Eagles over Gazala Published–Michele Palermo’s new book

My friend Michele has gotten his next book through to publishing!

Here’s an in-depth review of Eagles over Gazala: http://stonebooks.com/archives/140608.shtml

menIBN003-cover

It follows on from ‘Air Battles in North Africa’, and anyone interested in the air war in North Africa must buy a copy.

I look forward to receiving my copy!

http://www.ibneditore.it/shop/eagles-over-gazala/ (best price, order from Publisher)

http://www.bookdepository.com/Eagles-Over-Gazala-Michele-Palermo/9788875651688

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Eagles-Over-Gazala-Battles-Africa/dp/887565168X

RAF Tornadoes Recce D-Day Beaches

Interesting story here:

http://www.raf.mod.uk/news/archive/70-years-on-raf-tornado-jets-recce-dday-beaches-03062014

The link to CRUSADER is of not obvious, but it is through the pilot of the Mustang of No. 2 Squadron R.A.F. which did the low-level recce at 1,000 feet, Air Commodore Geddes. As a Wing Commander in 1941, he was an observer in the RAF Command in North Africa, tasked with observing and analysing Army Air Co-operation. He wrote a pretty scathing report on the performance of the RAF in this regard.

http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/Geddes.htm

The first B-24 Liberators in the Desert

In two prior posts (at this link and this link), I had provided some information on the B-17 bombers employed by the RAF in the Middle East. Going through my files, I noted that the end of January and early February also saw what looks like one of the first operational uses of B-24 Liberators in the Middle East, on bombing runs to Tripoli. I have now gone and purchased the Squadron record books on the National Archives website, to investigate this further, and further reviewed a few other documents. As a bonus, you can find the report of the first operational sortie on 11 January 1942 below.

The Consolidated B-24 Liberator

The Liberator was a four-engined bomber, and the other mainstay of the US Army Air Force heavy bomber force, together with the B-17 Flying Fortress, which it outperformed in terms of bombload, range, and design, featuring a tricycle design with a frontwheel. It also saw heavy use by RAF Coastal Command, where it performed well in shipping protection. The version delivered to RAF Middle East was called LB-30 in the period documentation, but may actually have been a B-24B, the first combat version of the Liberator. Over 18,000 Liberators of all marks were built by 1945.

Background

The US Army Air Force in the Middle East history has some info on how they came to be there. Following a presidential authorization on 29 October 1941, it became possible for the Army Air Corps Ferrying Command to ferry planes to any point in Africa. Until then, a complicated arrangement involving Pan American Airlines Africa had been used to maintain neutrality provisions. This only covered civilian types, such as Lockheed Lodestars or Douglas DC-2/-3, which were then employed as transports. The presidential authorisation, and a subsequent arrangement between the Ferry Corps and PAA Africa allowed the sending of heavy planes for the first time, with PAA Africa returning the crews. (Footnote 43 of the history)

So on 21 November the first Liberator of a group of five left for Cairo. This one crashed four days later at El Obeid in Sudan. All that was salvageable was sent to Egypt. The last one left on 6 December 41, by which time four had been received. The crews, bar the navigators, were to stay in Egypt to act as instructors, and additional technical staff was also sent. (Footnote 44 of the history). The Liberators arriving this time came without gun turrets, or indeed guns, and this created quite a bit of trouble and delayed operations considerably.

Earlier on the RAF had already received early-production Liberators, but these were seen as unsuitable for combat, and served in RAF Ferry Command, crossing the Atlantic. Nevertheless, the improved version that was received in No. 108 Squadron still required substantial work, which included attempts to fit gun turrets from Wellingtons to the rear of the planes, before they were seen fit to engage the enemy. They were also fitted with the Wellington bomb-sight, since the US Sperry sight was seen as unsuitable for night attacks due to its limited field of vision.

The new aircraft were placed on arrival with No. 108 Squadron, which operated Wellingtons at the time, also on missions to Tripoli and Benghazi, as well as in tactical support. This squadron was partially disbanded at the end of December 41, with a cadre of two flights remaining and continuing to operate the Liberators and some Wellingtons. The intent at the time was to convert the whole squadron to Liberators, but this never happened. But during December and January, both flights were trained on the Liberator, and early in January the Squadron Commander, Wing Commander Wells, flew the first operational sortie to Tripoli.

The Squadron Commander was very pleased with the plane, its range meant that it was possible to fly base-to-base even on sorties to Tripoli, which was a great advance in operations. One Liberator, AL574, was sent to India with spares for No. 84 Squadron. It became the first RAF aircraft to carry out a non-stop flight from Egypt to India, using only two stages on the total, 6,000 mile trip, which it completed with no technical issues.


