SAAF No. 40 Squadron converts to Spitfires in 1943

South African Air Force in Gabes in Tunisia April 1943.  Rare and stunning original colour photo of the SAAF Supermarine Spitfire pilot of ER622, No 40 Squadron, South African Air Force as he confers with his ‘No 2’ after landing at Gabes.

Note the distinctive orange dot in the rondel identifier, of all the commonwealth and British aircraft used in the north african campaign, the South Africans where the only ones to have the rondel in the then colours of the national flag (Orange, White and Blue), all others had a red centre in the colour scheme of the Union Jack (Flag) of the United Kingdom (Red, White and Blue).  Also note the officers in this photograph are wearing army rank insignia (not air force), another distinctive attribute specific to South Africa.

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As the 8th Army advanced through Libya into Tunisia, this squadron flew Tactical Reconnaissance (Tac.R) and Photo Reconnaissance sorties in support of ground operations.

The squadron converted to the Supermarine Spitfire Vb at the end of February 1943. This variant had clipped wingtips to enhance its low-altitude performance, most notably its roll-speed. Sorties now included vertical and oblique photography, battle area Tac.R, target marking for fighter bombers, searches for night bomber targets, and identification of landmarks for day bomber navigation.

In early 1943 the squadron received Artillery Reconnaissance  training, however, unreliable radios meant that artillery shoots were not as successful as had been hoped. Nevertheless, the squadron continued to report the activities of enemy artillery.

Image copyright IWM Collection.  Reference Wikipedia

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