A Tribute to 238 Squadron – The End of the Beginning

Hurricanes of 238 Squadron during an attack on an Italian convoy on the road from Siwa Oasis, 15th November 1942. Hurricane model by Wojciech “Kliment” Nieweglowski.



More about the artist


The Takoradi Route

On May 17, 1942, Michael Gibson leaves Takoradi for Egypt, a trip lasting until May 25th aboard a C-53 Skytrooper.


Source Internet

26 April 1942



The Takoradi Route


When finally embracing the allied cause, Brazil would then give a decisive contribution to the war effort with the cession of several naval and air bases along its lengthwise coast. This fact had overwhelming importance. The military complex erected in Natal, with the largest airbase ever built outside USA, served as a springboard to launch thousands of airplanes across the South Atlantic bound for Africa, to Egypt through the legendary TAKORADI route, as far as Russia through Middle East and Iran and even to the Pacific theater across the jungle in India and Burma. When Task Force 3 began its operations in South Atlantic waters, on March 24th 1941, the bases for the establishment of US Navy in Brazil had already been set upon.

These well conceived blueprints were taken into effect after mutual agreements signed in 1940 and 1941. Back in November 1940, the US Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, drafted a contract with Pan American Airways, the major and pioneer of American aviation, through its airport corporation branch, to perform the studies aiming to built and enlarge 55 airports in South America, with special focus on those located in Brazilian coastline.

For that urgent task the chosen was the chief of United States Engineering Dept. ADP (Airport Development Program). Brazilian airports extended alongside its extensive 2000 mile coastline, ranging from the dense jungle in northern Amapa, bordering the coast eastward to Belem, Igarape Açu, and São Luis, across the northern deserted coast, to Fortaleza, and turning abruptly southwards at Natal to Recife, Maceio, Salvador, Caravelas, Vitoria and Santa Cruz 20 mile south of Rio de Janeiro.
Takoradi route began actually in US when American aircrafts were ferried across Caribbean, northern South America, South Atlantic narrows and Africa. The longest hop was the lonely and perilous flight across the South Atlantic from Natal in Northeastern Brazil, where USAAF built in 1942 the largest airbase outside US territory. Americans B- 25, B- 24, fighters as well as transports made their way to Takoradi, Gold Coast.

From that tiny point in Western Africa they leaped to the first staging post Lagos, 380 miles away. From Lagos Nigeria to Kano over dense jungle still in Nigeria 520 miles over equatorial forest. Between Kano and El Geneina already in Sudanese barren desert plains some 960 miles with refueling stops at Maiduguri in the heart of Africa, El Fasher, El Obeid, on the long way this time facing typical sandstorms of East Central Africa, until reaching Khartoum the Sudanese capital.

The journey proceeded this time along the majestic sinuous Nile river 520 miles through strategic refueling points at Sueir, and stretching out 560 long miles to Wadi Halfa, Luxor and finally after five days over the perilous jungle and thunderstorms of Equatorial Africa, barrens and desolate landscapes of the semi deserted southern Sudan, then came in sight, the greatness of the pyramids, the historical intriguing city of Cairo, the outpost of Middle East Command.

Takoradi route was one gigantic ferry flight operation in the WWII. More than 5000 aircrafts of several types were ferried across that route from 1940 to 1943. The British RAF, constituted a recovery team, a special skilled group of engineers and technicians to recover crashed aircraft along that route. Tractors and trailers specially designed were precious tools in the hands of those men. Many aircraft crashed in the desert due to running out of fuel or overdue but when they were spotted soon the rescue teams were despatched and soon the crewmembers and plane were saved.

Despite the state of any aircraft they were dismantled and sent back to the RAF maintenance service erected along the route. There the team worked hard to replace damaged parts and put the aircrafts ready to fly again. For those severely damaged, the useful parts were salvaged for re use. The Royal Air Force was in so severe shortage of supply parts that engineers were able to build a new one aircraft from the remains of 2 or 3 others. A truly arise from ashes were in progress.



A truck loaded with one Hurricane arrives at the base. There the maintenance will rebuild the same and put it back to fly to Egypt.




A crashed twin engined Blenheim awaits the recovery team. Soon it will be one new aircraft ready to go to the war front.





View of the port of Takoradi. From there hundreds of ships were loaded with vital raw materiel bound for allied ports.




Several RAF aircrafts seen in one convoy marching to Cairo where they will be assembled and despatched to the combat area. Some of them were involved in accidents and damaged during the long journey. The British teams worked hard to restore them all.



One RAF aircraft is seen being uncrated at Takoradi. Roughly 6,000 airplanes flew across the desert to Cairo their final destination.



