943: Goubrine
May-June 1943: Ben Gardane North
June-July 1943: Luqa
July 1943: Pachino
July 1943: Cassibile
July-September 1943: Lentini West
September 1943: San Francesco
     September 1943: Detachment to Bari
September 1943: Grottaglie
September-October 1943: Palazzo
October 1943: Foggia Main
October-December 1943: Foggia No.1
December 1943-March 1944: Trigno
March-April 1944: Lago
April 1944: Marcianise
Aprul-May 1944: San Angelo
May-June 1944: Venafro
June 1944: Aquino
June 1944: Osa
June-July 1944: Orvieto
July-August 1944: Castiglione del Lago
August 1944: Malignano
August 1944: Chiaravalle
August-September 1944: Piagiolino
September 1944: Cassandro
September-November 1944: Rimini
November-December 1944: Bellaria
December 1944-May 1945: Forli
     December 1944-January 1945: Detachment to Araxos
May 1945: La Russia
May 1945: Treviso
May 1945: Rissano
May-September 1945: Moderndorf
September-October 1945: Klagenfurt

Squadron Codes: WR

Duty
October 1942: No.285 Wing, Air Headquarters Western Desert

July 1943 - Air Headquarters, Malta, detachment part of No.285 Wing, Desert Air Force, North African Tactical Air Force, Northwest African Air Forces.

Books

The Decisive Campaigns of the Desert Air Force 1942-1945, Bryn Evans. . Looks at the activities of the RAF's tactical air force in the North Africa and Italian Theatres, where it developed many of the close support techniques used with greater fame by 2nd Tactical Air Force in Normandy. This is a valuable account of the services of a key, but often overlooked, part of the wartime RAF. [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (5 November 2009), No. 40 Squadron (SAAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/SAAF/40_wwII.html


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