Biplane fighter aces

The Commonwealth

Lieutenant Lancelot Charles Henry ‘Paddy’ Hope, SAAF no. 47484V

Hope was from Port Elizabeth.

He trained at Union Air Training Group, Port Elizabeth, receiving his wings on 20 December 1939.

It is possible that he served in 4 SAAF Squadron in April 1941.

He joined 3 SAAF Squadron on 4 May 1941.

In October 1941, 3 SAAF Squadron was taking part in the mopping up operations in East Africa.
On 16 October the unit had three Gladiators and one Hurricane. This aircraft were used to trying to trap the two surviving Italian CR.42s into coming out over Azozo, but when the one Italian fighter that did appear spotted the South African fighters, it fled.

On 24 October, the Italian Generale Nasi's headquarters wished to find out whether a small bridge at Kulkaber was still out of use, or if it had been repaired, and ordered an air reconnaissance to be made. Colonello Busoni did not like the order, as he had only one aircraft serviceable and considered it too risky to send one fighter alone over the area on a mission he considered to be of little importance. He therefore requested that the mission be postponed until the following day, when both CR.42s would be available. Army headquarters disagreed and Busoni received a direct order to despatch one aircraft immediately. When Sottotenente Ildebrando Malavolta received the order to undertake the flight from Busoni, he too requested that it should wait until the other Fiat was ready. Reluctantly, Busoni had to order him off, Malavolta pleading that it was certain death to fly alone over the area due to the presence of the Gladiators. He took off convinced that he was unlikely to return.
At 17:35, the South Africans at Dabat heard an aircraft overhead in heavy cloud and then sighted the CR.42 (MM7117). Lieutenant Hope at once flew in the direction of Gondar, seeing it again 1,000 feet below. Diving on it, he opened fire at 300 yards. Malavolta took violent evasive action, but Hope continued to follow, closing to only 20 yards and firing as the Fiat tried to dive away. There was a brief flicker of flame and the last Italian aircraft to be shot down over East Africa spun into the ground and burst into flames near Ambazzo.
Next day the wreckage was found, the dead pilot still in the cockpit. Hope dropped a message on the Italian positions at Ambazzo:

"Tribute to the pilot of the Fiat. He was a brave man. South African Air Force."
This was the last air-to-air victory in the East African Campaign. Malavolta received a posthumous Medaglia d’oro al valor militare.

Late on 31 October, Hope undertook an unauthorised evening strafe of motorboats on Lake Tana, also attacking a convoy on the way to the lake. He was hit by AA and crash-landed on fire at 200 mph hitting a tree and crashing in flames. He got out, burned, but was shot in the head by colonial troops who then beat him with their rifle butts. He was rescued by Italian officers, but was blind for two days.
He was taken in Italian captivity for a month before the final surrender of the Italian forces in the area.

After the fall of Gondar and Hope's release, a Court of Inquiry was held on 30 November to consider the loss of his aircraft. The finding was that his unofficial act was prompted by excessive zeal and overkeenness.

He served in 10 SAAF Squadron from 20 April 1942 to 11 June 1942 but didn’t take part in any combat.

From 2 July 1942, he served in 2 SAAF Squadron.

On 11 July, twelve Kittyhawks of 2 SAAF Squadron and twelve Tomahawks of 5 SAAF Squadron escorted twelve Bostons on a raid south-west of El Alamein. On the way to the target, a large formation was seen, composed of 30 Ju 87s escorted by seven Bf 109 from I Gruppe, twelve of II Gruppe and two from III/JG 27, the Curtiss fighters being ordered to leave the Bostons and attack.
The Kittyhawks made contact, Major Human and Captain Clifton each claiming a Ju 87, Lieutenant Wildsmith claiming a Bf 109 E, Lieutenant Hope a Bf 109 F and Lieutenants Higgo and Bryant each a probable Bf 109, though 27-year-old Lieutenant Ruper Alan Durose (SAAF no. 103189) was shot down and killed.
The Tomahawks were bounced before they could attack, Captain K. R. Coster and 27-year-old Second Lieutenant Lionel William Rapp (SAAF no. 206068) being shot down, and Rapp was killed while the aircraft of Lieutenant Lindbergh, 2nd Lieutenant Hinton and Major D. V. D. Lacey DFC were all badly damaged, the two former pilots being wounded.
On the return flight Major Human was attacked by three Bf 109s and force-landed in Allied lines.
The Luftwaffe fighters reported meeting a total of 40 to 45 British fighters, Unteroffizier Josef Vavra of 5 staffel claiming a Spitfire at 16:03 east of El Alamein. Feldwebel Heinrich Steis of 4 staffel claimed a Hurricane south of El Alamein at 16:05. At the same time claimed Leutnant Werner Schroer of 8 staffel, one Spitfire 10km south-east of El Alamein at 300 meters altitude, followed at 16:07 by Oberleutnant Ernst Börngen of 5 staffel, who claimed a Spitfire south-west of El Alamein. Four P-40s were claimed at 16:10 by Leutnant Werner Schroer (10km south-east of El Alamein at 150 meters altitude), Unteroffizier Walter Timmerman of 1 staffel (south of Mumin Busak), Leutnant Hans-Arnold Stahlschmidt of 2 staffel (south-west of El Alamein) and Feldwebel Heinrich Steis (west of El Alamein).
The II Gruppe lost Unteroffizier Diz who baled out and became a POW while Börngen crash-landed at Daba with a badly damaged aircraft. This Gruppe also observed one Ju 87 force-landing.