Picture shows Takoradi aerodrome where thousands of British planes gathered to undertake the long journey across the Central Africa toward to their bases in Egypt.

A Royal Air Force advanced party of twenty-four officers and men arrived at Takoradi on 14th July 1940. It was led by Group Captain H. K. Thorold, who, after his recent experiences as Maintenance Officer-in-Chief to the British Air Force in France, was unlikely to be dismayed by any difficulties in Africa. Thorold rapidly confirmed the selection of Takoradi, then set his little band to work on organizing such necessary facilities as roads, gantries, hangars, workshops, storehouses, offices and living accommodation. This activity was not confined to the port. Thorold was also charged with turning the primitive landing-grounds into efficient staging posts and perfecting wireless communication along the whole route.

It was certainly a route over which the wireless would come in useful. The first stage, 378 miles of humid heat diversified by sudden squalls, followed the palm-fringed coast to Lagos, with a possible halt at Accra. Next came 525 miles over hill and jungle to an airfield of red dust outside Kano, after which 325 miles of scrub, broken be occasional groups of mud houses, would bring the aircraft to Maiduguri. A stretch of hostile French territory some 650 miles wide, consisting largely of sand, marsh, scrub and rocks, would then beguile the pilot’s interest until he reached El Geneina, in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Here, refreshed with the knowledge that he had covered nearly half of his journey, he would contemplate with more equanimity the 200 miles of mountain and burning sky which lay between him and El Fasher.

A brief refuelling halt, with giant cacti providing a pleasing variety in the vegetation, and in another 560 miles the wearied airman might brave the disapproving glances of immaculate figures in khaki and luxuriate for a few hours in the comforts of Khartoum. Thence, with a halt at Wadi Haifa, where orange trees and green gardens contrast strangely with the desert, and a house built by Gordon and used by Kitchener shelters the passing traveller, he had only to fly down the Nile a thousand miles to Abu Sueir. When he got there his airmanship would be doubtless be all the better for the flight. No so, however, his aircraft.

The main Royal Air Force party of some 350 officers and men, including 25 ferry-pilots, joined Group Captain Thorold at Takoradi on 24th August. Small maintenance parties were sent out to the staging posts, B.O.A.C. navigators were enrolled for the initial flights, and B.O.A.C. aircraft were chartered to return the ferry-pilots from Abu Sueir. It was also laid down as a general principle that single-seat fighters should be led by a multi-engine aircraft with a full crew. With these preliminaries arranged, the first consignment of crated aircraft—Six Blenheim IV’s and six Hurricanes—docked at Takoradi on 5th September.

It was followed the next day by thirty Hurricanes on the carrier Argus. These were complete except for their main-planes and long-range tanks. No time was lost. The Port Detachment of Thorold’s unit quickly unloaded the aircraft and transported them to the airfield. There the Aircraft Assembly Unit took over, exercising much ingenuity to make up for the unexpected absence of various items, including the humble but essential split-pin. Last-minute difficulties like the collapse of the main runway on 18th September were rapidly overcome by hard work, and on 19th September the first convoy—one Blenheim and six Hurricanes—stood ready on the tarmac for the flight to Egypt.

By now French Equatorial Africa had joined de Gaulle, and that pilots had the consolation of knowing that they would be flying all the way over territory which was diplomatically well disposed, if unfriendly in other respects. The Blenheim roared down the runway, climbed and circled, to be joined in a few moment by its six charges. Seven days later, on 26th September, one Blenheim and five Hurricanes reached Abu Sueir.

No. 6 P.A.F.U. Little Rissington

This message was sent by Richard Hall last July. He had some more photos to share. I was just waiting for the end of the second beginning to post it…

To your knowledge has anyone done a blog specifically about No 6 P.A.F.U Little Rissington….Maybe I could kick one off with the first bit of Dad’s diary and appropriate photos and logbook entries….I’ve also been in touch with BBC to see if they could assist me tracking down possible relatives of WAAF “Johnnie” who gave these pictures to my Dad…He bought these back from the war so they must have held some significance for him and the mystery is killing me…

Both my parents are deceased so can’t ask them…ain’t that a familiar mantra!


Johnnie 2
Will there be a third beginning on this blog?

Just click here…


P.A.F.U. is Pilots Advanced Flying Unit

My Darling Thelma,

On Friday September 1st, 1944, Stanley Hall wrote this…

Made up a parcel to send home; a handbag for Mavis, a wallet for Ray, blouse for Thelma and dress for Robin plus a few odds and ends; lace, hair clips, nets. elastic. So I will post it on Monday. To send a parcel I have to apply through Govt export control, get a permit and hand it into the P.O. I have a cold at present; it doesn’t take much exertion to start up perspiration during the monsoon weather which is so muggy. The low cloud blots the sun and all we get is rain and hot and cold breezes.

