How did Allied air forces travel between England and North Africa in World War 2?

Jan 2019
4
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
#1
I am researching for a script that I'm writing and can't find any information on how Allied air forces moved between England and North Africa.

Does anyone have information on whether they flew specific routes between the two countries? Were they ferried in? Any information would be fantastic.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,104
Portugal
#2
I am researching for a script that I'm writing and can't find any information on how Allied air forces moved between England and North Africa.

Does anyone have information on whether they flew specific routes between the two countries? Were they ferried in? Any information would be fantastic.
Far from my area, I don’t read much about WWII for some years, but to move airplanes you just have to options, by air or by sea. I recall that there was a air bridge, between Brazil and Africa, used by the USA to reach airplanes to the North of Africa, but from the south of the UK to Gibraltar, then Malta, then Egypt we are talking about huge steps, by memory don’t know the kilometres, but the fighters wouldn’t have that autonomy and sending bombers without support is risky, so I would say that most of the planes went by sea, and there I know that there were two routes, the Mediterranean, quicker and risky, one and the one around the cape, longer but safer.

Hope someone can correct me here if I am totally wrong.
 
Jan 2015
3,244
Front Lines of the Pig War
#3
I am researching for a script that I'm writing and can't find any information on how Allied air forces moved between England and North Africa.

Does anyone have information on whether they flew specific routes between the two countries? Were they ferried in? Any information would be fantastic.
In 1941-1942 three main ways:

1. Long rang Bomber aircraft could be flown from England direct to Gibraltar, then across the Med to Malta and Egypt

2. Single engine fighters, torpedo bombers etc didnt have the range to fly independently, so they would be loaded onto an aircraft carrier in the UK, which would sail East of Gibraltar to launch them for the trip to Malta.

Club Run - Wikipedia

3. Other aircraft like P-40s, Blenheims, Beaufighters, Boston, Maryland bombers would be crated up, sent to Takoradi (Ghana) to be assembled, then flown across Chad and Sudan on their way to Egypt.

How Takoradi Helped Win World War II
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,104
Portugal
#4
[
In 1941-1942 three main ways:

1. Long rang Bomber aircraft could be flown from England direct to Gibraltar, then across the Med to Malta and Egypt

2. Single engine fighters, torpedo bombers etc didnt have the range to fly independently, so they would be loaded onto an aircraft carrier in the UK, which would sail East of Gibraltar to launch them for the trip to Malta.

Club Run - Wikipedia

3. Other aircraft like P-40s, Blenheims, Beaufighters, Boston, Maryland bombers would be crated up, sent to Takoradi (Ghana) to be assembled, then flown across Chad and Sudan on their way to Egypt.

How Takoradi Helped Win World War II
Now that you mentioned it, the Ghana path ring me some bells.

But the 1st option raised me the question: Would the bombers fly without protection? Naturally around Malta the fighters there could give some cover, but what about the rest of the trip? Specially South of Sardinia, and maybe between Crete and Libya, those would be critical passages. How was the operation there?
 
May 2018
101
Houston, TX
#5
In addition, the gasoline, lubricants, spare parts (like tires and engine parts), etc. would have to have been ferried by ship. Presumably much of the support staff would have gone by ship also? And the equipment to construct hangars, airstrips, etc., probably by ship. The planes themselves are only part of the picture.
 
Jan 2015
3,244
Front Lines of the Pig War
#6
[

Now that you mentioned it, the Ghana path ring me some bells.

But the 1st option raised me the question: Would the bombers fly without protection? Naturally around Malta the fighters there could give some cover, but what about the rest of the trip? Specially South of Sardinia, and maybe between Crete and Libya, those would be critical passages. How was the operation there?
The main military aircraft to use this route 1940-1942 would be the Wellingtons, & perhaps some Sunderlands, with Liberators as well beginning in early 1942. It's about 2200 miles from Gibraltar to Cairo (1900 to Mersa Matruh) so in winter months a Wellington flying at 200mph could leave at dusk, and would be over Egypt by dawn. Even in midsummer there's at least 6 hours of full darkness, so just enough time to cross from out of range of Sardinia to beyond range of Crete, during hours of darkness.
The Italians lack advanced radar and night fighters, so there was very little chance of interception at night.

