Traces of World War 2 
No. 1 Squadron South Rhodesian Air Force
No 237 (Rhodesia) Squadron Royal Air Force
10/05/1940 - 30/06/1940

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237 (RHODESIA) SQUADRON - Army Air Cooperation - Hawker Hardy

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In late August 1939 the Southern Rhodesia Air Unit was dispatched to Nairobi as part of the mobilization for war with Germany. Britain declared war on Germany on 3rd September 1939.

On the 6th September 1939 the name of the Southern Rhodesia Air Unit was changed to No. 1 Squadron, Southern Rhodesia Air Force.

The Squadron mustered thirteen officers and fourteen other ranks, with six service aircraft under command of Squadron Leader Maxwell. Other contingents followed in November, 1939, and March and June, 1940.

1st April 1940 brought the unpopular name change of No.1 Squadron, Southern Rhodesia Air Force to No 237 (Rhodesia) Squadron Royal Air Force.

From June 1940 to November 1941 No 237 (Rhodesia) Squadron was engaged in the East African Campaign. Here they saw service in Kenya, Sudan and Eritrea.

Operational training at Nairobi had for stimulus the knowledge that sooner rather than later the aerial combat tactics and air-to-ground firing which occupied so much time would be of very real value.

Meanwhile, ground personnel from Rhodesia were busy receiving extra instruction in their work as riggers, fitters and armourers. To show their appreciation of the efforts of the R.A.F. instructors who provided the tuition, the Rhodesians presented each N.C.O. with a silver beer mug of ample proportions.

Then, as the squadron was an Army Co-operation Squadron, it was necessary for it to achieve close liaison with the ground forces which it was to serve, to learn how the infantry, the gunners, and the armoured forces fight, to learn how to reconnoitre in appallingly difficult country, to observe, and deduce from observation information which might be priceless to their commander.

Much of this was assimilated by pilots during the exercises held by the Northern Brigade of the King's African Rifles early in 1940. These exercises had taken place in the low thorn scrub desert of the Northern Frontier District of Kenya - a type of country with which Rhodesian pilots were to become only too familiar in the next twelve months.

ln June, 1940, the Italians had in East Africa between two and three hundred aircraft. Some were undoubtedly obsolescent but there were many of the latest Savoia bombers and Fiat fighters based on excellent airfields with most competent ground staffs. Full of confidence were Mussolini's airmen. The Regia Aeronautica would "go through the R.A.F. like a knife through butter."

There appeared little to hinder them. The line-up on the British side was not nearly so convincing. From North to South its dispositions were: Port Sudan, two R.A.F. Bomber Squadrons, one with aircraft of hoary antiquity; Sudan frontier, one R A.F. Army Co-operation; Kenya, No. 12 Bomber Squadron, S.A.A.F., flying Junkers 86 bombers; No. 11 Bomber Squadron, S.A.A.F., with Fairey Battles; No. 40 Army Co-operation Squadron S.A.A.F., with Hawker Hartebeests; No. 2 Fighter Squadron, S.A.A.F., with Hawker Furies; and No. 237 (Rhodesian) Army Co-operation Squadron, equipped with Hawker Hardys.

In May, before Italy entered the war, the squadron suffered its first casualties - Flying Officer H. C. Peyton and Corporal F. H. Kimpton. These airmen, engaged on a reconnaissance of the Somaliland border, failed to return. It is presumed that they lost their way in this extremely difficult country, and made a crash-landing. Months afterwards their aircraft was located and the engine salvaged.

On the outbreak of war with ltaly the Squadron Headquarters was at Nairobi, with "A" Flight at Wajir, "13" Flight at Malindi, "C" Flight at Garissa. Duties were most varied, from bombing to low-level reconnaissance. Hostile forces could enter Kenya at any point on an eight hundred-mile frontage. It was of vital importance for the army to know where the enemy was massing his troops and transport, how far into British territory his patrols were moving, what artillery and armour he was about to use, and where his supply lines were. Ground reconnaissance by patrols of six battalions of the King's African Rifles and the small but ubiquitous East African Reconnaissance Squadron could achieve little in an area half the size of Southern Rhodesia. Agents were notoriously unreliable. Commanders were therefore dependent to a great extent on the reports of reconnaissance aircraft.


The Story of 237 (Rhodesia) Squadron
Rhodesian Forces - No 1 Sqn Photo Gallery

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Operations and losses 10/05/1940 - 30/06/1940
Not all operations listed; those with losses are.

26/05/1940: Reconnaissance. 1 Plane lost, 2 KIA

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26/05/1940: Reconnaissance

Hawker Hardy
Serial number: ?, DV-?
Operation: Reconnaissance
Lost: 26/05/1940
Flying Officer Hugh C. Peyton, Southern Rhodesia Air Force CR/2916, 1 Sqdn., age 21, 26/05/1940, Nairobi (Forest Road) Cemetery, Kenya
Corporal Frederick H. Kimpton, Southern Rhodesia Air Force CR/606, 1 Sqdn., age 25, 26/05/1940, Nairobi (Forest Road) Cemetery, Kenya
It is presumed that they lost their way in the extremely difficult country, and made a crash-landing. Months afterwards their aircraft was located.

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Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Royal Air Force - 237 Squadron
RAF Museum: British Military Aviation in 1940
Rhodesian Air Force - History
Royal Air Force History Section
The Royal Air Force, 1939-1945
The Second World War - a day by day account

The Story of 237 (Rhodesia) Squadron
Rhodesian Forces - No 1 Sqn Photo Gallery

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Air Aces
Airwar over Denmark
Allied World War II Casualties in the Netherlands
Armée de l'Air - Order of Battle, 10th May 1940
Australian Wargraves
Axis History Factbook
De Belgen in Engeland 1940-1945 (in Dutch)
Belgian Aviation History Association Archaeological Team
British Aviation Archaeological Council - Books and research links
CWGC Cemeteries Netherlands
Czechoslovak airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
Håkans aviation page (from Sweden, in English)
'High flight', poem by John Gillespie Magee
An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, poem by W.B. Yeats
Jagdgeschwader 27 (in German)
Luchtoorlog ('Arial War', in Dutch, with many photos)
The National Ex-Prisoners of War Association
Nordic Aviation during WW2 aircraft of WW2
Polish Air Force 1940-1947 Operations Record Books
RAF Battle of Britain
De Slag om de Grebbeberg
Warbird Alley
War over Holland
World War II Aircraft wrecksites in Norway
North East Diary 1939-1945
Wartime Leicester and Leicestershire

The Aerodrome - Aces and Aircraft of World War 1

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This page is dedicated to the men of No. 1 Squadron South rhoseian Air Force / No. 237 (Rhodesia) Air Force.

© Bart FM Droog / Rottend Staal Online 2008. Permission granted for use of the data gathered here for non commercial purposes, if this source is mentioned with a link to