The Western Desert Airforce (WDAF)
Initially commanded by Air Marshal Conningham, it comprised of 16 Squadrons (9 fighter, 6 medium bomber and 1 tactical reconaissance) and its role was to support the Western Desert ground forces. It was created after the failed attempt to relieve Torbruk, Operation Battleaxe, where it was calculated that there was not enough co-operation between the Army and Airforce. The WDAF was completely outclassed by the German BF109E and BF109F fighters, but their numbers were insufficient to tip the balance in their favour.1 Losses were extremely high at first due to the German technological superiority in the air and in one particular case, a Squadron commander lost 120% of his pilot strenght within a six month period. This highlights the difficulties the Allies faced in the early periods of the North African Campaign, where Rommel and his Afrika Corps entry meant the Allies weapons were totally outclassed on the ground and in the air.
In the build up to the Alam Halfa, around the time when Allied production was incresing rapidly, the WDAF began to receive Spitfire Mk5's and the American P-40 variants, the Warhawk, Kittyhawk and Tomahawk and by the battle of El Alamein the WDAF comprised of 29 Squadrons, which included later variants of the Hurricane and Spitfire planes that could undertake bombing duties and were equipped with cannons aswell as the normal machine guns, aswell as the American built Boston, Mitchell and Baltimore bombers. This increase in technological advancement for the WDAF meant that it now had the ability to enforce its numerical superiority upon the German Airforce (GAF). After the Torch landings the WDAF was extremely effective in harrassing the German and Italian armour and contributed greatly towards the Allied victory in North Africa.
The hurricane was the Allies most useful aircraft in the Desert war as it was particularly durable; an attribute that was very important in the harsh conditions of the Desert. It served several roles in North Africa, such as photo reconnaissance, patrolling aswell as fighting and bombing. The Hurricane was developed into a lethal Tank Busting aircraft which was first exploited to the full at Alam Halfa where Rommels retreating Afrika Corps were bombed day and night by the Allies.
Stats on the Hurricane
Stats on the Spitfire.
Diverted and Committed Troops
Weapons In North Africa
Commanders and their tactics
High Command Disputes And Interference
Concluding thoughts on the North African Campaign
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