South African Air Force use of the Hawker Fury during the Second World War

South Africa purchased seven Furies in 1935, which were delivered in September 1936 (numbered 200-206). These were the first single-seat fighters for the South African Air Force (SAAF) since it had received 22 S.E.5As as part of the imperial Gift in 1920. The aircraft were equipped with Kestrel VI engine as used in the RAF’s Fury IIs.
The Furies served initially with the CFS before they became part of the equipment of 2 Bomber/Fighter Squadron at Waterkloof Air Station early in 1939. Later in the year, one Flight of 4 Bomber/Fighter Squadron at Durban also had Furies on Strength.

When 1 SAAF Squadron, moved north in May 1940 for active duty in East Africa, it took six of the Furies with it. The Furies was crated and put aboard the SS Takliwa on 26 May and arriving at Mombasa by sea on 1 June where they were swiftly assembled.
Six ex-RAF Fury Is were added to the strength of the SAAF in August 1940, and 16 more followed between October 1940 and January 1941.

By mid-July a detachment of Furies was based at Wajir and Buna for aerodrome defence.

The Furies of 1 Squadron saw action at Wajir airfield when an Italian Caproni Ca.133 bomber from 8a Squadriglia, 25o Gruppo, approached the airfield on reconnaissance on 3 August 1940. Three Hawker Furies were ordered off. Lieutenant Pannell’s Fury ‘206’ failed to start but the other two, with Flight Lieutenant Robert Blake (Fury ‘203’) and Lieutenant Rushmere (Fury ‘205’) both almost naked as they had been sunbathing, scrambled and attacked the Italian aircraft. Almost at once Rushmere’s guns failed, but Blake made a number of frontal attacks, firing a long burst into the cockpit, whereupon the Capitano piloting the aircraft attempted to land, but crashed in the bush seven miles from Wajir, the aircraft bursting into flames. All the crew perished apart the pilot, who was pulled out by rescuers. Badly burned and injured in the crash, he gallantly attempted to rescue his crew, but was forced back by the flames and died later. It was considered that Rushmere’s burst of fire had hit home before his guns failed, and this victory was therefore credited to him and Blake jointly.

Next day on 4 August, two Furies were lost when they collided over Nanyuki during training. Fortunately both Lieutenant B. R. Dimmock (Fury ‘203’) and G. L. McBride (Fury ‘204’) baled out successfully with minor injuries.

On 6 August two 9a Squadriglia, 25o Gruppo, Ca.133s from Baidoa bombed Waijr and Harbow airfields, claiming to have destroyed three fighters on the ground and burnt a fuel dump. They reported being attacked by three aircraft and claimed to have shot down one of these. Their interceptors were two Furies from 1 Squadron, the pilots of which claimed that they had put the central engine of one of the Capronis out of action. The South Africans didn’t suffer any losses.

Next day, on 7 August, Lieutenant H. J. P. Burger in a Fury north of Wajir saw a Ca.133 – but it was too far away to allow the slow biplane to catch up.
However, later the day Burger tested his Fury against one of the Gladiators for rate of climb, and won!

On 4 September Second Lieutenant Patrick Rushmere struck a bush at the end of landing at dusk when he was on his way to Waijr. The fabric on the Fury was badly torn under the lower right mainplane and 7.5 cm of one of the propeller blades were destroyed.
10 cm was cut from each propeller blade before Rushmere continued to Wajir on 6 September.

On 11 September Second Lieutenant Patrick Rushmere overturned in a Fury when he ran onto soft earth of a filled-in bomb crater, following heavy rain.

2 SAAF Squadron was formed on 30 September 1940 from 1 SAAF Squadron’s two Flights in Kenya. Aircraft seems to have been nine Hawker Furies, five Hurricanes and nine Gladiators. The Furies was from now on mainly used to supplement 40 SAAF Squadron’s Hartbeestes on army co-operation and ground-attack duties.

On 5 October, Lieutenant D. C. Uys of 2 SAAF Squadron stalled ‘206’ while doing a practice attack on a Hartbeest and crashed near Waijir Fort. Uys was badly burnt.

At dusk on 19 October 1940, three Ca.133s from Gowben undertook a dusk raid on Garissa airfield. They claimed the destruction of two aircraft on the ground and also claimed one of two intercepting fighters shot down. Two Furies of F. Detachment 2 SAAF Squadron scrambled, flown by Lieutenant H. J. Burger (Det. OC) and Wiese. Burger attacked one bomber and shot it down after three firing passes. The Caproni force-landed and the crew of five were made prisoners but after they had set fire to their aircraft. Lieutenant Wiese managed a 300 round burst at another Caproni before he and Burger lost the two Ca.133s in the gathering dusk.
Night had fallen when the two Furies returned. No SAAF aircraft was damaged on the ground during the attack.
According to some sources this attack took place on 20 October.

On 31 October, three 2 SAAF Squadron Furies came close to shooting down two SAAF Ju86 bomber/transports carrying the South African Prime Minister General Smuts, Sir Pierre van Ryneveld, Major General Alan Cunningham and Major General Galmen-Austen. The aircraft, which had not followed specified procedures, passed over Archer’s Post without the normal recognition signal, which consisted of lowering the undercarriage and waggling the wings. Under the impression that the formation was Italian, three Furies of 2 SAAF Squadron’s ‘D’ detachment, led by Captain J. Meaker, were scrambled and intercepted the formation. Lieutenant D. D. Pannell initially failed to recognise the aircraft as friendly and opened fire on the leading Ju86. Fortunately no damage was done.

Fury No. 203 of 2 SAAF Squadron suffered wing damage on landing during a non-operational flight on 8 December. The aircraft was repaired.

On 24 December, 23-year-old Lieutenant John Douglas Niblock-Stuart (SAAF no. 47700) of 2 SAAF Squadron’s ‘B’ Detachment was killed when he accidentally crashed with Fury K5663 at Archer’s Post..

On 3 January 1941, 2 SAAF Squadron sent it’s Hurricanes from their bases in Kenya to 1 SAAF Squadron. The unit had at this time 12 Furies and three Gauntlets. The Furies performance in tropical climate left much to be desired, the engine coolant often boiling at 3,000 feet, while at Garissa 20 minutes were needed to reach an altitude of 20,000 feet.

On 15 February, Captain F. J. M. Meaker of 2 SAAF Squadron air tested Fury '213' when front and rear spars of lower wing broke outboard of interplane struts. Meaker landed safely. The aircraft was repaired with piping, box and tin. It was then tested satisfactorily later in the day, in preparation for a ferry flight. It was then flown to Garissa on 16 February for a new wing.

On 2 March, a Fury overturned while taxiing at Merka.

The Furies remained in East Africa with 2 SAAF Squadron until April 1941, seeing little more action, and where then transferred to 70 OUT in South Africa.
They also served briefly with 41 SAAF Squadron at the end of 1941 as compliment to the squadrons Hartebeests.
Their last significant use was with 43 SAAF Squadron in the “Air Commando” tour of South Africa when air displays were given for recruiting and propaganda purposes. In this operation they flew among other things mock combats with a captured Fiat CR.42 (see The Fiat CR.42 in South African Air Force service during the Second World War).
The Furies left 43 Squadron in February 1943 for 8 Squadron. This unit was disbanded on 24 August 1943 without becoming operational.

Air Enthusiast Quarterly/Three kindly provided by Börje Henningsson
Dust Clouds in the Middle East - Christopher Shores, 1996
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
Additional information kindly provided by Börje Henningsson

Last modified 01 February 2011