Sunday, 31 March 2013

Linking Malawi and Zambia

At 12.55 hours on Thursday, January 5th, 1967, Zambia Airways Flight QZ 808 from Blantyre touched down at Lusaka Airport. This was an historic occasion for both Zambia and Malawi, as this was the first direct jet-prop Viscount flight between the capitals of these two countries.

This new once-weekly service reduces the distance between the two cities to a mere two hour flight, and has proved of considerable benefit to both businessmen and tourists.

To mark the event, first flight covers specially franked for the occasion and carried on the inaugural flight were sent out by Zambia Airways and Air Malawi to Government officials, Business houses and Travel Agencies in both countries.

With this new service, both Airlines in association with Central African Airways are confident of fulfilling evermore effectively their obligations to the travelling public.


Source. Inter-Africa (Central African Airways) Vol 6 No. 1 April 1967 which was made available to ORAFs by Dave Vermaak (Air Rhodesia) Thanks Dave

Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at  and they will be loaded to this article.

(Please visit our previous posts and archives)

Ref. Rhodesian Aviation

Labels: , ,

The Crash of Avro Anson Golf Alpha Hotel

Luangwa Valley 1st July 1946

 The true story of the life of Dick Mawson

The Avro Anson lifted into the air effortlessly from Mybeya airfield in Tanganyika and we were off on the last leg of our charter flight to Southern Africa it was the 1st July 1946.  We were eight days out and the weather was hot and humid even at that early hour.

Flying over the Serengeti herds of wildebeest massed in their millions as they prepared for their annual migration, we watched this spectacle in awe and fascination from above as our little Anson flew overhead.

Nowhere in the world is there a movement of animals as immense as the wildebeest migration in Africa, over two million animals migrate from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the greener pastures of the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya during July through to October.

The recent experience of seeing Kilimanjaro's snow-capped summit so close to the equator was still fresh in our minds, as we watched the herds congregate this being a unique spectacle and I believe we were some of the first ever to see it from the air.

We flew on to Fort Jameson in Northern Rhodesia.  Being a small aircraft we were well aware of activities in the cockpit and my husband whispered to me that he recognised the Mayday emergency signal being sent out by the navigator.  With that Chalky White stuck his head out of the cockpit, “I have been trying to contact Fort Jameson for some time now but can get no reply, I need to obtain a fix on our position in relation to the airfield to find out exactly where we are.

We are out of fuel and have to make a forced landing”, he continued.

My heart sank in other words we were lost and had no way of knowing exactly where we were, only that we were flying over an African jungle and about to crash.

The navigator looked around the cabin and continued talking,

“Strap the children in tightly within your seat belts and pad around them with clothes and blankets”.

We did not have time to think about what could happen so busy were we attending to the children as he had suggested. We felt the plane bank and drop; it had been used in the war and for reasons unknown, had two sirens attached under the wings; which were now switched on and creating a frightful noise inside our tiny cabin.

We were trying to comfort and secure two little boys as the African bush loomed ever closer and as I felt a prayer would not be out of place I began reciting the Lord’s Prayer.  The ground rushed towards us at a terrifying speed as I went about protecting our two precious children from impact.  We were heading for a dry river bed when our very observant pilot spotted a small clearing off to the left covered with elephant grass.  He immediately lifted the nose and banked the aircraft away from the river bed, dropping expertly into the 10 feet tall elephant grass covering the clearing.  Thank God! (As well as a very good Pilot), who was able to expertly guide the plane to land safely. The tall elephant grass took off a little speed before the wheels contacted rather heavily with the African earth looking out of the window all I could see was the propeller on the left of the plane chopping the grass which was flying up and over the cabin accompanied by clouds of dust.  The plane must have hit an ant bear hole as we felt it drop and the propeller folded back over the engine cowl after striking the ground. We finally came to a very jerky halt.

Nikanya looked up at the shiny silver bird spiralling out of the sky. It was the screeching of the bird that had attracted his attention, and as it fell lower and lower to earth, he ducked under a Mopani Tree, hoping it would offer him protection from the white gods who were certain to be in the bird’s belly.  As it approached the ground at greater and greater speed and the wailing grew louder and louder, Nikanya became convinced that the bird had suffered a mortal wound.

As he watched this frightening spectacle being played out before his eyes and pounding heart, the boughs of the Mopani tree offered a measure of comfort.  The bird was looking for somewhere to perch, and it seemed to Nikanya that the dry riverbed was where it was heading. As it disappeared from view, a huge cloud of dust and debris rose into the sky, and he knew the bird had finally fallen to earth. Silence reigned in the Luangwa valley once more.      Since Nikanya was the local chief, it was his duty and obligation to greet any stranger to his part of the world.  He stepped warily out from the protection of the tree and gathering his headmen around him, proceeding in the direction of the dissipating dust cloud to meet these gods who had fallen from the sky.

My Mother wrote this account for a magazine article in Rhodesia

My Dad was a coal merchant and a senior NCO with the home guard on an Anti-Aircraft battery at the Liverpool docks during the war. I was born at home: 14 Larchwood Avenue, Maghull, not far from Aintree.  Life started with an adventure in 1946 for my younger brother Clive aged two and me at the ripe old age of four

After World War II, our parents decided that a better future lay in Africa for us.   I am thankful my mother recorded her account of our adventure below.

My husband had decided that there would be more opportunity in a new land. Our house and coal business were sold, and we went to London to procure passage to South Africa.

Back in 1946, it seemed impossible to book any sort of passage to South Africa without long delays. After spending a futile week in London, we were on the verge of giving up, when we heard about a MTB (Motor Torpedo Boat) which was being converted for passenger use in Portsmouth. After about an hour of viewing the facilities available, we left and caught the train back to London.  George, my husband, was quiet all the way back but he did not tell me at the time the misgivings he had about taking his family on a journey of some 6,000 miles across three oceans to South Africa in a plywood boat.  By the time we reached London, he had decided that the boat journey would be too great.

On our arrival at our London hotel, a message awaited us:  “Would we contact the travel agency we had seen earlier in the week”?  So, arrangements were made for us to be there the next morning, and we were offered various alternative passages, none of which suited us.  We were just about to leave the travel agency when we were called back.

