A colourised image of an RAF Douglas Boston crew in North Africa.
Until the advent of the Curtiss Kittyhawk in theatre the Hawker Hurricane bore the brunt of fighter cover and strafing duties in North Africa. Here Hurricane Mk IIB Z2679 is simply coded “QJ” and is believed to have been used by No 92 Sqn in mid-1942 to support working-up in the Western Desert.
The Kittyhawk entered RAF service with No 250 Sqn in April 1942. The type proved to be a robust close-support aircraft, although less effective as an air-superiority fighter. Carrying 250lb (110kg) bombs on their centreline pylons, a group of “LD”-coded Kittyhawks of No 250 Sqn line up to take off on another sortie.
The RAF’s No 112 Sqn was also an early recipient of the Kittyhawk Mk I, equivalent to the USAAF’s P-40D. The unit’s “GA” code and sharkmouth markings are clearly visible in this photo of AL225/GA-T armed with a single 250lb bomb. Later marks carried up to 2,000lb (905kg) of bombs, albeit when stripped of some navigation kit.
By the time Supermarine Spitfire Mk V JK446/GN-B of No 249 Sqn was photographed at Catania, Sicily, in late 1943, the type had lost the Vokes chin-mounted tropical filter fitted for action in North Africa, and was being used in the close-support role.
As seen in this coloured photograph, taken at Sidi Haneish in July 1941, the Curtiss Tomahawks of No 112 Sqn took advantage of the type’s distinctive chin radiator to apply sharkmouth markings. The unit had exchanged its Gladiators for Tomahawks the previous month.
Air Observation Post (AOP) Austers initially played a complementary role to close air support, guiding artillery where targets were within range. They operated in detached flights, each of four aircraft, one aircraft and pilot being a section: A (numbered 1-4), B (5-8), C (9-12) and HQ (13-16). This Mk III flew with B Flt, No 655 Sqn.