Unit Information: 31 Squadron, SAAF

Unit Abreviation
Unit Name
31 Squadron, SAAF
Total Deaths
"Absque metu" (Without fear)

Established as No. 31 (Coastal) Squadron by amalgamating No. 13 (B.R.) Squadron and No. 14 (B.R.) Squadron with effect from 1st Desember 1939. Allotted to Natal and Eastern Province Commands. No. 13 (B.R.) Squadron was redesignated "A" Flight, No. 31 (Coastal) Squadron at Durban and No. 14 (B.R.) Squadron was redesignated "B" Flight, No. 31 (Coastal) Squadron at Port Elizabeth. Joint HQ with No. 32 (Coastal) Squadron formed at Germiston and operated Junkers Ju 86's and a single Blenheim Mk 1. The Blenheim, allocated to "A" Flight at Durban was used to attack the Italian ship Timaryo, on 10 June 1940. The ship was run aground by her crew during the engagement. The Junkers were replaced by Avro Ansons and the squadron's two flights were formed into separated entities again on 1 September 1940 when "A" Flight was redesignated No. 31 Coastal Reconnaissance Flight at Durban and "B" Flight was redesignated No. 33 Coastal Reconnaissance Flight at Port Elizabeth.

In April 1941 No. 31 Coastal Flight came under control of No. 6 Wing, controlled by No. 5 Coastal Group. On 1 July 1942 No. 31 Coastal Reconnaissance Flight was disbanded and renamed No. 22 Torpedo Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron.

Re-established as No. 31 Heavy Bomber Squadron in January 1944 at Zwartkop Air Station. The squadron departed for North Africa from 30th January 1944 and started arriving at the SAAF Base Depot at Almaza from 19th February 1944. The aircrews were sent to No. 1675 Conversion Unit at Lydda, Palestine to be converted onto the Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber. On 19th April 1944 an Advanced Party set off to establish a base camp forty kilometers north of Cairo. The camp was accordingly named Kilo 40. The first aircraft arrived at Kilo 40 on 27th April 1944. After the arrival of No. 34 Squadron at Kilo 40, both squadrons came under the controll of the newly established No. 2 Wing, SAAF. The squadron flew its first operational sorties on 27th May 1944 against the German-occupied island of Crete. From 16th June 1944 the squadron started the migration proses to Foggia in southern Italy. The bombers and a small detachment were immediately flown to Foggia and put on operations as part of No. 205 Group, RAF. 31 Squadron was temporary placed under control of No. 240 Wing, RAF until No. 2 Wing came into full operation. The squadron took part in a large-scale air offensive against the petroleum industry in eastern European countries supporting Nazi Germany. From 1st July 1944 the squadron also became involved in occasional mine-laying sorties along the Danube river. No. 31 Squadron came under effective control of No. 2 Wing, SAAF during July 1944. First operations against the Ploesti oilfields of Rumania commenced on 26th July 1944.

The Squadron (with 34 Sqn) is most famous, along with the USAAF squadrons, and RAF 178 squadron, for flying to Warsaw with supplies during the uprising of the Polish resistance under General Bor Komorowski for which the Squadrons suffered heavy losses in August 1944. The Squadrons also dropped supplies to the Yugoslavian resistance under Marshal Tito in the later part of the War.

Moved to Foggia - dropping supplies, attacks on marshalling yards. Troop transporting to Greece during the E.L.A.S. flare up. After the end of the war in Europe the squadron was utilized in a trooping role and to repatriate POW's to England. Withdrawn from operations on 5th December 1945 and disbanded 6th December 1945.

The squadron was reformed on 4th January 1982 at AFB Hoedspruit, operating Puma and Alouette III helicopters. Activities included crime-prevention operations for the police, search and rescue, mercy flights, VIP transportation and firefighting. The squadron also played an active part in the Border War, with deployments to the operational region between 1982 and 1989, carrying out operations in both South West Africa and southern Angola.

The Pumas were replaced by the Oryx on 12 February 1991. With the requirement to contain costs, the squadron was disbanded at Hoedspruit on 4 December 1992.

(Thanks to Stephan Botha for the early history of the squadron.)

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