"Were we interested in a private charter”?

A small Avro Anson aircraft (twin-engine used by the RAF during WWII) was available, the cost of which would be shared with a prominent businessman, also having the same difficulties regarding travel as we had. With the optimism of youth, a meeting was arranged for the next day at the offices of CL Air Surveys in Cromwell Rd, where we met with Lt Col Lloyd. We immediately liked the proposed charter and took up the option.

We returned to Liverpool to finalise our departure and to bid farewell to friends and family.  At last we were on the move and had some direction in all our lives.  We said goodbye to Liverpool, friends and family and caught a train to London. George bought a newspaper at Lime Street Station and a report on the second page caught his eye.  A chartered MTB, which had left from Portsmouth a few days earlier, had floundered in the Bay of Biscay with the loss of all on board, and he wondered if perhaps it was the same one we had looked at.

Our adventure that nearly ended in tragedy started on the 25th June 1946. The Anson  was waiting for us on the tarmac at Gatwick where we met our pilot, navigator and our travelling companion for the first time.  The formalities taken care of, we took off about midday and landed at Le Bourget for a late lunch and then on to Marseilles “Mariguane” Airport for the night stop.  The fuel capacity necessitated having to make frequent stops for refuelling, and for the passengers to partake of any refreshment available. Hotel accommodation also had to be arranged for the coming night stop.

We spent our first night at a comfortable little French inn in Marseilles and, with a dawn start planned for the next morning, retired early.  Taking off around seven after a flight plan had been filed, we flew over Sardinia, which looked picturesque nestled in the middle of the Mediterranean. The sea was the most beautiful shade of blue, which turned to a brilliant turquoise as we landed in Tunis for lunch.  Then on to Tripoli where we were sent on by the Yanks to Castle Benito, landing just after four in the afternoon.  An army barracks was our accommodation for the second night.

 Our son Richard was fascinated by the camel trains leaving for their long journey across the desert, but being intimidated by the size of the camels, he kept his distance and a tight hold of my hand. To bed early for a dawn start again the next morning.

A stop at Benito for lunch and on to Eli Adem near Benghazi for fuel. We saw lots of burnt out planes in the desert around Benghazi and flew on to Cairo where we landed at Abmaza Airport.

We stayed at the Heliopolis Palace, which was spacious and cool after our hot and dusty trip. With the children bathed and asleep, we went down for dinner, served outside on a marble terrace with millions of stars and a crescent moon hanging overhead.  It was a magical night, and as we were not leaving until the following afternoon, our pilot suggested a trip to Cairo the following morning.

After breakfast, we boarded a tram, which proved to be hair-raising. The passengers swarmed aboard and hung on to every conceivable inch like flies on flypaper. The driver of the tram hurled us down the hills at breakneck speed, the tram bell ringing constantly in our ears as pedestrians dived for cover in all directions.

A visit to Groppis Ice Cream Parlour, a favourite with the tourists, where the ice cream was superb and cooled us down considerably.  Given our hair- raising ride into town, we decided to take a taxi back, which was an eye-opener in itself.  I don't know which was the lesser of the two evils and was thankful the driver had a good horn. We were eager to be on our way, so we packed and caught a taxi to the airport for an afternoon flight to Luxor.

Unlike the aircraft of today, we did not reach a very high altitude, so passing over the desert we could see the camel trains criss-crossing below. The burnt-out wrecks of planes and tanks brought home the realities of the war, which had been fought so recently on the desert below us.

We stopped for the night at Luxor on the banks of the Nile with the pyramids in the distance. We had arrived late and were seated at dinner with the manager of BOAC, Mr Frank Edge, who was fascinated to hear about our journey so far. I did not get a very good night’s sleep as the ceiling was alive with sand lizards.

We left at 8.30 for Wadi Halfa where we landed for fuel and a lunch it was too hot to eat. It had been 150 years since the area had last had good rains and everything looked very parched.

 Khartoum was the next stop, where we stayed in the Grand Hotel.  Despite huge fans whirling all over the hotel, the heat was intense. Our early arrival allowed us time to visit a small zoo, a welcome change for two small boys unaccustomed to the tiny cabin of a small plane.

Off early the next morning, we arrived at Malakao on Lake Victoria for lunch where a flying boat landed just in front of us. The trip was a very bumpy one and the worst part of the journey so far. Horrible desert country below, changing dramatically to green swamp.

We couldn’t land at Nairobi so we put down at Kisumu and booked into its only hotel, where we met our friends from the flying boat.  It was very hot and we saw lots of elephants as we passed over swamps.  From Kisumu we headed to Juba for more fuel and a lousy sandwich.  It was very pretty green country as we flew over Kenya with Mt Kilimanjaro looming skywards in the distance that seemed to dwarf our tiny plane.  We had not long ago crossed the equator and the heat in the tiny cabin was stifling, but it was breath-taking to see a snow-capped mountain so close to the equator. We had at last left the desert behind.  It now turned very cold as we left for Tabora and then on to Mybeya in Tanganyika.  We had been travelling for seven days and it was now July 1st.

 In Tanganyika we were accommodated in chalets and warned not to move around outside, as leopards frequently came down from the hills.  Thankfully, we left the following morning without incident, not realising that by nightfall, we would be placed in a very precarious situation.

 It was the intention of the pilot to refuel at Fort Jameson, then in Northern Rhodesia, which we should have reached by midday and in time for lunch.

Flying low, we were now in thick bush country and could see many herds of elephant roaming around the scrub and wallowing in the rivers.  We had been in the air for some hours now and lunch hour was nearly over. I heard our navigator tapping out a message on the Morse key. 

Suddenly, George gripped my arm and whispered.

‘We’re in trouble, lass, I have just heard the “May Day” call going out’.

Before I realised the implication of this remark, the door of the cockpit opened and our navigator appeared.

 ‘I have been trying to contact Fort Jameson for some time now, but no reply’, he said. ‘We are out of fuel and have to make a forced landing’, confirming what my husband had heard going out on the radio.

The navigator looked around the cabin and continued talking, asking us to,

‘Strap the children in tightly within your seat belts and pad them around with clothes and blankets’.

