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.

In the evening 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./JG 27, twelve from II./JG 27 and two from III./JG 27, the Curtiss fighters being ordered to leave the Bostons and attack.
The Kittyhawks made contact at 17:05 south-west of El Alamien with Major John Human (CO) and Captain Richard Clifton (Kittyhawk Ia AK853/DB-E) each claiming a Ju 87. Lieutenant H. E. N. Wildsmith (AL103/DB-P) claimed a Bf 109E, Lieutenant Hope (ET912/DB-H ‘Pinkie IV’) a Bf 109F and Lieutenants Arthur Higgo (ET1019/DB-Q) and P. D. Bryant (ET874/DB-D) each a probable Bf 109. Lieutenant H. S. McMaster (AL103/DB-P) claimed a damaged Bf 109. However, 27-year-old Lieutenant Ruper Alan Durose (SAAF no. 103189) was shot down and killed in ET1020/DB-B while Lieutenant Hope returned with a slightly damaged fighter. Major Human was attacked by three Bf 109s on the return flight. His fighter (ET530/DB-G) was damaged by a single bullet in the oil system and he force-landed at El Adem in the 1st South African Divisions lines.
The Tomahawk IIbs were bounced before they could attack and suffered badly with Captain K. R. Coster (AK392) and 27-year-old Second Lieutenant Lionel William Rapp (SAAF no. 206068) (AK382) being shot down with Rapp KIA and Captain Coster being wounded and captured to become a PoW. The aircraft of Lieutenant J. V. Lindbergh (AK439), 2nd Lieutenant A. O. Hinton (AN451) and Major D. V. D. Lacey DFC (AN394) were all badly damaged, the two former pilots being wounded.
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 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 Steis (west of El Alamein).
The II Gruppe lost Unteroffizier Johannes Dix from 6./JG 27 (Bf 109F-4 trop WNr. 8690 Yellow 6) who parachuted 15km east of El Alamein to become a POW while Börngen crash-landed at El Daba with a badly damaged aircraft (WNr. 10203 Black 3 60% damaged). This Gruppe also observed one Ju 87 force-landing (there is no report of any lost Ju 87s on this day).

At 10:05 on 29 August, 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 at 10:45 10-25 miles south-south-west of El Alamein when Lieutenant B. R. Bennetts (AL181/DB-W) claimed a MC.202, Lieutenant Hope (EV351/DB-U) claimed a damaged Bf 109 and a damaged MC.202 (both 10 miles south-south-west of El Alamein), while Captain J. E. Parsonson (ET1019/DB-Q) and Lieutenant R. C. Hojem (ET9699/DB-I) each claimed a damaged MC.202. Lieutenant A. Morrison (EV366/DB-L) claimed a damaged Bf 109. Lieutenant Joseph Kourie (SAAF no. 104000) of the unit was shot down and killed in AK760/DB-K while Captain Parsonson returned with his Kittyhawk damaged with a bullet in the coolant system.
5 SAAF Squadron claimed two fighters and two probables at 11:00 south of El Alamein when Second Lieutenant H. Smith (AN238/GL-O) claimed a MC.202 (12 miles south of El Alamein), Lieutenant J. V: Lindebergh (AN446/GL-V) a Bf 109 and Captain E. N. Colman (AN366/GL-N) and Major L. B. Pearce (AN231/GL-X) claimed a probable Bf 109 each. Pearce aircraft was damaged in this combat.
No Luftwaffe aircraft seems to have been in the air at this occasion, but they had clashed with eleven MC.202s from the 23o Gruppo, which scrambled at 09:15 to intercept and identify eleven P-40s. During the following combat at 09:50, the Italian pilots claimed five SAAF aircraft and one probable. One was claimed by Maggiore Luigi Filippi (CO 23o Gruppo), one by Capitano Claudio Solaro (CO 70a Squadriglia), two by Sottentente Pietro Farinetti (75a Squadriglia) and one by Sergente Luigi Bandini (70a Squadriglia). One P-40 was claimed as a shared probable by Capitano Solaro, Sergente Bandini and Tenente Marco Marinone (70a Squadriglia). Sottotenente Farinetti (MM8385) was shot down and killed and a second MC.202 was written-off when Sottotenente Giuseppe Spinelli-Barrile (70a Squadriglia) force-landed wounded with MM9048 within Axis lines. Sergente Aldo Bianchini (75a Squadriglia) crash-landed wounded with his damaged fighter (MM8371) at Abu Haggag while Sottotenente Giuseppe Melandri (70a Squadriglia) damaged MM8117 when landing at Tamet (pilot safe).

On 30 October, twelve Kittyhawks from 2 SAAF Squadron flew top cover to 18 Bostons from 11:00. At 11:10, they were attacked by two Bf 109s near LG 18 and Lieutenant Hope claimed to have shot one down into the sea, 1,6km off Galal.

On 20 April 1943, 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 17:05 1 Bf 109F (b) Destroyed Kittyhawk I ET912/DB-H ‘Pinkie IV’ SW El Alamein 2 SAAF Squadron
  29/08/42 10:45- 1 Bf 109 (c) Damaged Kittyhawk I EV351/DB-U 10m SSW El Alamein 2 SAAF Squadron
  29/08/42 10:45- 1 MC.202 (c) Damaged Kittyhawk I EV351/DB-U 10m SSW El Alamein 2 SAAF Squadron
3 30/10/42 11:10 1 Bf 109 (d) Destroyed Kittyhawk I EV349/DB-K 1,6km off 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, which claimed 8 fighters, while losing 2 Bf 109s. P-40s from 2 and 5 SAAF Squadrons claimed 2 Ju 87s, 2 Bf 109s destroyed, 2 probable Bf 109s and 1 damaged Bf 109 for the loss of 4 P-40s and 4 damaged.
(c) Claimed in combat with MC.202s from the 23o Gruppo, which claimed 5 P-40s and 1 probable while losing 3 MC.202 (1 pilot KIA) and 1 damaged. Kittyhawks from 2 SAAF Squadron and Tomahawks from 5 SAAF Squadron claimed 3 fighters, 2 probables and 5 damaged while losing 1 fighter and getting 2 damaged.
(d) Can’t be verified with any Luftwaffe losses.

A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume Two – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, Frank Olynyk & Winfried Bock, 2012 Grub Street, London, ISBN-13: 9781909166127
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 06 December 2022