The Legendary South African Ace – Captain J E “Jack” Frost climbs into a Hawker Hurricane of No. 3 Squadron SAAF at Addis Ababa, after rejoining his unit as ‘A’ Flight commander following an attack of appendicitis.
Born in Queenstown, South Africa on 16 July 1918. This son of Richard H. Frost and Ada M. Frost joined the South African Air Force (SAAF) in 1936, little did they know they had given birth to legendary fighter ace. Awarded the Sword of Honour at the conclusion of his training at the Military College in 1938, Jack Frost was to prove this accolade correct the minute he got into combat.
East Africa Campaign
Jack Frost was the most successful fighter pilot in the SAAF. He joined the South African Permanent force in 1936 and after a spell as a flying instructor was posted to No. 1 Squadron SAAF in 1939. In 1940 he was posted to the Newly-formed 3 Squadron SAAF as a flight commander and saw considerable action in Somaliland and Ethiopia.
He was evacuated with acute appendicitis on 22 May 1941 but rejoined his unit in June and was given the command of No. 5 Squadron SAAF the following month. He led the unit through the heavy fighting in Egypt in May and June 1942, but was eventually shot down and killed while escorting bombers over the El Adem area on 16 June. He was the SAAF’s top scorer of the war with 16 confirmed victories and was regarded as an outstanding pilot and leader.
His wartime record is considerable considering his short life, he entered the East African Campaign to fight against Italian Forces, on 22 February 1941, Frost destroyed four Fiat CR-42 fighters, an action for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
On 15 March 1941, Frost was shot down by anti-aircraft fire while strafing Diredawa airfield. His wingman, Lieutenant Bob Kershaw landed his aircraft in a nearby field, while other 3 Sqn pilots fired on Italian infantry attempting to capture the pair. Kershaw escaped in his aircraft with Frost sitting on his lap, an action for which Kershaw was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
The campaign ended effectively in November 1941 with the final defeat of Italian Forces in East Africa. The squadron returned to South Africa and was disbanded.
North African Campaign
Frost, promoted to Major was appointed commander of No. 5 Squadron flying P-40 Kittyhawks. From March 1942 the squadron participated in the North African Campaign, with the Desert Air Force. No. 5 Squadron joined No. 2 and No. 4 Squadrons in No. 233 Wing; the main role of the SAAF fighters at the time was highly dangerous bomber-escort missions, supporting No. 3 (Bomber) Wing SAAF.
The squadron was assigned to the Sollum-Mersa Matruh sector. On 11 May, Frost and his wingman Lt. Ken Whyte shared the destruction of a lone Heinkel He 111 bomber attacking a convoy bound for Malta.
Whyte described the action: “I remember our first combat together. While on a shipping patrol we were vectored on to a He 111. Jack made his favourite three-quarter attack which had brought him success in Abyssinia. I attacked from the rear. We each claimed half a share in its destruction.” On 16 May, Frost destroyed a Junkers Ju 88 for his ninth victory, but was hit by cannon fire damaging his port elevator.
To read up more on the above unique image of South African heroes, follow this Observation Post link 3 Legendary South African fighter pilots who never came home
On 28 May 1942, he was involved in a shared victory over a Messerschmitt Bf 109, his first. (The pilot, Feldwebel Willi Langer was killed.) At this stage, Frost’s total tally stood at 15 Axis aircraft destroyed.
Frost was appointed commander of No. 233 Wing on 31 May, but his replacement at 5 Squadron, Andrew Duncan, was shot down and killed by Oberleutnant Otto Schulz.
On 16 June, whilst escorting Douglas Bostons, Frost and other P-40 pilots encountered Bf 109s from Jagdgeschwader 27 near Bir Hakeim, Egypt. Rod Hojem, one of the South African pilots involved in this combat commented: “There was one hell of a dogfight, and after it was over I can clearly remember Jack calling up the squadron on the R/T, he said “Form up chaps I am heading North”, and that was the last we heard of him.”
Frost’s aircraft and remains have never been found, and his fate remains unclear. Some sources suggest that Frost fell victim to one of the most prominent German aces, Hans-Joachim Marseille scored six of his 158 victories that same day. To learn more on this remarkable German Ace and his unique South African connection follow this Observation Post Link German WW2 Fighter Ace befriends a Black South African POW and defies the Nazi status quo!
It has also been suggested that another German Experte, Gunter Steinhausen (who claimed four kills that day) may have shot down Frost.
Researched by Peter Dickens. Extracts taken from Wikipedia. Image colourising and copyright Tinus Le Roux with much and grateful thanks. Image of Frost climbing into his cockpit Copyright IWM Collection.
See more on Tinus Le Roux great work on his website’s tribute pages by clicking this link WW2 SAAF Heritage Tribute Pages
Also refer SA Military History