There was no time to think about what could happen as we attended to the children. We felt the plane bank and drop.  It had been used in the war and for whatever reason, had two sirens attached under the wings; these were switched on, creating a frightful noise inside our tiny cabin.

 We were busy trying to comfort and secure our two little boys as the African bush loomed ever closer. I felt a prayer would not be out of place and I recited the Lord’s Prayer. The ground rushed towards us at a terrifying speed as I went about protecting our two precious children from impact

We were heading for a dry river bed when our very observant pilot spotted a small clearing off to the left covered with elephant grass.  He immediately lifted the nose and banked the aircraft away from the river bed, dropping expertly into the 10 feet tall elephant grass covering the clearing. 

Thank God! (As well as a very good Pilot), who was able to expertly guide the plane in safely. The tall elephant grass took off a little speed before the wheels contacted rather heavily with the African earth looking out of the window all I could see was the propeller on the left of the plane chopping the grass which was flying up and over the cabin accompanied by clouds of dust.  The plane must have hit an ant bear hole (small African animal with long snout that feasts on termites) as we felt it drop and the propeller folded back over the engine cowl after striking the ground. We finally came to a very jerky halt.  The silence was profound for a few moments. The door to the cockpit opened, and a very apprehensive crew looked out and saw that their five passengers were all in one piece.

George scratched through Richard’s bag before going to the door with the navigator. They walked along the wing and jumped down and around to the front of the aircraft, and when they came back after their inspection I noticed that George had one of Richard’s toy guns stuck in his waistband. I burst out laughing.

“What were you planning to do with that”? I chortled.  I didn't get a reply.

George asked the pilot why the sirens were switched on and it was explained to him that they would attract the attention of any persons within a ten mile zone of our crash site.

“All they did was scare the daylights out of any wildlife hereabout”, replied George.  “There's not a human being within fifty miles of here”, he continued.

But how wrong he was!

 We were now faced with a big problem. We had landed in the heart of the Luangwa Valley in the district of Jumbe, a very big game area, close to the border with the Belgium Congo.  The aeroplane was shattered, we had no food or water and most important, no guns or ammunition to fend off any attack by wild animals.

 The inspection of the Anson had shown cracked wings and a badly damaged propeller. As we were sorting everything out inside the aircraft, when suddenly I saw the tall grass waving and in a few minutes we were surrounded by natives. The plane's sirens must have attracted all and sundry from miles around.  Terrible thoughts of cannibals crossed my mind.  George made a grab for Richard’s toy gun, which he had returned to its bag and went to stand in the open door of the aircraft.  My fears proved to be unfounded, when from the back of the crowd of milling African locals, one pushed forward and announced,

“Me Augustine! Mission boy, I speak English”.

Greatly relieved, our pilot asked “Where might we get help”?

He replied that there was a mission in the hills 40 miles away, but he would fetch the chief whose name was Nikanya. The chief must have also heard the sirens as he and his entourage arrived a short while after.  We ascertained through Augustine, acting as interpreter for the chief, that there was a white Padre at a local village about 35 miles away to whom he would send a message immediately.

We took photographs of them all around the aircraft which pleased them greatly and with their help we rigged up an outside aerial and made contact with flight control centre at Salisbury airport.  Salisbury informed us that a rescue operation was being set up and help would be arriving in the form of an air drop as well as a foot operation from Fort Jameson.  We could only give them a vague idea of our location which was approximately 86 miles Northwest of Fort Jameson. The village reference given to us by Augustine was Katemo which was the small kopjie (hill) just above the village.

Augustine had suggested we trek to his village where his family would be pleased to house us, which left me with the distinct feeling that as far as hotel star ratings went, we would be lucky for a twinkle. No 5 stars where we were headed.  He also suggested that the Nkosi (male chief/my husband), Nkosikas (female chief/me), and the picannin’s (our children) follow him. A runner was sent off to the village and a convoy of excited Africans followed carrying our luggage.

It was late afternoon and we were trekking through thick forest, the ground strewn with Mopani leaves, the favourite diet of elephants.  Bearing in mind the vast number of elephants we had seen before crash landing, I was very apprehensive of possible herds, but subdued my fears as nobody else seemed particularly worried.

On our way to the village upon walking across the dry river bed we would have landed on, our pilot noted and commented that the sand was very loosely packed with deep ruts running across it. If we had landed on it the probability would have been that the aircraft would have dug in and flipped nose over tail almost certainly resulting in a number of fatalities. I had been praying fervently as we were about to crash and there was no doubt in my mind who had guided us to our safe landing site.

We came out into thick bush terrain and the Africans who accompanied us were carrying the children on their backs.  I remember in particular the Head Man leaving our party to erect a small grass enclosure where food and water was provided for these important and strange visitors.  The local people, many of whom had never seen a white man before peered through every chink in an attempt to see us.

It was early evening and we were all quite exhausted after walking for hours over the rough terrain, which had taken its toll on our feet. The few miles to the village seemed interminable and it was to our great relief when we spotted the lights of many small fires lighting up the darkness.  When we finally arrived at Augustine’s kraal (village of round huts) we were immediately surrounded by the inhabitants and a big “indaba” (meeting) took place to agree the etiquette that should be shown to these “Gods who had fallen from the sky” or to translate into their language these “Amilungu Anagwa Kumwamba”.

Those who know Africa will be aware that an indaba can last days. Eventually though, we were conducted to a native-built thatched hut, the sole amenities of which were two low native-made beds with no mattresses but a kind of interwoven animal hide thong. This was a luxury that was usually reserved for people of note.  Apparently we were people of note.

 After our crash landing and the long trek through the jungle, we were all on the point of collapse, but some effort had to be made. A decision to bring with me three tins of Ostermilk, a small pan and a packet of tea, proved to be a God-send, as I was able at least to give the children a nourishing drink. 

Having no blankets, we had to use whatever clothing we had with us to bed them down and eventually they slept.  Outside, the other members of our group were discussing the best way of affecting a rescue in the event that we could not be found.  This proved to be pointless, and we could only hope that the coordinates we had given to Salisbury were close enough that the rescue party would be able to locate us.

Dawn comes early to the African bush and the inhabitants, human and otherwise are up with first light. Young Richard took one look around at the foreign looking habitation and said, “Let’s go home, Mom. I don’t like this hotel.”

