Biplane fighter aces


Lieutenant Thomas ‘Tom’ Condon, SAAF no. 47307V

1918 - 1993

Thomas Condon was born into a poor family in Pretoria West, South Africa, in 1918.

He joined the SAAF as an apprentice welder in 1939

He was later commissioned.

Condon served in 2 SAAF Squadron from 11 November 1940 before being posted to 1 SAAF Squadron on 4 December 1940.

Early on 27 December, six CR.42s from the 412a Squadriglia made a strafing attack on Gedaref. The Italian formation is believed to have compromised Capitano Antonio Raffi, Sottotenenti Niso Provinciali, Filippo Sola and Fiorindo Rosmino, and two other pilots. They saw two landing grounds, strafed a single aircraft on one and a detachment of Indian cavalry, which was exercising on the other.
Five Gladiators from 1 SAAF’s detachment at Azzoza were ordered to scramble, but only three got off, these being directed on to two more CR.42s, which were covering the strafing aircraft. Attacking these, the Gladiators cut off the rearmost aircraft, which attacked them head-on with great desperation. Captain Gerald Le Mesurier’s guns jammed as soon as he began firing and an explosive bullet from the Fiat struck the propeller of Lieutenant Condon’s aircraft (Gladiator N5789). Despite this, Condon shot down the Italian fighter in flames five miles east of Gedaref, the pilot, believed to be Sottotenente Sola, being killed.

On 22 June 1941 he returned to the Union.

He then subsequently served in the 2, 3, 62, 21 and 25 Air Schools.

On 10 September 1944 he was posted to 28 Squadron.

Condon ended the war with 1 biplane victory.

Post-war, Condon volunteered for the Berlin airlift in 1948 and flew with 28 Squadron.
During his tour over Berlin he was awarded the Air Force Cross for managing to land a C-47 Dakota with one engine on fire, one engine inoperable and no radar on a stormy night over the Black Forest. He had ordered his crew to abandon ship, but was not prepared to jump himself, because of the surrounding houses populated by German civilians.

After the war he flew as the Captain of Super Constellations flown by KLM and Sabena Airlines but was grounded at the age of 36 due to sinus problems.

Thomas Condon died in 1993 in Johannesburg.

Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 27/12/40 1 CR.42 (a) Destroyed Gladiator N5789 5m E Gedaref 1 SAAF Squadron

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 destroyed.
(a) CR.42 from 412a Squadriglia shot down. The pilot, believed to have been Sottotenente Filippo Sola, was killed.

Dust Clouds in the Middle East - Christopher Shores, 1996 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-37-X
Springbok Fighter Victory: East Africa Volume 1 1940 – 1941 – Michael Shoeman, 2002 African Aviation Series No. 11, Freeworld Publications CC, ISBN 0-958-4388-5-4
Additional information kindly provided by Declan Condon.

Last modified 07 May 2020