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Thread: Ferry route UK to Middle East

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    Default Ferry route UK to Middle East

    This rather carries on from my earlier query about Wellington HD976, and RobJ's reply about the staging posts used by his father's aircraft. It's the leg from Bathurst to Accra that interests me at the moment. There are two possible routes for this leg; the direct one over land (approx 1200 miles), or the long one around the coast (1400-1500 miles).

    Can anyone advise which one was the normal route please?

    Brian

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    Hi Brian
    If you can get a look at a very old HMSO set of books, "Royal Air Force 1939-1945" published in 1953 there is a map showing routes to the Middle East facing p 248 in Vol 1. Unfortunately the S route starts at Takoradi in the Gold Coast but it does show that much of the territory on the route Bathurst-Accra was over French African Colonies and I would suggest that our relations with Vichy/Colonial France would have made the direct route risky. The bulk of the a/c delivered S of the Sahara were assembled from crates at Takoradi or received there direct from the USA and followed a route pioneered by Imperial Airways for a weekly service Lagos-Khartoum,and although much of this was over French Equatorial Africa, that Colony had joined De Gaulle. If that was also true of French Guinea it would have eased the direct Bathurst -Takoradi route.It simply doesn't record the route for deliveries "on the hoof" from the UK other than through the MED. Incidentally the map shows me where El Fasher is in SW Sudan!!
    Hope this helps a bit
    Regards
    Dick

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    Many thanks Dick, you've confirmed what I was thinking. I remembered after I'd posted the thread that there were Meteorological Flights at Waterloo (Sierra Leone) and Lagos, and I think that more or less confirms the coastal route - it would certainly have made navigation relatively easy.

    Cheers
    Brian

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    Default Ferry Route UK to Middle East.

    Hi Brian,
    From Dads diary in abbreviated form. Took off from Gib and set course for Bathurst, kept well clear of Daakar few enemy kites there. Very tiring flying over water at 300feet all way. Came smack over coast of West Africa, Bathurst only few miles in. Took off from Bathurst received couple of messages from Freetown that didn't make sense, kept going and finally hit Accra after passing through Roberts Field and Takoradi, just getting dark as we touched down. Other 3 kites that started off with us didn't make it, 2 put down in Freetown and the other one hasn't turned up yet. The 2 messages I got were to land at Freetown but my Sylev ?? machine was out of order. This Accra is a Pan American drome and really marvellous.
    The rest of the journey you already have. Hope this helps.
    Regards,
    Rob Jerram.

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    Spot on Rob, that is just what I needed - I'm especially glad to see the reference to Freetown (my Waterloo), as I thought that was probably a safe haven. Hadn't realised there was enemy aerial activity as far south as Dakar - I'll have to adjust the map I've just drawn.

    I think this is the first time this question's come up, so we've all learnt something and your input has been much appreciated.

    Brian

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    "Hadn't realised there was enemy aerial activity as far south as Dakar"

    From an undated (but probably Feb 1943) A.I. (K) report on crew debriefing regarding the loss of Wellington HX583 which had departed Gib at 0640 on on 13 August 1942 (AIR40/259):

    1. This aircraft...was carrying a heavy load of spares and stores, and, for experimental reasons had been overloaded to 30,600 lbs. The machine guns had been removed from the front turret and were to be reinstalled on arrival in the Middle East...

    ...3. During briefing at Gibraltar the pilot was advised to fly 20 miles from the coasts of Morocco and Rio de Oro and to obtain a pinpoint at Dakar without actually flying over the town.

    4. Between 1700 and 1800 hours, whilst flying on a southerly course at 1000 ft. some 30 miles S.W. of Dakar, two fighters were seen approaching. Since the aircraft was flying well outside territorial waters the pilot continued on his course, cautioning the Rear Gunner not to take any action unless attacked.

    5. The fighters, which were identified as Curtiss Mohawks, came in from astern and delivered individual attacks, to which the Rear Gunner replied in turn. Hits were received in the wings and undercarriage dropped. As there was no cloud the pilot opened up the motors and made for what he hoped might be cover in the haze near the coast.

    6. The fighters continued to deliver individual beam attacks and the instrument panel was hit several times, putting the A.S.I. out of order. The compass, rev counter and boost indicator, however, appeared to be still working.

    7. Coming down to wave-top level the pilot took evasive action, at the same time giving the Rear Gunner an opportunity to reply to each attack. During the exchange of fire, hits were received in the main petrol tank and there was soon a strong smell of petrol in the aircraft.

    8. After half an hour the Rear Gunner got in a burst, scoring hits on one of the fighters from which the pilot was seen to bale out; the other fighter broke away and turned for home, possibly due to running out of ammunition.

    9. By now land was no longer in sight and the Navigator gave the pilot an easterly course to pick up the coast in order to make for Bathurst. Land was sighted after 10 minutes, but when about to pinpoint themselves, the pilot noticed that the compass was revolving.

    10. The Navigator estimated that they were only a short distance to the North of the Gambia border, but approaching the coast at about 1000 ft. the aircraft was attacked by Flak and the pilot headed off southwards along the coast.

    1. Shortly afterwards three more fighters were sighted; the pilot turned and flew overland, coming down to zero feet, and managed to evade the fighters which were soon lost to sight. The aircraft then flew over another Flak post and, although fired at, was not hit.

    12. The main tank, manwhile, hd been emptied owing to having been holed, and when the starboard tank ran out, the pilot switched over to the port tank. The motors, however, spluttered and cut out and the pilot found that all the petrol was exhausted.

    13. A suitable landing place was immediately looked for and finally the pilot brought the aircraft down in a clearing near the shore; the undercarriage collapsed on landing but the aircraft came to rest without injury to the crew.

    14. All maps and secret documents were left in the aircraft, and, using the incendiary bombs, which worked very well, the aircraft was soon completely burnt out.

    15. The crew were still uncertain as to whether they were in Gambia territory or not; however, they were soon picked up by French troops and were told that they were some 8 miles South-west of Tiaroye, near Dakar.

    16. At Tiaroye the crew were interrogated concerning the type of aircraft, unit, place of start and destination, but no answers were given. They were also asked if they would like their C.O. to be advised by W/T that they were safe but the did not fall for this trick.

    The crew were interned by the Vichy French for several months. Would any of our French forumites have come across a report of this action from the French side?

    Errol

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    Fascinating Errol, and thanks for posting the account. One thing that immediately strikes me about this, and the one described by Rob, is that the aircraft appeared to fly the over sea legs at low level. One would have thought that from both crew fatigue and aircraft performance considerations the flights would have been made at greater altitudes.

    Brian

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