That was easier said than done, and we were only too thankful that we had not provided a meal for some carnivorous animal on our recent trek to this small community.

 While the men folk were debating how to get us back to “civilisation”, as we knew it, I had more domestic issues to deal with, i.e. facilities for bathing, food and washing, to say nothing of the language difficulty.  The nearby “spruit” (stream) was our water supply and the children splashed happily in it, surrounded by an admiring group of local piccanin’s. My washing was accomplished by rubbing and battering clothes against the large stones in this small stream; my blue wool Jaeger suit was never quite the same again.

The following day we spotted planes flying grid pattern to the west of us; they were flying low and had the roundels of the RAF on their wings and on the sides of the fuselage, but they were too far away to locate us. Powder compacts were quite large in those days and I opened mine with its large mirror and flashed it in the direction of the searching planes, catching the sun’s rays in the mirror.  Instant response resulted.  All three planes turned towards us and a message was dropped: “Stay where you are! We have got your location”.

The next day the planes flew right to us and two sacks of supplies were dropped by parachute and picked up by locals from the village.  We were provided with six blankets, which were more than welcome as it had been bitterly cold at night. Also in the parachute drop was a loaf of bread, bully beef, oxo, bovril and raisins but no butter, tea or sugar, which we could have done with, and a 303 rifle, with no magazine or ammunition.

 George made a grab for the rifle and announced, “Don’t worry, Dot. We'll be safe now we have this”.  The absurdity of the situation struck me as very funny. A rifle with no ammunition and a balanced diet of oxo, bully beef and bovril, combined with a trek through some sixty miles of uncharted jungle.  Home was never like this.

 The runner, who had been sent off to the Catholic Mission in the Hills, returned three days later during the late afternoon with Father Robertson. We made a huge fuss of him as he was the first white man we had seen since the crash. I felt a little better about our situation.

He told us that the rescue operation was under way from Fort Jameson and that he had sent word via a runner as to our location.  Mr Bernard Hesson, the chief of police for Northern Rhodesia, and John Sugg, District Commissioner, were on their way with two trucks, but because of the inaccessibility of the region, they were having to cut the road, building bridges from cut down trees and four-gallon paraffin tins. Father Robertson told us we had found the only possible spot to crash-land within a fifty mile radius.
A few days later John Sugg and Bernard Hesson arrived with a number of “askaris” (police recruits).   They had been unable to reach us with the trucks and had had to leave them about six miles away.
Finally, after nine days in the bush, we set off on foot to find the trucks after saying goodbye to our hosts. The whole village turned out to send us on our way. 

We walked through dense bush in such intense heat that I thought we would have to give up. Just as we were reaching exhaustion, we were delighted to see two trucks under the shade of some trees.  After a short break for tea, we continued in the trucks through some extremely demanding terrain, down steep slopes and up escarpments.  In one very steep place, the truck slid back three times taking 100 or so local natives to pull and push up or down the slopes, a feat involving several hours.  How those chaps drove in the dark around those winding tracks still amazes me as most of the time we were in first or second gear with a top speed of 8 mph.  At about 9 p.m. a halt was made for a meal and we were very hungry. Eating in the bush is a fine art when properly done with the headlights of the trucks left on and grass mats spread on the ground. We were introduced for the first time to the popular “braai” (barbecue), a lovely meal, finished off with a brandy, water or tea.

The trucks were packed and we continued on again over almost impossible terrain for many more hours, until we arrived at Moore’s Mission after a day and a half travelling.  Sugg went to one of the bungalows to wake up the priest he knew, (a Mr Heritage) who emerged not very ecclesiastically garbed and remarking that it “was bloody cold”. 

We were given accommodation at the Mission, which was very comfortable considering the preceding nine nights in the bush.  After trying to sleep on a thong bed at the village, I was beginning to feel like a zebra - so my nights rest at the Mission was sheer bliss. The next morning after a good soak in a hot bath for me and the kids, a leisurely breakfast, and a walk around the Mission Station, it was time to say goodbye and to thank our newfound friends for their hospitality.

We departed for Fort Jameson, which lay fifty miles away, that afternoon, arriving in the early evening. Accommodation had been arranged at the Rangleys Hotel and after a hot bath and a good meal it was early to bed in an attempt to recover from what had been a very arduous journey. It was Friday, 12th July and we were looking forward to a relaxing weekend.  We were advised to stay close to the hotel as leopards came down from the hills at night and one had recently attacked a man and his dog outside the Knowles. 
Our arrival had caused quite a stir among the residents who were mainly tobacco farmers, and on discussing our future plans regarding settling in South Africa, we were advised to look at Salisbury in Southern Rhodesia.  Fate had taken a hand and our forced landing caused us to change our plans. After several days rest, we flew to Salisbury in a Rapide, piloted by Mr Jed Spencer. We were so impressed with what we saw of Rhodesia that we decided to settle in this new and rapidly growing country.


Thanks to Dick Mason for sharing these wonderful memories with ORAFs.

Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at

(Please visit our previous posts and archives)

Rhodesian Aviation

Labels: , , , ,

Situation Vacant: Bookkeeper for Country Estate


A vacancy exists for a competent bookkeeper to maintain the accounting records of three farming companies on a country estate 80 km south of Salisbury. The position is ideal for a person who appreciates country life and could be appropriate for a married couple.

The successful applicant will be required to write up the books and records of the three companies on a day to day basis, produce monthly trial balances, schedules of movements on various accounts, receipts and payments summaries and livestock reconciliations, and be able to type letters and statements for the managing director. Short- hand would be helpful but not essentials.

The employer offers a salary which is negotiate but not less than $250 per month with generous annual leave and provides an unfurnished 3-bed roomed cottage, servants, electricity and water free of charge.

Applications giving details of experience and relevant personal information should be addressed to: 
Bookeeper P.O. Box (Not readable) Salisbury


Source: Rhodesia Herald dated October 1, 1977 which was made available to ORAFs by Rob Picton (Intaf) Thanks Rob

Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at

(Please visit our previous posts and archives)

ORAFS records its thanks to the publishers, editor and photographer for the loan of their material.

