J.E.D. Grobler


The British occupation of the Diego Suarez area in Madagascar did not lead to the capitulation of the whole of the Island which had been hoped for. It was found necessary, therefore, to plan operations against the harbours Majunga and Tamatave with the object of advancing from there on the capital Tananarive. Japanese defeats in the Pacific, however, had diminished the danger of an Axis amphibious attack on the Island considerably. The need for immediate action against Tamatave and Majunga was thus lessened and attempts were made instead to come to a modusvivendi with the French in Tananarive. No progress in that direction was made during the periodMay to August 1942.

While policy matters were being discussed, three flights of light bombers arrived in Madagascarfrom South Africa. These aircraft were withdrawn from the Union coastal defence system forreconnaissance work on the island. It was originally intended to have them relieved by British aircraftafter a few weeks, but as only a few of the latter were available, the South Africans remained for months.

Operationally the South African aircraft were under command of Colonel Melville, who received his instructions directly from the British officer in command of the Madagascan operations. Operations were launched the day after the arrival of the first aircraft. Most of the time was spent on routine sea patrols, a task considerably hampered by difficulties encountered with the engines ofthe Beaufort aircraft, which made sea-patrols an unpleasant undertaking. On at least four occasionsSouth African pilots were forced to make crashlandings due to engine failure and one aircraftwas damaged by anti-aircraft fire. No fatalities were suffered in action.

The South African Air Force was involved in both highpoints of the period May to August 1942, namely the anti-submarine actions after the torpedoing of the Ramillies and the occupation of the Mayotte-group of the Comoro Islands.


South African Air Force; anti-submarine actions; Comoro Islands; routine sea patrols

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5787/8-1-793


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