I am expecting to go on a “jungle course” soon. It is so that we will have jungle experience if forced down and it should make a couple of interesting weeks.

I’ve still to pick up two gunners, a wireless op/gunner, a bomb aimer and a second pilot so will have eleven in my crew very soon.

On September 4th, 1944, he wrote Thelma a letter.

Flight Sgt W.S.Hall diary page 62

Flight Sgt W.S.Hall diary page 63

NZ 403315
F/SGT. W. S. HALL 4-9.44

My Darling Thelma,

At last my patient wait is over for your letter as an air letter card arrived to-day, it was written on Aug. 8th but actually reached India on the 21st and since then it has been on its way to me, so when I get settled I’m sure they will come through O.K. Thanks so much for such a sweet letter darling it’s like having something new and beautiful again after such a long 6 weeks, in fact there must still be more posted previously to that one.

To your enquiries of Jock, Tiny and Steve; I left them all behind dear they were sent to a different place to me after I left but I did see Jock again just prior to coming over here. I have a film in being developed now and I bought 2 more and have hopes of another couple in a day or so.

I was going to town to get the snaps today and also to get a permit so send a parcel which I have previously mentioned but seeing it is one section of the community’s New Year most of the places are closed, so will go tomorrow.

I have just returned from a visit to a nearby swimming pool a very spacious outdoor pool with a smaller indoor one.

There is a cafe in the grounds where we had tea and cakes so it is quite a pleasant way of passing some of the time.

The last picture I saw was “Follow the Boys” not bad but “Rythmn Parade” was really good, Ginny Simms she’s a peach!!

Had an airgraph from Mavis saying that Dick was in Auckland lucky chap. I wish they’d let me have a Lib or something to come home in occasionally, I’ve completely forgotten what it’s like to associate with the fairer sex these days so when I do get home you’ll have to smooth down the rough edges darling. I always feel a bit timid if some white woman speaks to me.

I’ve just been having a busy time selecting more chaps for my crew, quite a family now I can tell I’ll get them all together in a snap one day and you’ll have a better idea as to what a job I have on my hands. Well my darling this second honeymoon of ours sounds good, in fact much better than good, I’m always thinking of it darling, I often wish I could as soon as I arrive next year in Wgton have a really nice dinner at the very best, stay the night and then go home the next day, I’ll want you all to myself so that no one else could ask questions and interrupt us or stop me from adoring you for one minute.

Darling I really should keep these things for a self censored card but today I’m so thrilled with getting your letter so hope you won’t mind. Space is getting short dearest so I will close now. Hope you had a happy birthday, sending a cable tomorrow.

All my love and thousands of kisses for you both

God bless from Your own Stanley xxxxx

September 9th, 1944

Getting all packed up ready to be posted on a short jungle course. I have recently received a marvellous lot of mail and have been very busy now. Yesterday I made my crew up to Liberator strength and now there are eleven of us. Sent a cable for Thelma’s birthday a couple of days ago.

Last night I bought two plates. They are metal chrome finish and have beautiful working on them and the colouring is done with the powder of jewels. It is made into a paint and makes a very effective finish. I shall keep them in my tin trunk to bring home when I come.

Hope to get a pair of nice vases next pay.

This is the end of the second beginning on this blog…



Intermission – Ray Spriggs, Wireless Operator

Richard’s brother just remembered…

Hi Pierre,

My brother Peter remembers visiting Ray Spriggs…in the Midlands somewhere while on a trip to England with Mum and Dad (1975). Ray definitely was the wireless operator so he tells me…

Now we know for certain who was the wireless-operator in Stanley Hall’s crew.

Ray, Phil, Jock, Bob in a reunion in Calcutta

Ray Spriggs in Calcutta

Ray Spriggs in Nowshera

W.S. Hall’s Diary – May 1945

May 23rd, 1945
Well this finds me on a Squadron and it’s something for I’ve waited 10 months in India. Left Calcutta about 3 days ago and after overnight on the train we boarded a ferry paddle steamer which took us down a river for 6 hrs. We then got aboard a train again and arrived at Comilla at 2am. I do my first sortie tomorrow morning so I hope the weather clears as we’ve been having thunderstorms and torrential rain, the approach of the monsoon.

Flight Sgt W.S.Hall diary page 54

Flight Sgt W.S.Hall diary page 55

May 10th, 1945
Arrived in Calcutta yesterday morning after a fairly comfortable rail journey of 3 days.