The crew of Consolidated Liberator Mark II, AL511 ‘A’, of No. 108 Squadron RAF walk from their aircraft at Fayid, Egypt. Note the “Dumbo” motif painted on the nose. AL511 failed to return from a bombing sortie over Tripoli on 3 May 1942. (IWM)

Operational Use

It appears that no USAAF personnel flew operational sorties, but they supported the training including bomb range flights.

Only a few operational sorties were carried out in January. These were mixes of one or two Liberators with Wellingtons. Bad weather led to a few cancelled raids.

On 22 February, one aircraft crashed on take-off at Faiyid, because of too early retraction of the landing gear (see here). This was AL574, shown in the picture below, which places the picture fairly squarely into the CRUSADER period. Of interest, the crane used to bomb up the plane. Very well equipped as a station. As the picture above states, AL511, likely the other of the two planes used operationally, was lost in early May.


Armourers hauling a trolley of 500-lb Gp bombs towards Consoldiated Liberator Mark II, AL574 ‘O’, of No. 108 Squadron RAF, at Fayid, Egypt. As far as is known only two Liberators were employed operationally on long-range bombing sorties by the Squadron. (IWM)

Of note in the picture above is that this early version did not have a rear-facing ball turret, for enhanced self-defense, unlike other versions of the plane, and this was seen as a great drawback.

Raids

The first Liberator to participate in a raid did so on 11 January 1942. Below is the report:

Six Wellingtons and one Liberator were ordered to attack Tripoli Harbour. The Captains were (“P” – Liberator) W/Cdr. Wells DFC., (“B”) F/Lt. Bagnall, (“L”) P/O Hill, (“G”) P/O Waddington, (“H”) P/O McDonald, (“M”) P/O Anderson DFC., and (“F”) P/O Smith. This is the first operational flight of Liberator aircraft – this was more of a nature of a test flight for the purpose of getting accurate petrol consumption and the clearing-up of operational snags which would become apparent on a raid. The Liberator proceeded to Advance Base L.G. 09, where it refuelled and bombed-up. At 2340 hours the aircraft left for Tripoli encountering a 35m.p.h. head wind which slowed the outward journey. The target was reached at 0445 – no snags were found on the way out to the target. The lighting navigating facilities which had been re-designed proved quite satisfactory. The bombing was marred by three hang-ups, which subsequently proved to be electric failures. A total of twelve 500lb G.P. were dropped. The return trip from Tripoli to base was uneventful. Total distance covered – 2240 miles. Time taken – 1025 hrs. Petrol consumption – 154 gallons per hour. Average oil consumption per engine – 3 pints per hour. Average ground speed – 213.5 m.p.h. Of the Wellington aircraft, “L” attacked a destroyer entering the Harbour – one near miss was observed. “H” did not attack Tripoli owning to heavy oil consumption – the secondary target (Buerat El Haun) could not be found owing to ground haze, and this aircraft eventually dropped its bombs on lights on road between Buerat el Haun and Sirte. No results were seen. Aircraft “F” also suffered engine trouble whilst over the target area – four 500 lb. G.P. were jettisoned five miles along road to Sirte – no results observed. On the way home the aircraft was still losing height, and so two beam guns, 2,500 rounds ammunition, all flares and pyrotechnics except verey cartridges, were also jettisoned. “G” attacked two large and several small buildings five miles west of Sirte, just south of the road – bombs fell east of target, and bursts were seen surrounded by small flashes, probably ammunition boxes exploding. Aircraft “B” bombed the Spanish Mole aiming across the base, but no results were seen. This aircraft was caught in searchlights and took evasive action. A total of thirty-two 500lb. G.P. bombs were dropped. All aircraft returned safely to base.

The war diary of the naval liason officer with the German Army in North Africa simply notes 0330 to 0725 ‘air attack’, but does not mention any damage, while the war diary of the German naval station places the attack to the time 0400 – 0745 am, with no military damage.

On 5 February, two Liberators are reported to have operated from Fayid airfield, 65 miles south of Port Said, to Tripoli for an attack on the harbour, dropping over 7 tons of bombs. One of the two aircraft completed the return flight without landing, covering a distance of 2,300 miles (3,700km) in the process, in what must have been the longest operational attack sortie in history at that time. The bombs were claimed to have burst on Spanish Quay in the harbour, but no results were observed. I cannot find any mention of damage in the German war diaries that are relevant, but that does not tell us much, other than that there would have been no damage to German personnel or equipment. The war diary of the naval station notes one bomb hitting the Cagni mole, but it failed to explode.

