CAPE TOWN BRANCH
Last year's meeting on 9 November brought us the final part of
Pat Wells' entertaining talks on his personal experiences in WW2,
filling in spaces left open from his previous presentations.
NEWSLETTER NO. 274 JANUARY 2001
He made Malta his starting point where he flew Hurricanes on a
rotation basis, but, since there were more pilots than aircraft,
left soon on 17.9.41 and travelled via Abu Qir to Cairo. Taking
a train to Luxor, a river boat, to Wadi Halfa and again a train
to Gordon's Tree, he arrived at the desolate training station
for fighter pilots and aircraft for the Desert Airforce in North
Pat immediately began leading young, inexperienced pilots ferrying
Mohawk 75 from Nairobi to Gordon's Tree, a job that not only
required 25-30 hours of flying, but was made even more hazardous
by the tendency of Tomahawk's engine bearings breaking down, leading
to costly and time consuming recovery operations.
A few months later he was posted away to Takoradi in West Africa
and, despite his seniority, continued ferrying planes across the
South of the Sahara desert. The young pilots could not manage on
their own, and so experienced pilots had to step in to lead as
the planes were urgently required up north. As a sideline and,
no doubt, to break the monotony of his existence and make some
money to reduce his high mess bill, Pat ferried snakeskins to
Cairo and sold them to Bazaar traders where they were in great
From 1942/43 he served in No.73 Squadron equipped with Hurricanes
for nightfighter duties. They undertook night intruder work on
ships as well as ground targets, going as far afield as Pantelleria,
and also attempted night sorties from Malta over Sicily and
leaflet drops on enemy troops, but these proved too costly.
In the summer of 1943 the squadron was equipped with Supermarine
Spitfires which were used principally in the defence of naval
installations, like Bizerta, and convoy patrols. During the
Sicilian invasion their Hurricanes were sent out to destroy
searchlights and protect their own gliders and paratroopers, though not
When Italy deserted the Axis Rome-Berlin and threw in his lot
with the Allies, the Spitfites escorted the surrendered Italian
Fleet to Malta.
Pat then joined No.255 Squadron, equipped with Beaufighter Mk
VIF's, with Mk 8 radar, based at Borizzo near Trapani on Sicily.
He commented that the Beaufighter was a powerful aircraft with
heavy armament, and a pleasure to fly. His Squadron provided cover
over port installations including Taranto and troop positions.
In passing, he spoke about what was probably the best kept secret
of WW 2, i.e. the German bomber raid on the port of Bari in Italy.
The bombs hit a tanker which exploded, setting off gas bombs and
causing 17 other ships to be totally destroyed and 8 damaged. The
casualty figure was extremely high, with thousands injured.
The Squadron also covered Naples and Salerno and the allied
landings at Anzio.
Eventually Pat was relocated to Algeciras, he had done his three
years, and a long wait followed, until he managed to obtain a
passage with a hospital ship to the U.K.
He stepped into a new world, an unknown officer severed from his
unit and friends, wanting nothing more than to go home to South
Africa. Instead he was detached to an instructor's course with
the prospect of having to take a Mosquito nightfighter Squadron
to the Far East.
Fortunately, the "Bomb" was dropped, peace came, and Pat was at
last able to return home.
Thank you very much Pat for your most entertaining talks about
a period which is still with those of us who lived through it and
survived, not to glorify war bat to remember the old values which
seem to fade fast.
9 November 2000
- AFTER MALTA
Sq Ldr Patrick Wells DSO will continue his talks about his personal experiences
in WW 2
18 January 2001
- Please note that the first Society Evening will be on the THIRD THURSDAY
- HISTORY OF THE ROYAL NAVY FLEET AIR ARM
Talk by Cdr Les Sin RN (British Naval & Air Attache)
- 8 February 2001
- The Angolan War
Talk by Stephen Fourie
- 8 March 2001
- THE LONGEST RETREAT: The retreat from Burma, January to May 1942
Illustrated Talk by Lt Col "Dickie" Bullen MC (Middlesex Yeomanry),
Member of the Burma Star Association
- 12 April 2001
- 1) ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
2) THE GUERILLA WAR IN THE CAPE COLONY DURING THE ANGLO/BOER WAR
Illustrated Talk by Rodney Constantine
- 10 May 2OOl
- RAILWAY GUNS
Illustrated Talk by Johan v.d. Berg
We will feature another Potpourrie-Evening of talks later this
year. Any member wishing to be a 15-minute speaker is asked to
contact our Chairman with his choice of topic.
Meetings are normally held on the 2nd Thursday of each month at 20h00
in the Recreation Hall of the SA LEGION'S ROSEDALE COMPLEX, Lower Nursery
Road, Rosebank, (off Alma Road), opposite Rosebank Railway Station, below
the line. Visitors are welcome, donations R 3.00, students and scholars
free. Tea and biscuits will be served.
John Mahncke, (Vice-Chairman/Scribe), (021) 797 5167
Military History Society /