- RAF Blida, North Africa during the Second World War -
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RAF Blida, North Africa
11th November 1942 Back to N Africa
17th Nov 1942 Risks
7th June 1943 Move to the Mediterranean
17th May 1944 Tactics
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Those known to have served at
RAF Blida, North Africa
during the Second World War 1939-1945.
The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List
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Sgt. Maurice "Paddy" Hayes 150 SquadronMy dad Maurice Hayes, was a Rear gunner with 150 Squadron and was based in Blida, North Africa. He was involved with the Tunisian, Sicilian and Italian campaigns. I have a picture of him and his crew and also their names. He wouldn't talk much about his activities during the war but retained his log book and flying mask. I do know that most times I went away on holiday to Europe he'd say "I flew over there" or "I dropped a few on there". That was always the only time he'd open up. But he kept the photo I am attaching of his colleagues in his treasure tin, so I am sure he looked at it many times and remembered the camaraderie and good times that I am sure were had in the face of the adversity.
The crew (I believe) are: L - R:
- Sgt. J. Baxter, Scotland. Bombardier
- Sgt. F. Doyle, Crosby, Liverpool. Navigator
- Sgt. M. Hayes, Lismore, Ireland. Rear Gunner
- Sgt. J. Umbers, Coulsdon, Surrey. Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
- Flght. Sgt. SSM Tunstall, Boonah, Australia. PilotMargaret Craig
P/O. Donald Charles Seymour Atkins 148 SqdnMy uncle Don Atkins volunteered for the RAF and was trained as a pilot in Pensacola, Florida, before joining 624 (Special Duties) Squadron based at Blida in North Africa in August 1944 as a 21-year-old Flight Sergeant. He flew all of his operations with the same crew, with a change of navigator in March 1945. They flew Short Stirlings, the first of the RAF's four-engine heavy bombers, which by then was considered obsolete in that role but widely used for the dropping of agents and supplies by parachute into occupied Europe. Don and his crew flew one operation on the night of 30/31 August, Operation Caracole, dropping supplies to the French Resistance engaging retreating German forces in southern France. In light of the success of the Allied invasions of June and August 1944, 624 Sqdn was disbanded, and Don and his crew were transferred to another Special Duties squadron, No 148, part of the Balkan Air Force at Brindisi, Italy.
148 Sqdn had sustained terrible casualties in the operations to supply the Warsaw Uprising, and many replacement crews arrived at Brindisi at that time. Don had a circuits-and-bumps conversion to flying the squadron's four-engine Handley Page Halifax aircraft courtesy of a very experienced pilot, Larry Toft. He then flew 36 operations with the squadron until the end of the war. They dropped supplies and agents and on one memorable occasion - in support of Operation Tombola - a jeep, to partisans in the Balkans and southern central Europe.
The life of a Special Duties crew was very different to that of a "typical" i.e. Bomber Command crew - for security's sake there were few communal activities with other crews, even operational briefings were usually individual, and the men lived isolated and fairly uncomfortable lives. In addition they faced danger on each operation: typically at this time, a drop was made in daylight at very low altitude, a few hundred feet, and often entailed several passes over the drop zone to make sure the reception party was there and was from the right side! Small arms and anti-aircraft fire from the ground caused casualties, as did mechanical failure and the weather; on top of this was the danger of low-flying between mountains, etc. The strain was considerable - the chances of bailing out safely at low altitude are low, and this alone must have given those young men considerable pause for thought - and increased as the end of the war in Europe approached. Don and his crew all survived the war, and went their separate ways on demobilisation. Don himself died in Brighton at the age of 42 in 1966.
The original crew (ranks given as of May 1945) were: P/O DC Atkins; P/O EF Lock; P/O WA Belson DFC (an Australian); F/Sgt D Sullivan; Sgt J Allcock; F/Sgt BA Lawler; F/Sgt J Sharples. F/O AS Allen (also an Australian) replaced P/O Belson DFC as navigator from March 1945.
The following aircrew flew with them on one or more occasions: Sgt JR Evans, F/Sgt FW Hubbard, W/O DF Hinsby, F/Sgt HS Milman, F/Sgt EG Ambrose, Sgt RG Heyward, F/Sgt PH Small, F/Sgt CW Bromage, F/Sgt RA Walkden.Pat Atkins
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