Labels: ,

Weather Forecast October 1st, 1977.

ALTHOUGH the air near the surface is still fairly moist, the middle levels of the atmosphere have become drier. The dry air aloft is expected to cause a further reduction in the number of thundershowers.

Mazoe area, Salisbury, Lomagundi area and Midlands:
Partly cloudy and mild to warm, but with cloudy patches during the morning. Isolated afternoon or evening thunder showers, mainly over tho higher areas.

Gwai area, Bulawayo, Gwanda area and Lowveld: 
Mainly fair and warm but cool in the early morning. Light to moderate south-easterly winds, becoming
cooler in the Lowveld towards evening.

Eastern Highlands and Marandellas/Wedza area: 
Cloudy and mild with light to moderate south-easterly winds. isolated afternoon or evening thunder-

Victoria area and Gwelo: 
Mainly fair and warm, but cool in the early morning. Light to moderate south-easterly winds.

Rising pressure over Natal should cause cooler, cloudy weather to move into the south and south west tomorrow. Despite the dry air aloft, tho strengthening convergence will probahly cause isolated thunder in the north and north-east.

Salisbury temperatures:
Minimum 13 deg. C. maximum 25 deg. C.
Forecast maximum for today 26 deg. C,Minimum 13 deg. C. maximum 25 deg. C. Forecast maximum for
today 26 deg. C. - Iana

Sunrise: 5-40. Snnset: 5.54.
Moon phases: October 5. last quarter; October 12, new; October 19, first quarter; October 27, full.


Source: Rhodesia Herald dated October 1, 1977 which was made available to ORAFs by Rob Picton (Intaf) Thanks Rob

Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at

To view the Blog Home Page - Please Click Here  or on the link below
(Please visit our previous posts and archives)

ORAFS records its thanks to the publishers, editor and photographer for the loan of their material.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

The Royal Rhodesian Air Force

by K. F. Smy

The Royal Rhodesian Air Force had its beginnings in 1934, when the Government of Southern Rhodesia voted a sum of money to form and maintain an Air Unit as a contribution to the defence of the Empire. An Air Section was formed as part of the Defence Force, and in November 1935 flying training was commenced. Instruction was carried out at Belvedere Airfield, Salisbury, and under taken initially by instructors of the de Havilland Co., using the Gipsy and Tiger Moths of their Flying School.

In 1936 six apprentices were sent to Halton Royal Air Force Station for technical training and on their return became the nucleus of the ground crew of the Air Section.

The first aircraft arrived in April 1937, in the form of six Hawker Hart day bombers, one of which was converted for dual control. These aircraft were the first to carry Southern Rhodesian serials, SR-1 to SR-6. They were taken to the new airfield being built at Cranborne, a few miles south-east of Salisbury which had, by mid-December, offices and hangars completed and two 1, 000yd. runways laid.

August 1937 saw the arrival of regular Royal Air Force personnel who had been seconded to the Air Section, one of the officers, F/Lt. J. A. Powell, becoming the first C.O. Training continued under these officers and on 12th May 1938 the first six pilots received their wings. These incorporated the Southern Rhodesian coat of arms and are still the pilot's insignia in the Royal Rhodesian Air Force today. Six officers were posted to the Air Unit from the Territorial Active Force every year for flying training, others being sent to the United Kingdom on short-service commissions.

The strength of the Air Unit was increased in September 1938 by the purchase of six Hawker Audax army cooperation biplanes, followed in April 1939 by three Gloster Gauntlet single seat fighters.

War stations

On 1st August 1939 Territorial Forces members were called up for full-time service and on the 28th of the same month two Flights of Harts and Audaxes, with ten pilots, were despatched to Nairobi, where they took over duties from No. 233 Squadron, R.A.F., which had been transferred to the Sudan. On 30th August "B" Flight was posted to Garissa, "A" Flight going to Isiolo in the Northern Frontier District. After spending a fruitless month detached to Mombasa, searching for the German pocket-battleship Graf Spee, the latter were moved up to Wajir. Newly formed "C" Flight was posted to Buna, near the Ethiopian frontier, in November.

Canberra B.2s of No. 5 Squadron; under-nose rocket rails are a local mod.

Pembroke C.l SR133 displays the national marking, with three assegais, introduced after W.W.II but changed when the Federation was dissolved latter

 On 19th September 1939 the Air Unit became known as the Southern Rhodesian Air Force, and the Flights on active service in Kenya were then designated No. 1 Squadron, S.R.A.F. In April 1940 this. squadron was re-designated No. 237 (Rhodesia) Squadron, and the personnel and aircraft were absorbed into the R.A.F.
The Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, Mr. Huggins, announced on the 4th January 1940 the formation of the Rhodesian Air Training Group which would train aircrew under the Empire Training Scheme. Equipment was to be supplied from the U.K. and the first school, No. 25 E.F.T.S., was formed at Belvedere in May 1940, followed within a year by three others, No. 26 E.F.T.S. at Gwelo, No. 27 at Induna, Bulawayo, and No. 28 at Mount Hampden, Salisbury. A Flying Instructors' School was formed at Norton early in 1943.

Meanwhile the Government had taken over Rhodesia and Nyasaland Airways and their aircraft were impressed into the Southern Rhodesian Air Force to form a communications squadron as well as operating the routes of R.A.N.A. at a reduced frequency.

East African campaign

When Italy entered the war in June 1940, No. 237 Squadron, "A" Flight was given the task of supporting  "C' Company of the 1st K.A.R., which was holding the northern fort of Moyale, just on the frontier of Ethiopia, but was withdrawn when Italian forces overran Moyale and the territory north of Wajir. "B" and "C" Flights were employed on border patrols along the Somaliland frontier.

No. 237 received Hawker Hardys at about this time, but most of them were destroyed in a raid by Italian aircraft before they could be put into action. In September the squadron moved to Khartoum, where it was re-equipped with Westland Lysanders two months later, one of the Flights receiving Gloster Gladiators in March the following year.

The squadron moved to Asmara on the surrender of the town in April, and further moves took place to Wadi Haifa in June and Kasfareet in August, when the squadron was engaged in patrols over the Libyan Desert.