If the Germans set up radar/night fighters in Sardinia & Sicily the place could cross Tunisia at night instead of the Sicilian Straights or they could reroute From Gibraltar to Egypt via Accra or Takoradi.

Of course the Blenheims, Beaufighters, Bostons & Maryland's don't have the range to transit Gibraltar -> Egypt, so they were all sent by the Takoradi route.
 
Last edited:
Likes: Tulius
Jan 2015
3,244
Front Lines of the Pig War
#7
In addition, the gasoline, lubricants, spare parts (like tires and engine parts), etc. would have to have been ferried by ship. Presumably much of the support staff would have gone by ship also? And the equipment to construct hangars, airstrips, etc., probably by ship. The planes themselves are only part of the picture.
Parts and equipment came by ship, via the Cape.
Gasoline for British & Allied forces in Egypt is supplied by the British controlled refineries in Haifa, Palestine (supplied via the Kirkuk pipeline) and from the Anglo-Persian refinery at Abadan.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,638
Dispargum
#8
They would have sent more planes than pilots as some planes would be destroyed on the ground, other planes would be shot down but the pilot survive to fly another plane, some planes wore out from inadequate maintenance so many miles from home. Other planes would be replaced with more advanced models but use the same pilots. There were ferry pilots for these extra aircraft.

I came across one unit history RAF 145 Squadron which was withdrawn from service in the UK in February 1942 for deployment to the Middle East but it only went operational there in April. So two months to deploy from England to Egypt. That's too fast to go around Africa by ship. Since they were operating Spitfires, they must have gone by aircraft carrier to the Mediterranian or to West Africa and then flew via Malta or Chad and Sudan. The ground crews must have gone by transport plane since they could not have gone by ship in only two months.

An air order of battle from October 1942 shows only 20 RAF squadrons in the Desert Air Force. There were a few more in theater undergoing conversion to different aircraft. Many of these squadrons had already been deployed to Egypt or elsewhere in the region when Italy declared war in June 1940, so only a few squadrons actually deployed from Britain thereafter. Many of the squadrons in the Desert Air Force were South African, Australian, or American so they did not deploy from England.
Desert Air Force - Wikipedia
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
8,660
#9
They would have sent more planes than pilots as some planes would be destroyed on the ground, other planes would be shot down but the pilot survive to fly another plane, some planes wore out from inadequate maintenance so many miles from home. Other planes would be replaced with more advanced models but use the same pilots. There were ferry pilots for these extra aircraft.

I came across one unit history RAF 145 Squadron which was withdrawn from service in the UK in February 1942 for deployment to the Middle East but it only went operational there in April. So two months to deploy from England to Egypt. That's too fast to go around Africa by ship. Since they were operating Spitfires, they must have gone by aircraft carrier to the Mediterranian or to West Africa and then flew via Malta or Chad and Sudan. The ground crews must have gone by transport plane since they could not have gone by ship in only two months.

An air order of battle from October 1942 shows only 20 RAF squadrons in the Desert Air Force. There were a few more in theater undergoing conversion to different aircraft. Many of these squadrons had already been deployed to Egypt or elsewhere in the region when Italy declared war in June 1940, so only a few squadrons actually deployed from Britain thereafter. Many of the squadrons in the Desert Air Force were South African, Australian, or American so they did not deploy from England.
Desert Air Force - Wikipedia
regardless of who was flying the aircraft any aircraft still came form England (though of course the US for many types as well) The Desert was pretty brutal for mainatince, sand gets into everything, more maintance replacement of parts, air filters, servicebility rates and aircraft lifespans down. Squadrons required replacement parts and aircraft pretty constantly.

2 months is about the time the convoys took to go form the UK to Egypt around Africa.

WS (Winston Specials) Convoys in WW2 - 1943 Sailings
 
Jan 2015
3,244
Front Lines of the Pig War
#10
[

Now that you mentioned it, the Ghana path ring me some bells.

But the 1st option raised me the question: Would the bombers fly without protection? Naturally around Malta the fighters there could give some cover, but what about the rest of the trip? Specially South of Sardinia, and maybe between Crete and Libya, those would be critical passages. How was the operation there?
There was also a civilian service between UK & Egypt (+ Other destinations) run by BOAC during the war.
British Overseas Airways Corporation - Wikipedia

Spain refused them landing rights, but our friends in Portugal :cool: did allow civilian flights to land and refuel, in Lisbon.