The SAAF “Boston Shuttle Service”

South African Air Force (SAAF) Operations in North Africa during World War 2..  Here SAAF pilots perform the “Boston Shuttle Service” a squadron of Douglas Boston Mark IIIs of No. 3 Wing SAAF positioned for their famous simultaneous take-off manoeuvre on a landing ground in the Western Desert. This commenced with all aircraft turning into wind in line abreast. The leading aircraft, on the right-hand side, then commenced its take-off run with the remainder following in echelon port so that each aircraft avoided the dust of the one ahead.

The term “Boston Shuttle Service”,  was given to the SAAF’s single most memorable feat in North Africa in which eighteen aircraft of 12 and 24 Squadrons showered hundreds of tons of bombs, primarily using Boston Medium bombers, on the Afrika Korps as it relentlessly pushed the Eighth Army back towards Egypt during the “Gazala Gallop” in the first half of 1942.

No. 3 (S.A.) Wing was a South African Air Force commanded formation during World War II that served in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. It was formed on 28 August 1941 and initially consisted of Royal Air Force and South African Air Force squadrons under South African command, known as No. 261 Medium Bomber Wing but became a fully fledged South African formation on 23 September 1942 when the RAF Squadrons were transferred from it leaving 12, 21 and 24 Squadrons SAAF as its assigned units.

Reference Imperial War Museum, SAAF History – SAAF website and Wikipedia. Image copyright Imperial War Museum.

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