A bombload of more than 7 tons to be delivered by 2 planes was a very substantial improvement over the Wellingtons, as can be seen in the report above, which has the Liberator carry 15 500lb. bombs, while the Wellingtons acompanying it managed just four. In other words, it took almost four Wellingtons to deliver the load of one Liberator!

This discrepancy was due to the distance involved and the far superior range of Liberator, which could also choose whether to bomb up further, by using a staging post in the Western Desert in order to reach Tripoli with a heavy load, or to bomb up less (but still carry more than a Wellington that uses a staging post), and to a base-to-base attack. This considerably reduced time and stress for the crews, and eliminated the risk that the staging airfield might not be available due to weather, which was a serious concern in the desert winter.

Performance

At this time, when many US planes delivered to Egypt had serious trouble with unsatisfactory quality control at the factor, parts missing, or parts being faulty, and when this lead to serious delays in putting them into service (Kittyhawk fighters), or even to them being temporarily withdrawn from service (Douglas Boston light bombers), the sterling performance of the Liberator must have been impressive indeed. The Squadron Commander was enthusiastic, stating that this was the ideal bomber for long-range bombing of the enemy.

Links

There are two websites focused on the B-24 in RAF service, but unfortunately neither of them has much on No.108 Squadron or operations of RAF Liberators in the Middle East during CRUSADER. I hope this blog entry closes this gap:

http://www.rquirk.com/

http://www.rafb24.com

Close Air Support for 8 Army in CRUSADER

Background

Operation CRUSADER marked a noticeable step in the development of the Close Air Support doctrine and mechanics in the Royal Air Force. (1) The system is very well described in AIR2/5420, a report by Wing Commander Geddes RAAF, who represented the Army Co-Operation Command, and served as RAF Liason Officer at the Corps HQ of 13 Corps, and then at 8 Army HQ. The report was a bit of an embarrassment to higher commands, who tried very hard to suppress it, because the points made in it on standards of training and discipline were not too comfortable.

The RAF army co-operation system established for CRUSADER, while it was to undergo heavy modification and refinement, was the foundation upon which the very successful air support system that was in action in Normandy was to be built. The development of the system was based on the very close working relationship between the commanders of the ground and air forces at the highest levels of command. What many people do not realize is that this system was at the time far superior to that of the German forces in North Africa in terms of integrating air force liason sections with low-level commands (down to Brigade level). This superiority was partially driven by superior numbers of planes being available, and partially by a real desire to improve co-operation between the arms of combat. In the Panzerarmee, this level of co-operation would not happen until 1942, and during CRUSADER the German arms of service operated on a looser co-operation basis at the frontline.

Like in the Wehrmacht in general, the system developed by the Western Desert Air Force rested on increased availability of wireless sets, the close integration of air force and army at the tip of the advance, and the assignment of specific squadrons to air support missions.

Structure

Key elements of the system were:

  • The creation of Air Support Controls to be attached to the Corps HQs. No. 1 (Australian) being assigned to 13 Corps, and ‘T’ to 30 Corps. The other active units by the time of the battle was 2 New Zealand, but I do not know where this was assigned to.(2)
  • The Air Support Controls were in charge of RAF sections (tentacles) attached to low-level (Brigade/Division) staffs of the ground force, and in radio contact with higher level RAF commands with the aim of passing on reconnaissance results. Tentacles were allotted to lower-level commands by the Controls, depending on need.
  • Selection of targets only by air tactical reconnaissance, since it was felt that there was insufficient ground observation. In reality however, this seems to have been about equal between tactical reconnaissance and the ground tentacles.
  • Fully centralized control of strikes – all requests were passed to A.O.C. (Air Vice Marshal Coningham) at RAF Western Desert HQ for consideration. Corps HQs would not sift targets but would only pass on information to A.O.C., and provide army co-operation squadrons with advance warning that they might be called on to attack.

The figure below describes the system.

The RAF/Commonwealth Ground Force Liason System for CRUSADER

(Appendix to Report by Wing Cdr Geddes, TNA AIR2/5420)

Forces and weapons

Forces allocated to army co-operation were No. 270 Wing (RAF, equipped with Bristol Blenheim light bombers) to 13 Corps, and No. 3 Wing (SAAF, equipped with Martin Marylands) to 30 Corps. It must be recognized however that these units were not exclusively tasked with army co-operation, but would be required to support the primary mission (gain and maintain air superiority) if deemed necessary, by e.g. attacking airfields in the rear, or indeed to attack other targets of opportunity not directly involved in the ground battle. This seems to have been in particular the case with No. 12 Squadron SAAF, which spent some time in late November at rear area interdiction. In the case of both the South African Maryland squadrons, they also famously engaged in chasing Ju 52 transport planes for a few days in December. The war diaries of No. 12 and No. 21 Squadron SAAF are available online and make interesting reading.