Ray, Taffy, Stanley, Jock, and Robert

I’m billeted in a tent adjoining what used to be a college. The surroundings are rather pretty, nice green shady trees and some with pretty yellow and red flowers.
The conditions for troops in the city are not very adequate and filth prevails in many ports hence the recent outbreak of cholera.

Yesterday was very warm and in the morning we spent most of our time getting bedded down and cleaning ourselves as we were filthy after the train journey.

We got buckets of water and dowsed ourselves in soap suds: I don’t think I’ve drunk so much water and perspired so much in one day as I did yesterday, especially in town.

We went to a restaurant for a meal (I like one good one each day) and found it much more expensive than over the other side – steak, egg and chips with a glass of orange cost 10/-. Today is nice and cool so I want to find Lloyds Bank and open an account there.

I have 300RS in the Imperial Bank but it’s a bit of a fag getting it out so I will leave it there and draw it out just before I leave. I think it takes about 2 months as it has to be referred to the original bank of issue.

May 15th, 1945
I think I have seen most of the city now and have spent most of my time seeing picture shows.

Recreational amenities for the forces are inadequate and what there are, are always crowded. I had my photo taken today so hope it will be a good one.

We had a terrific thunderstorm last night and torrential rains. Expect to leave here soon, at present we are totally unheard of – as usual no-one knows the next step.

May 16th, 1945
Today I met one of my old Gunners. He has just come out of Burma after being shot down and a prisoner of war for 4 months.

May 20th, 1945 (according to the record of servicce)

May 23rd, 1945
Well this finds me on a Squadron and it’s something for I’ve waited 10 months in India. Left Calcutta about 3 days ago and after overnight on the train we boarded a ferry paddle steamer which took us down a river for 6 hrs. We then got aboard a train again and arrived at Comilla at 2am.

I do my first sortie tomorrow morning so I hope the weather clears as we’ve been having thunderstorms and torrential rain, the approach of the monsoon.

log book of pilot Flight Sergeant Hall

Logbook of navigator Robert Davis

May 25th, 1945
Returned today from yesterday’s sortie. I went to a place near Mandalay then south and after that to Ramree where I picked up casualties.
Got about half way home and hit a terrific storm so turned back and landed at Akyab. We slept in the aircraft and the storm raged – thunder – lightning and rain.
One aircraft couldn’t get down so I believe they baled out.
This morning we brought stretcher cases up from Akyab. The patients were quite a variety, some had body wounds, one with a piece of rubber tube in his stomach to keep him alive. Another was absolutely batchy so they had to tie his hands together.

Next time June 1945…


W.S. Hall’s Diary – March 1945

March 7th, 1945
Arrived at Chaklala three days ago, they sent a couple of kites over for us so it was more comfortable than a train journey.
I am in a tent with 3 others and conditions are fairly good.
Group Capt. Caldwell visited us today so we had quite a natter about our welfare.
I have started on a ground course which is to last about 2 weeks then I will be on flying for the rest of the course.
I now have an Australian 2nd pilot.

March 10th, 1945
This afternoon, our only time off for the week, I cycled into ‘Rindi which is about 4 mis from camp.
I had a look around the bazaar which I thought quite good compared with the usual kind over here. Some very nice silver ware at a terrific price. I would have liked a coffee set but 3 pieces cost £18 (NZ).
I had myself measured for a khaki drill uniform.

My two kit bags haven’t turned up from the ME yet.
During the rest of the week we have lectures, some quite interesting but others very boring but I will be on the flying part soon.

March 19th, 1945
I have now completed the ground course and today had an oral exam.
Last evening I cycled into ‘Rindi to visit Major and Mrs Woodcock and dined with them at the Davis Hotel.
Wore my new khaki drill for the first time.
Tomorrow we are leaving for Gujrat to do the flying course so I expect to say goodbye to the North West frontier.
Tonight I saw a very good English film called “Thousands like us.”
The weather is foul at present, have had thunderstorms and rain for two consecutive days and does it rain!
Receiving home mail more regularly of late and it makes life much brighter out here.

Sunday March 25th, 1945
Flew over here (Gujrat) from Chaklala last Tuesday, and got settled in pretty smartly, thanks to a little organisation which exists in this place.
Started flying on Dakotas on Thurs and I went solo after 1½ hrs.
I’m not flying today but will have a lot to do next week.
This camp is well away from civilization and the towns and villages nearby are all out of bounds so we have to make as much of it as we can in camp.
However I don’t expect to be here for more than about 3 weeks.

Friday March 30th, 1945
Well it’s Easter again although it doesn’t mean a thing over here, work goes on just the same and there are no celebrations.
Flying at midnight.
Sorry there are no facilities for cabling Easter greetings home.