Tuesday, February 22, 2011

WW2 MEMORIAL PLAQUE - S.A.A.F. TRAGEDY AT KUFRA 1942

TRAGEDY AT KUFRA, MAY 1942
The sad story of 3 Blenheims, 11 South African casualties and 1 survivor.
Horror death in the Libyan desert.
"What follows reveals a tragic and disturbing litany of human error and failure, compounded by inclement weather and technical problems, and over it all loomed the pervasive presence of a forbidding Sahara. The story also pays tribute to courage, perseverance, endurance and noble endeavour under extreme circumstances."

Three S.A.A.F. 15 Squadron Bristol Blenheim Mk IV's:
Z7513
Maj. De Wet, 2/Lt. Du Toit & Air/Sgt. Vos
Z7610
2/Lt. J. Pienaar, 2/Lt. Reid & Air/Sgt. Olivier
T2252
2/Lt. Wessels, 2/Lt. H. Pienaar & Air/Sgt. Shipman.
Three Armament/Air mechanics were added to the crews:
A/M's Juul, Swanepoel & Van Breda.
(Air Mechanic Noel St Malo Juul was the sole survivor and who later testified at the S.A.A.F/R.A.F. Court of Enquiry)

Please read the full report on the site of the
South African Military History Society.
This blog entry relates to one of the casualties of this fateful event in S.A.A.F. history.

In the subsequent S.A.A.F./R.A.F. Court of Enquiry proceedings it was revealed that Van Breda was one of the crew members who drank the alcohol from the compass casing, he started getting severe stomach cramps, became delirious and shot himself with a service revolver.


MEMORIAL "DEATH" PLAQUE
TO ONE OF THE KUFRA CASUALTIES

CHARLES FREDERICK VAN BREDA
KILLED IN ACTION
4/5/1942

The bronze memorial plaque mounted on a Mahogany plinth (13cm x 10,5cm) and awarded to the next-of-kin of U.D.F. casualties of WW2.
207954 L/W  C.F. VAN BREDA
S.A.L.M.

CHARLES FREDERICK VAN BREDA age 18.
His sister, in her 70's when I interviewed her, told me that he lied about his age in order to join the Air Force. His father refused to sign the consent for his son. Which added to the bitterness when they were informed of his death.
She also relayed the following to me:
She remembers the day when the authorities brought a canvas bag with Van Breda's personal belongings to their house. The family was still in deep mourning. The bag which contained clothing, etc was placed on the piano in the lounge and she recalls it being left untouched for many, many months - unable to deal with the tragedy.


"AIR CRAFT MISSING" 4/5/42
Confirmed "KILLED

Remembered on the site of the C.W.G.C. 

WW2 S.A.A.F. ROLL OF HONOUR
65 Pages listing all the casualties.

Calligraphy & text by the hand of RHONA COLLETT 1956




C.F. VAN BREDA on page 58

In 2002 Francois de Wet, a family member of one of the killed pilots (Maj. de Wet) undertook a pilgrimage to the desert grave of his uncle. He found the eight graves at the spot where they died.
Initially only the three crew members of Z7513 were reburied at Acroma. I assume then that the other eight bodies were also reburied after De Wet's visit in 2002.

The following sites were used as references:



1 comment:

  1. Another tragedy of lives lost in the Libyan desert: I watched a television documentary Vanishings - Lost in Libya 2003, on the History International Channel (re-aired on 1 March 2010, 3:30pm MST, and on 6 September 2010, 4:30pm CST).

    It describes how 9 members of an American crew aboard a Liberator B-24D (named Lady Be Good) died in the Libyan desert in April 1943. The plane overflew its base (Soluch), the crew parachuted to the ground and the Lady Be Good continued on for 16 more miles with no one aboard and crash-landed in the Calanscio Sand Sea.
    No trace of the crew or aircraft was found until the wreckage was spotted from the air in November 1958.
    It was only later, in 1959 and 1960, that the plane wreckage and the remains of the crew (except for one) were found.

    It is a fascinating account of human error, lack of experience (1st mission in unfamilar territory), courage, persistance and tragedy. Also of great interest, was the fact that the plane was immaculately preserved, (albeit in 2 pieces) with functioning machine guns, a working radio, and some supplies of food and water. Even a thermos flask of tea was found to be drinkable! A watch on one of the crewman's remains was also found to be in perfect working order.

    If only, if only - the crew had walked back to the plane after bailing out, or encountered the oasis of El Zighen in the south, this tragedy would have been averted. Their suffering in the terrible heat - with not much water between them - is evident from the diary found on the remains of Robert Toner, the co-pilot.

    There are several links which describe this in detail, eg: www.ladybegood.net and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Be_Good_(aircraft)

    ReplyDelete