In November 1941, No. 237 Squadron moved to the Western Desert and, now equipped with Hurricanes, remained there until February 1942, when it moved to Ismailia, in Egypt. The following year was spent in Iraq and Persia, the squadron being respectively stationed at Mosul, Kermanshah and Kirkuk. The squadron returned to the Canal Zone in March 1943, and a long spell of fighter reconnaissance operations followed in the Eastern Mediterranean and North African area, the squadron operating from Benghazi, Idku, Bersia and various landing grounds.

By April 1944 Spitfires had replaced the Hurricanes, and No. 237 had moved yet again, this time across the sea, to a base near Serragia in Corsica. In July another move, to Kalvi, on the north-west side of the island, brought a change of operations from Italy to Southern France.

By this time the squadron no longer consisted entirely of Rhodesian personnel and difficulty was experienced in replacing those who had completed their tour of operations. The squadron eventually moved to France, and then to Italy, where it disbanded in late 1945.

During 1941 two other R.A.F. squadrons with a majority of Rhodesian personnel on their strength were designated "Rhodesia" squadrons: Nos. 44 and 266. No. 44 (Bomber) Squadron was retitled No. 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron in September 1941 and at the time was based at Waddington and equipped with Handley Page Hampdens. Early in 1942 the squadron became the first to convert completely to the Avro Lancaster heavy bomber, and it was soon after that, on 17th April 1942, that the squadron carried out an unescorted daylight raid on the M.A.N, works at Augsburg. Leading a combined force with No. 97 Squadron, also equipped with Lancasters, S/Ldr. J. D. Nettleton was awarded the Victoria Cross for his determination in carrying out the raid when all aircraft of the force were shot down with the exception of his aircraft and one other.

The squadron moved to Dunholme Lodge in June 1943, from where it continued its attacks on enemy industrial installations and communications. As the war came to a close the squadron moved to various bases and in August 1946 found itself at Wyton, where it re-equipped with the Avro Lincoln in 1947, and it was with these aircraft that No. 44 paid a visit to Rhodesia in 1948.

Hunter FGA.9s of No. 1 Squadron, based at Thornhill, Gwelo.
Note the current national marking which has only one (larger) assegai
The newest R.R.A.F. unit is No. 7 Squadron which was formed in 1962 with eight Sud Alouette Ills.
 It is based at New Sarum, Salisbury.

A move to Marham in January 1951, to convert to the Boeing Washington, was soon followed by a move to Coningsby, where it again re-equipped, this time with the Canberra. May 1954 brought another move, this time to Cottesmore and again in February 1955, to Honington, where the squadron remained until its disbandment in July 1957. Before this, however, the squadron had sent a detachment to take part in the Suez campaign in late 1956.

No. 44 Squadron was re-formed in August i960 as a V-bomber unit and equipped with Avro Vulcans, and is currently based at Waddington. The squadron's association with Rhodesia is preserved in its squadron badge, which depicts an African elephant.

No. 266 Squadron was formed at Sutton Bridge in October 1939, and equipped with Fairey Battle day bombers. These were soon replaced by Spitfires and the squadron moved to Wittering for Battle of Britain operations. In January 1940 the decision was made that Rhodesians would be progressively posted to the squadron and by August of that year it was officially known as 266 (Rhodesia) Squadron. During 1942 the squadron was re-equipped with Typhoons and operated from Duxford and Warmwell, mainly on night intruder patrols over enemy-occupied France.

The following year the squadron moved to Harrowbeer, in Devon, from where its duties changed to fighter sweeps over the Channel and Northern France. Later, as part of the 2nd T.A.F., No. 266 took part in the D-Day operations, moving to France as the Allies advanced. The squad- ron continued to provide close support for the Army and by the winter of 1944 had moved to Antwerp. After the end of hostilities the squadron returned to Eng- land for a short period, spending three weeks at Fairwood Common on an armament refresher course, at the end of which it returned to Europe. At Hildesheim, Germany, No. 266 took up duties with the British Army of Occupation, but was dibanded in August 1945.

Post-war build-up

After the war the Rhodesian Air Training Group closed down, and the Air Unit was re-formed with a small regular element and one active auxiliary squadron (No. 1), and was once again given the title "Southern Rhodesian Air Force". Training continued on Tiger Moths and Harvards, and communications and army co-operation work were carried out by a variety of types, including Rapides, Leopard Moths, Ansons and Austers. In 1951 twenty-two Spitfires were flown out from England to form two fighter squadrons as Rhodesia's contribution to Commonwealth defence.

In 1952 the Southern Rhodesian Air Force moved from Cranborne to Salisbury Airport, where the New Sarum Air Station was established, and under Air Vice- Marshal E. W. S. Jacklin, C.B.E., A.F.C., then Commander of the Force, considerable expansion took place. Re-equipping with more modern aircraft began, and in early 1954 the first of thirty-two Vampire FB.9S and T.iis and sixteen Hunting Provosts were delivered. Seven additional Dakotas and two Pembrokes were acquired to replace the ageing Ansons and Rapides.

Additional aircrew and technical personnel were recruited and by the end of 1955 four squadrons had been formed: Nos. 1 and 2 (Fighter) Squadrons with Vampires; No. 3 (Transport) Squadron with Dakotas and Pembrokes; and No. 4 (Flying Training) Squadron equipped with Provosts.

When the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was formed in 1953, defence became a Federal responsibility and on 15th October 1954 the title was changed to the "Rhodesian Air Force". At about this time Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II conferred the title "Royal" on the Force, which thus became the "Royal Rhodesian Air Force".

In April 1956 Thornhill Airfield, Gwelo, was re-opened and work at once began on the reconstruction of the runways and the installation of the latest Radar GCA systems. Today this airfield is the main operational base of the Air Force. Further aircraft were acquired during 1959-1960: three Canadair C.4 transports were added to the strength of No. 3 Squadron and two more squadrons, Nos. 5 and 6 (Bomber) were formed with fifteen Canberra B.2S and three Canberra T.4s.

During 1961 No. 3 Squadron's aircraft provided considerable assistance to the R.A.F. during the Kuwait crisis, when the Canadairs were used to transport British troops; and again later in the year when Dakotas of the squadron transported some 213 tons of food and supplies to flood-stricken tribesmen in Kenya and Somalia, most of it free-dropped in hilly, inaccessible country under poor weather conditions.