At 10:05 on 29 August 1942, eleven Kittyhawks from 2 SAAF Squadron and eleven Tomahawks from 5 SAAf Squadron patrolled the forward areas, meeting a reported ten plus Bf 109s and MC.202s.
The 2 SAAF Squadron claimed one fighter shot down and five damaged when Lieutenant Bennetts claimed a MC.202, Lieutenant Hope claimed a damaged Bf 109 and a damaged MC.202, while Captain Parsonson and Lieutenant Hojem each claimed a damaged MC.202. Lieutenant Morrison claimed a damaged Bf 109. Lieutenant Joseph Kourie (SAAF no. 104000) of the unit was shot down and killed.
5 SAAF Squadron claimed two fighters and two probables when Second Lieutenant Smith claimed a MC.202, Lieutenant Lindebergh a Bf 109 and Captain Colman and Major Pearce claimed a probable Bf 109 each. Pearce aircraft was damaged in this combat.
No Luftwaffe aircraft sxeems to have been in the air at this occasion but it seem that they had clashed with 23o Gruppo, which scrambled to intercept and identify eleven P-40s. During the following combat the Italian pilots claimed five SAAF aircraft. One was claimed by Maggiore Luigi Filippi, one by Capitano Claudio Solaro and two by Sottentente Farinetti. One more was claimed as a probable by Tenente Marinone.

On 30 October, twelve Kittyhawks from 2 SAAF Squadron flew top cover to 18 bombers. They were attacked by two Bf 109s and Lieutenant Hope shot one down into the sea.
This was probably Leutnant Niese of I/JG 77.

On 20 April, he claimed a shared Ju 88.

He left 2 SAAF Squadron in the end of April 1943. His operational tour ended on 27 April 1943 and at this time he was a flight commander.

Hope ended the war with 1 biplane victory and a total of 3.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 24/10/41 17:35- 1 CR.42 (a) Destroyed Gladiator   Ambazzo area 3 SAAF Squadron
2 11/07/42 p.m. 1 Bf 109 F (b) Destroyed Kittyhawk I ET912/DB-H   2 SAAF Squadron
  29/08/42 10:05- 1 Bf 109 (c) Damaged Kittyhawk I EV351/DB-U 10m SSW El Alamein 2 SAAF Squadron
  29/08/42 10:05- 1 MC.202 (c) Damaged Kittyhawk I EV351/DB-U 10m SSW El Alamein 2 SAAF Squadron
3 30/10/42   1 Bf 109 (d) Destroyed Kittyhawk I EV349/DB-K LG18, Galal 2 SAAF Squadron
  20/04/43   ½ Ju 88 Shared destroyed Kittyhawk I ET519/DB-P Tunisia 2 SAAF Squadron
Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 3 and 1 shared destroyed, 2 damaged.
(a) Sottotenente Ildebrando Malavolta of 110a Squadriglia R.S. killed in Fiat CR.42 MM7117.
(b) Claimed in combat with Bf 109s from JG 27. P-40s from 2 and 5 SAAF Squadrons claimed two Ju 87s, 2 Bf 109s and two probable Bf 109s for the loss of four P-40s and three more damaged. JG 27 claimed eight fighters for the loss of two Bf 109s.
(c) Claimed in combat with MC.202s from 23o Gruppo. The SAAF fighters claimed 3 fighters destroyed, 2 probables and 5 damaged for the loss of one P-40. 23o Gruppo claimed 5 P-40s.
(d) Probably Leutnant Niese of I/JG 77.

Dust Clouds in the Middle East - Christopher Shores, 1996 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-37-X
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
Luftwaffe Claims Lists - Tony Wood
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
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Those Other Eagles – Christopher Shores, 2004 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-904010-88-1
Additional information kindly provided by Roger Juglair, Ferdinando D'Amico and Ludovico Slongo.

Last modified 21 March 2009