Martin Maryland, ‘O’, of No. 21 Squadron SAAF flies over the target as bombs explode among poorly dispersed enemy vehicles of the 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions east of Sidi Rezegh, where they had assembled with the intention of breaking through the British positions at Bir el Gubi.

(Picture from Imperial War Museum – IWM CM 1561)

In addition to these light bombers, each Corps and the 8 Army HQ had a squadron of Hurricane I photo reconnaissance planes permanently attached to it (No. 451 Squadron RAAF to 13 Corps and No. 208 Squadron RAF to 30 Corps. No. 237 (Rhodesian) Squadron was in ‘reserve’ at 8 Army HQ. These squadrons flew unarmed Hawker Hurricane I fighters, which had additional fuel tanks instead of guns in the wings. They would normally be accompanied by fighters for their protection, but the Squadron providing this, No. 33 RAF, had been withdrawn and assigned to operate in the Axis rear from a new Landing Ground behind enemy lines, just before the battle.


Photographers of an army co-operation squadron use a portable darkroom to develop aerial reconnaissance film at a landing ground in the Western Desert, while a pilot of a tactical reconnaissance Hawker Hurricane, seen in the background, waits to see the results (right).

(Picture from Imperial War Museum – IWM CM 1648)

At the time of CRUSADER, weapons for ground support were not well advanced. The main weapon used by the Western Desert Air Force for direct air support was the 250lb general purpose bomb, and machine guns and cannon were also heavily used. The 250lb bomb relied on being relatively close to its target to have much of an impact. Against a well-dispersed ground target such as a transport column, and especially against armour, it was unlikely to be a successful weapon.


Armourers preparing to load a Martin Maryland of No. 39 Squadron RAF with its full complement of eight 250-lb GP bombs, at a landing ground in the Western Desert.

Picture from Imperial War Museum – IWM CM 1100)

The Hurricanes used for ground support were only equipped with British .303 MGs and some probably with 20mm Oerlikon cannons, both of which were weapons too weak to make any impression against even lightly armoured or dug-in targets. Only one squadron of ‘Hurribombers’ was available, No. 80 Squadron RAF. The need for a proper ‘tank-busting’ fighter aircraft was recognized immediately after the operation, and led to the development of the 40mm cannon-armed Hurricane Mk. IID, which entered service in the desert in summer 1942.

Pilots of No. 80 Squadron RAF gather in front of one of their Hawker Hurricane Mark Is at a landing ground in the Western Desert, during Operation CRUSADER. In the middle of the group, wearing a white flying overall and smoking a pipe, is Squadron Leader M M Stephens, who commanded the Squadron from November until 9 December 1941 when he was shot down and wounded. During CRUSADER, 80 Squadron acted in close support of the Army, their Hurricane fighters being fitted with bomb racks to carry four 40 lb GP bombs, as seen here. Their first effective sorties as fighter-bombers were conducted against enemy vehicles south of Bir el Baheira on 20 November.

Picture from Imperial War Museum – IWM CM 1725)

By comparison, on the German side only Panzergruppe HQ had a permanent unit attached to it, 2(H)14, which consisted of a mix of figher and reconnaissance planes. On the other hand, the Germans and Italians had considerable strike forces in the form of Ju 87 dive bombers, and converted Fiat CR 42 biplane fighter-bombers which were available to support their ground forces.

Results

It is unlikely that the battle was very much affected by direct (i.e. during the battle) air support on either side. Ordnance delivered was too weak to affect the outcome, and insufficient in volume and accuracy. Reasons for this are varied:

