About Durban I wrote that an unidentified aeroplane had been
spotted over Durban several times around the end of May and
beginning of June 1942. The plane remained unidentified for
a number of years until it was discovered that the Japanese
Imperial Navy had conducted a reconnaissance of the east coast
of Africa and that submarine I-10 had flown its seaplane over
the city on a number of occasions. I knew that the flights
had caused quite a stir among the population and had led to
the imposition of a blackout on Durban, but there the matter
a month ago I was fortunate to meet Reg Sweet who was stationed
as a fighter pilot in Durban for a time during WWII and was
scrambled from Stamford Hill Aerodrome on a couple of occasions
to search for the intruders. Reg had learned to fly on Tiger
Moths at 4 Elementary Flying Training School in Northmead,
Benoni, and at Service FTS (25 Air School), Standerton, flying
the Miles Master Mk11. The powers that be belatedly realised
that there wasn't a single fighter squadron to defend the
east coast of South Africa and recalled Reg and a number of
colleagues from operations in East Africa and, together with
other pilots drafted in from North Africa, they were posted
to Durban to form 10 Squadron SAAF. At this point, the threat
to Durban from the Japanese was believed to be pretty high
and the squadron was expected to help defend the city.
his colleagues arrived in April 1942 at Natal Command, on
Snell Parade, to find that they were not expected. There were
no rations or beds available for the airmen and so they were
put up for a week at the Edward Hotel at state expense. The
squadron later moved into a row of bell tents at the military
base, which was very handy for the adjacent Stamford Hill
Aerodrome. The squadron first flew Curtiss Mohawks and the
pilots took turns on standby duty with the duty pilots having
to sleep on floor of the control tower in the aerodrome terminal
building [now the HQ of the Natal Mounted Rifles].
courtesy Reg Sweet. A 10 Squadron Curtiss Mohawk on Stamford
including Reg, were scrambled a number of times but he told
me that they never intercepted an intruder and felt that there
were too many delays between the time a potentially hostile
aircraft was detected on radar and they received orders to
scramble. Their flights were not without excitement, however,
as on one occasion, when he and his colleague Alan Harrington
were returning to Stamford Hill from a seaward search at last
light. They were turning over the harbour to align themselves
for the landing approach to Stamford Hill when they were fired
upon by a French cruiser convinced they were hostiles.
and news clipping courtesy Reg Sweet. Alan Harrington,
left. Click to view enlargement.
in the Natal Mercury the day after the incident mentioned
that an unidentified aircraft had been reported over Durban
and that anti-aircraft guns went into action but that the
intruder had made its escape.
this time the SAAF needed to acquire an advanced trainer and
decided that the American Texan T6 [Harvard] would be just
the job. The first three Harvard Mk Is in South Africa [numbered
3001, 3002 and 3003] arrived at Stamford Hill where they were
flown by the 10 Squadron pilots. The Harvard became one of
the SAAF's longest-serving aircraft and was still being used
for training more than 50 years later.
Courtesy Reg Sweet.
1: Three Texan T6 (Harvard) advanced trainers arrived
for evaluation at Stamfordhill in 1942 and were flown
by the 10 Squadron Pilots.
2: The arrival of the Curtiss Kittyhawk P-40E increased
10 Squadron's striking power enormously. The Kittyhawk
(also known in other places as the Warhawk or Tomahawk)
was a fighter which, although somewhat inferior to
its opposition, usually managed to hold its own. Some
13737 P-40s were built, making it one of the most
numerous allied fighters of WWII and it served with
the US, English, French, Chinese, Russian, Australian,
New Zealand, Canadian, South African, and Turkish
airforces. The P-40E was armed with six 0.5 calibre
machineguns and could carry an external fuel tank
or 1 500lb bomb. This aircraft had the airframe serial
number 5005 and was so new at the time of the picture
that its squadron identification markings had not
been painted on it. It is seen here at the southern
end of Stamfordhill Aerodrome and behind it is the
Natal Command military base where the pilots lived.
Visible under the wing on the left is an ablution
block and, under the right, a barracks.
3: Reg Sweet perched on the wheel of a "Kitty".
on the pictures to view enlargements - The Harvard and
Kittyhawk pictures, above, are desktop wallpaper-sized
(1024 x 768px).
were later equipped with the more advanced Curtiss Kittyhawk
P-40E fighter and moved to Isipingo where they operated from
runways which had been cut out of the sugarcane; the same
place where the main runway for Durban International [ex Louis
Botha] Airport was later built. The squadron HQ now houses
the Isipingo Golf Club.
Courtesy Reg Sweet.
1: The airfield at Isipingo.
2: The pilots of 10 Squadron, taken on 25 December
1942; on the extreme right is Commanding Officer "Axe"
Kriel's personal hound.
3: Kittys lined-up at Isipingo and, according to the
caption in Reg's scrapbook, "ready to smash the
on the pictures to view enlargements.
eight months in Durban, Reg was posted to 3 Squadron SAAF
and flew in the famous Desert Air Force both in North Africa
and in Italy. The threat of a Japanese invasion receded and
10 Squadron became an Operational Training Unit. Reg returned
to Durban in 1952 and became Sports Editor of the Daily News
and of the Sunday Tribune newspapers. He has written a number
of books on rugby and cricket, including a major work which
marked the 1990 centenary of the Natal Rugby Union, and the
story of No 222 Squadron RAF (The Natal Squadron), which was
a gift to the RAF from the people of Durban at the time of
the Battle of Britain.
courtesy Reg Sweet. A 10 Squadron Kittyhawk in a pose,
(Reg again) in which no "Jap will ever see".