North Africa; 5 Squadron

On 25 March 1942, Cecil joined SAAF No. 5 fighter squadron based at Sidi Barrani in Libya. The squadron flew Tomahawk aircraft and was inferior to the German Messerschmitt Bf109.  

Due to emergency shortages of pilots at the operational squadrons, Cecil was directly placed at the squadron without any flight experience on a single wing aircraft . Bob Morrison was given the task to look after the young Cecil and soon he was able to sustain himself in combat situations. 

Video of how Cecil became a member of 5 squadron 

Curtiss Tomahawk:  5 sqdn's  ID code was "GL" 

Video: How Cecil got shot down.



No 5 sqdn had the top scoring SAAF fighter ace as commanding officer; Major Jack Frost. The leadership and senior pilots were experienced air warriors from the previous East African campaign. These included Robin Pare, Andrew Duncan and John "Gugu" Hewitson.

Major Jack Frost. 


According to Cecil, the squadron under this command developed a "gung ho" culture with subsequent high losses but in return  inflicted moderate losses to the  enemy. Within a short period of 3 weeks during June/July 1942, the squadron lost  KIA  3 OC's; Jack Frost, Andrew Duncan and Louis Botha. The experienced and veteran pilot  Robin Pare was also killed in this time. In a 3 month period the squadron lost more than 30 pilots, nearly three times the normal squadron strength.

Robin Pare, Jack Frost and Andrew Duncan, the veteran pilots of 5 squadron, all 3 being killed in short succession. 

 Cecil was credited for shooting down a Bf109, 2 ½ Stukas and an Italian Br 20 damaged.

On the 3d of June 1942 Cecil shot down a Stuka but got himself shot down at the same event. This day at least 5 of  No.5 squadron aircraft were shot down  in close vicinity of Bir Hacheim, all claimed by the German ace Jochen Marseille. 

Cecil made an emergency landing and found the shot down Stuka pilot (Lt. Hans Deibl)  still in his aircaft but trapped as the stuka was on fire. Together with his shot down friends, (Bob Morrison and Vivian  Muir), they rescued the Stuka pilot from his burning wreck.

Being picked up by a South African armoured car operating behind enemy lines, the 4 wounded pilots were transported through the German lines back to a hospital in the beseiged Tobruk. 

Cecil was then evacuated from Tobruk to a  hospital in Cairo 2 days before Tobruk was taken by Rommel. 

 A photograph from Cecil's collection: accident between 2 Tomahawks on the day he was shot down, 3d of June 1942.

Hospital in Cairo



Paper cuttings 

Sad but ironic press article placed in a Cape Town paper; No. 5 squadron suffered heavy losses during the Gasala battles and within a few months after this was published three of the  four experienced  pilots mentioned here were killed and the fourth, "Gugu" Hewitson, would be shot down and made prisoner of war.

 Cecil on leave

On leave in the Union 


Hans Deibl

Cecil made contact  with the stuka pilot Hans Deibl  after the war and again in December 2011 just after Hans turned 90.

 Hans Deibl 1942

Hans at Stuka training school, Graz.

Hans (90) with his great grand child in 2011.

Jochen Marseille

Hans-Joachim Marseille claimed 6 Tomahawks shot down on the 3d of June 1942, including that of Cecil. According to some history books the SAAF Tomahawks flew a defensive circle and then Marseille pecked them off in a short succession of a few minutes. Cecil disputes these facts as 5 squadron did not fly a defensive circle on that day and also disputes the total amount of  aircraft shot down  claimed by the Germans for that day. 


Detail account of events of 3d of June 1942 with 5 Squadron with information from the book written by Michael Schoeman: "Springbok Fighter Victory Volume 2"

(thanks to Michael for permission)





5 Squadron information from the book written by Michael Schoeman: "Springbok Fighter Victory Volume 2"

(thanks to Michael for permission)








Make a Free Website with Yola.