Harvard IIs, from the F.T.S. at Cranborne, served with the S.R.A.F. until the 1950s
Two have been preserved
The Harvard's duties have since been taken over by Hunting Provost T.52s,
These can also be armed with guns and rockets.

Advanced training is carried out on Vampire T.IIs which, with FB.9 fighter bombers, form the equipment of No. 2 Squadron, based at Thornhill

At the end of July 1961 Air Vice Marshal E. W. S. Jacklin retired from the Air Force and was succeeded by Air Vice Marshal A. M. Bentley, C.B.E., A.F.C.

No. 7 (Helicopter) Squadron was formed in 1962, when eight Alouette Ills were delivered. The following year No. 1 (Fighter) Squadron was re-equipped with twelve Hunter FGA.9 ground - attack fighters.

Federation dissolved

The dissolution of the Federation in 1963 left the R.R.A.F. with a reduced area of responsibility, and therefore it was no longer necessary to retain such a large force. As a result the Canadair and Pembroke were disposed of through the Liquidating Agency and a number of Vampires and Canberras placed in storage.

At the present time the main operational bases of the Royal Rhodesian Air Force are New Sarum, Salisbury, and Thornhill, near Gwelo. The former not only houses the Administration and three resident squadrons — No. 3 (Transport), No. 5 (Bomber), and No. 7 (Helicopter) Squadrons — but also the Photographic Establishment, an Air Movements Section, the Aircrew Selection Centre and Apprentice Training School, and a Parachute Training Section, operated on behalf of the Army.

Thornhill also has three resident squadrons, Nos. 1 and 2 (Fighter), and No. 4 (Flying Training). The Provosts of the latter squadron form the basic training element of the Air Force, pilots progressing to the Vampire T.11 for jet conversion and on to the Vampire FB.9, on which they carry out armament practice and operational training before being posted to a squadron, where they convert to the particular aircraft being operated.

The R.R.A.F. now has a strength of ninety-one aircraft, 1,158 regular personnel, plus 420 Territorials and 340 volunteer reservists.

Air Vice-Marshal Bentley, who had been Commander of the Royal Rhodesian Air Force since July 1961, retired in April 1965. He was succeeded by Air Vice Marshal Harold Hawkins, C.B.E., A.F.C. Born in Australia, A.V.-M. Hawkins joined the Royal Australian Air Force on the outbreak of war and served in the U.K., Middle East and Far East theatres before coming to the Air Training Group in 1944. Since joining the Federal Air Arm in 1946 he has held a succession of senior staff and command appointments, culminating in the post of Group Commander, No. 1 Group, R.R.A.F. He was appointed D.C.A.S. and also Additional Air A.D.C. to Her Majesty the Queen on 1st August 1961, until his appointment as Chief of Air Staff, R.R.A.F., with the rank of Air Vice Marshal, on 13th April 1965.

From its beginnings, some thirty years ago, the Royal Rhodesian Air Force has grown steadily into the efficient and effective force which today, despite the recent reduction in size, remains quite capable of answering any emergency or challenge that may arise.

Representative aircraft
Hawker Hart K3025
Hawker Hart (dual) K3888 (SR-2)

Gloster Gauntlet K5347
Hawker Audax SR-13

Hawker Hardy K5921
DH Rapide SR-8 (VP-YBU)

Tiger Moth SR-34

Harvard SR-49

Spitfire 22 SR-82

AusterJ-5 SR-55

Vampire FB.9 SRAF 107
Vampire T.11 SRAF 130

Provost T.52 RRAF 141
Dakota RRAF 153

Canadair C.4 RRAF 179
Canberra B.2 RRAF 164
Canberra T.4 RRAF 176

Alouette III RRAF 503

Hunter FGA.9 RRAF 118

Present equipment
Hunter FGA.9 RRAF 121
Vampire FB.9 RRAF 107
Canberra B.2 RRAF 206
Canberra T.4 RRAF 217
Provost T.52 RRAF 303
Vampire T.11 RRAF 407
Alouette III RRAF 504
Dakota RRAF 708

First combat type to be received by the S.R.A.F. after W.W.ll was the Spitfire Mk. 22, twenty-two of which were delivered in 1951

In the fore ground, helping with the maintenance of Audax
SR-13 in 1938, is E. W. S. Jacklin, later C.A.S. of the R.R.A.F.

Many Commonwealth pilots were framed in Rhodesia during W.W.II on Tiger Moths and the type continued in use with the S.R.A.F. for some yews afterwards.
This post-war shot shows F.T.S. machines from Cranborne

Above article was extracted and recompiled by Eddy Norris from material made available to ORAFs by Colin Lyle (RhAF) - thanks Colin.

Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at

(Please visit our previous posts and archives)

ORAFS records its thanks to the publishers, editor and photographer for the loan of their material.

Ref. Rhodesian Air Force

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Harvard Down

By Mitch Stirling

The granddaughter of Flight Lieutenant LJ Murphy tells a remarkable story about her grandfather and Flying Officer RG Boswell who went AWOL in the Luangwa Valley on a flight from Cranborne to Fort Jameson during 1946. The facts and figures are a little hazy - lost in the mists of time - but notes dropped by search and rescue aircraft have survived the passage of the years. And newspaper cuttings and diary entries reveal a story of great courage and endurance. 

It was at the end of the Second World war when troops were returning home to Rhodesia and nothing much was happening around the old 20 EFTS Cranborne. Living in a flat at the time in an old Rhodesian stone-built house amongst some granite kopjies in Hatfield, the young Miss Murphy remembers her grandpa and F/O Boswell going off in a Harvard to deliver some spare parts to Fort Jimmy. Grandpa was bored after years of operational duty in WW11, so he jumped at the opportunity to join the task. The weather was overcast and drizzly at the time, but the two of them departed enthusiastically, expecting clearer skies to the north in the Zambezi Valley. Five hours later, and with lost-radio contact, pilot-in-charge F/O Boswell found himself in trouble and decidedly 'unsure of his position'! 

The result was a 'forced lob' into the bush on empty tanks in uninhabited, unknown territory. Fortunately the precautionary landing was carried out without damage to the aircraft, nor the occupants, but a serious problem now presented itself... survival! There were piles of elephant dung and other unknown deposits in the vlei where they had landed and they had no idea if they were north/ south/ east or west of Fort Jameson. The next eight days were described in vivid detail in a diary written by LJ Murphy which records a very sorry state of affairs for the two airmen as they began to think it was their last days on mother earth. It was a nightmare of loneliness and hunger and encounters with the shadowy figures of wild animals at night and herds of elephant and buffalo by day.

The first night of the 14th June gave them an indication of what lay ahead as they huddled in the cockpit to escape the ravages of mosquitoes and unwelcome visits by inquisitive sounds and shadows at the edge of their firelight. The silhouette of one large pointed horn was particularly disturbing. And a partial eclipse of the moon added to a 'Rider Haggard' sense of foreboding.

Dawn broke as a welcome relief and they decided to rip out the compass from the aircraft, load up with as much survival kit as they could carry, and head south-east in search of the river they has seen from the air. After a false start, they returned to collect their parachutes, then pointed the aircraft's nose towards their intended direction - as a search and rescue signal - and created a long arrow made from the ashes of their fire. As a parting thought they set fire to the surrounding bush and then set-off through tall elephant grass and rough terrain, carrying with them the very meagre emergency rations from the abandoned plane. A two-gallon drum of water was the most difficult of their burdens to lug around in the bush, but they soon discovered it was invaluable, when banged on, to scare the animals away. 

The next 48 hours went from bad to worse as they stumbled along in swamps and marshes trying to cross streams infested with crocodiles and hippos. Exhausting days were spent trudging along, followed by sleepless nights keeping watch that hungry predators didn't approach their primitive bivouacs. Biscuits and chocolates sustained them and some bully beef, but only just.

By the 17th June, word was out in the Salisbury press that two airmen of the Rhodesian Air Training Group were missing.... and by the 18th, concern for them was mounting. Meanwhile, the two survivors were bundu bashing with bleeding, blistered feet. Despair was setting in.

Diary entry of Monday 17th June:  "Broke camp at 6.30 still heading S.S.E. Started off well but ran into swamp country and kept back tracking. Decided to go inland and see if we could make more headway. Dried our feet and socks and re-bandaged our feet. Halted early because we were feeling very tired. Collected wood for the fire and slept in the mopani forest in a large clearing. Am afraid we both broke down rather badly thinking of our wives and homes. Got over it by helping each other and talking it over. We mustn't give way, it only weakens us. One hour watches during the night, we both slept rather better than previously. Mosguitoes simply ghastly. Only night visitors some elephant who passed within 25 yards of us".

Search aircraft from the Southern Rhodesian Air Services based at Salisbury, Lilongwe and Fort Jameson scoured the area and 'track crawled' the route from Cranborne to Fort Jameson. By the 4th day, hope was dwindling and the search had been virtually abandoned.... it was thought that nobody could still be alive. But by sheer good fortune, Captain Ken Murrell decided to make a last sweep of the area... way to the north of track in the South Luangwa Game Reserve. Bingo! 83 miles north-west of Fort Jameson, up came a Very light from a clearing in the bush where two exhausted, hungry men were waving frantically and dancing around like whirling dervishes!

Notes were dropped from the circling craft. A ground party set out from Fort Jameson asap and emergency supplies of food rations and blankets, cigarettes, candles, toilet paper! etc were air-dropped from an Avro Anson once their position had been pin-pointed. More notes of instruction and assurance descended to say help was on its way. The men feasted on bread and butter, cream crackers and pears and bovril tea.

S/L Hensman and Mr M Fleming of the Northern Rhodesia Government and Mr Smith of Nyasaland Police managed to cross the Luangwa river the following day and walked-in to a position indicated by a pall of smoke from a burning tarpaulin. The happy survivors were escorted to the Luangwa which was crossed in dugout canoes and from there they were lorried back to Fort Jameson.

Press cutting 21st

After a comfortable night at the Fleming's house in Fort Jameson, they were flown back to home base at Cranborne, eight days after their departure. Ron, a big man, had lost so much weight that his wife did not even recognize him when he stepped off the aircraft. The subsequent Board of Enquiry concluded that some new thinking had to be applied to emergency rat packs carried on all aircraft of the Southern Rhodesia Air Force. A single hand-pistol was completely inadequate. Happily the machine was recovered 38 miles south-east of Mpika after a make-shift runway was carved from the bush.

Map:  showing South Luangwa Game Reserve. Mpika slightly off-map to the north.

Addendum: The story ends with typical Air Force humour. You can't get away with a stunt like that without paying the price in the Armed Forces of Rhodesia. The 'welcome home' party in their honour ended up in the usual disorder of 'Menders and Benders ' with numerous bottles of liquid refreshments being consumed. During the course of the proceedings F/O Boswell appears to have sat on some broken glass and cut his derriere rather badly, so... off to the sick quarters he was carted with the assembled mob in tow (drinks in hand).

When he awoke the next morning, stuck to his bed sheets with his own dried blood, he discovered that Dr Tommy Lyle's medical administrations from the night before consisted of a neat line of stitches on his bum........... nowhere near the wound. Hahahahahaha!

Thanks to Eddy Norris and Anne Shaw for all their input. Bruce Rooken-Smith provided ORAFs with a hard copy of the diary that was maintained during this ordeal. Thanks Bruce

The map is from the RC Denning collection. Anne records that  RG 'Ron' Boswell DFC was ex 44(Rhodesia) Squadron mentioned in 'A Pride of Eagles'. She added the following: "DFM's were not dished out two a penny and are something to be very proud of. They were awarded to Non Commissioned officers, and DFC's to commissioned officers".

Alfred Ken Murrell, DFM 11/2/1941, Efficiency Medal/EM 6/12/1946, EM plus Bar
NCO Number 776201
Officer number 65497
Attested 25/8/1939
Demobilised 30/9/1946
Served on 237 (Rhodesia) Squadron in East Africa
WOP Air Gunner re-mustered to Pilot
Transferred to Permanent Staff Corp post war.


Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at
(Please visit our previous posts and archives)

Ref. Rhodesia

Labels: , , ,