  • The fundamental reason was a lack of aircraft to achieve the different missions. With the clear recognition that air superiority was more critical than anything else, army co-operation came second, followed by army protection last.
  • The delay between ordering up and receiving a strike was too long, with 2.5 hours apparently being the normal time. Delays were driven by
    • the centralized nature of the system, by the distance of strike forces from the battlefield;
    • the need for dispersal of aircraft at the landing grounds which added to take-off times;
    • the nature of the air fields which often made simultaneous take-offs impossible, requiring forming up in the air; and
    • the need to protect bombers with fighter escorts in an air space that was not fully controlled leading to a delay in order to enable the rendez-vous; and
    • finally by the lack of training of both air and ground crew, which led to delays in bombing up and relatively lower standards of training than in the UK, including the experience of the air crews in flying impromptu, rather than deliberate missions (3).
  • Finding the target, in a landscape bereft of landmarks.
  • When the strike then came, it had to struggle to correctly identify the target, which was difficult already because of visibility conditions, but made more so by the heavy reliance of the Axis forces on captured Commonwealth transport. Identification from the air was a major issue for both sides, and ‘friendly’ fire incidents occurred with what must have been irritating regularity.
  • Finally, even if the strike found its target and identified it correctly, the weapons available were hardly suitable.
  • It is of note that while provision was already made for artillery spotting from the air by the army co-operation squadrons, this method was not employed much due to the fluid nature of the battle. But when it was used it was deemed successful.

During the last exercises in November, the following time delays were given by Geddes as average examples which were not much improved upon during operations: 2hrs 32mins, 2hrs 15mins, and 2hrs 40mins.

Looking through the war diary of No. 21 Squadron SAAF (Marylands), they seem to have managed a normal rate of only one sortie per day during the height of the battle. Considering the short daylight hours, the transmission and decision time, and the duration of a sortie (even excluding briefing and bombing up), this is not surprising. But it essentially restricted a squadron to being able to deliver just 18,000lbs of bombs per day. Hardly enough to make much of an impact. When two squadron sorties were made, such as by No. 21 Squadron on 26 November, it is of interest to see that the time elapsed between the first sortie returned and the second being in the air was 2 hours. The time line therefore was:

0825 Departure Sortie 1

0950 Over target

1045 Returned to base

1255 Departure Sortie 2

1420 Over target

1535 Returned to base

Based on this one would presume that this target was ground-identified (since the aerial recce plane would presumably not operate during the night), and/or may have come in the night before. The numbers also indicate that the delay from take-off to target was 1.5 hours, to which needs to be added the delay in getting the orders and briefing sorted out.

Conclusion

In the final analysis, it is arguable that the RAF system used in CRUSADER was not responsive enough to give the Commonwealth forces too much of an advantage, especially when all the other challenges of air support in the desert are considered.

While there are some examples of air support arriving in time to make a difference, e.g. during the battle for the Tobruk salient and during the march of the Afrika Korps to the east during the ‘dash for the wire’, most of the impact is likely to have been caused by:

  • Interdiction of supply by attacking truck columns on the Via Balbia
  • The successful battle for strategic air superiority which prevented the Axis air forces from major interference in the ground battle
  • Finally, by the provision of strategic and tactical reconnaissance by air.

Nevertheless, the system showed up many issues that would have to be addressed to move forward towards the implementation of a workable and effective ground support arm within the Royal Air Force. The planners in Cairo had done a reasonable job in making sure that their objective was appropriate to their means, which were not rich during the period, both in numbers or capability. Furthermore, the desert in winter had its own challenges, including the weather, and the lack of daylight.

Even today, air forces overclaim the impact that their support has on the battlefield, so plus ca change, ca change jamais… So it would be an interesting question to see whether it might not have been better to focus the resources purely on non-battlefield missions, such as interdiction of supplies. One thing is certain, if the light bomber squadrons had been tasked for deliberate missions, instead of sitting around at their airfields waiting for the machinery to crank into action, they could almost certainly have more than doubled their sortie rate. It is easy to see three missions a day being arranged like that.

1st thing in the morning – briefing for the day

Early AM – 1st mission to Via Balbia west of Tobruk for attack on supply columns/dumps

Late AM – 2nd mission to Axis by-pass road, positions on Tobruk perimeter, dumps

Afternoon – 3rd mission to Bardia/Halfaya positions

Such an arrangement would not have precluded throwing in impromptu missions on return from the earlier missions.

What worked:

A petrol tanker and trailer on fire on the road between Homs and Misurata, Libya, after an attack by Bristol Blenheims interdicting enemy fuel supplies in support of Operation CRUSADER.

(Picture from Imperial War Museum – IWM CM 1500)

Notes

(1) As the official history by Denis and Saunders states: “All the same, the months from July to November 1941 saw Tedder and his staff, acting partly in the light of principles already enunciated by Army Co-operation Command but still more in the light of their own experience, hammer out a system of thoroughly effective air support. It was to serve the Army well not only in the deserts of Africa but also, with later refinements and additions, among the swift rivers and frowning mountains of Italy, the green hills and woods of Normandy, and the sombre plains and broken cities of the Reich itself.”

(2) These are described in the official history as follows: “These were mobile units whose duty was to consider, sift and relay requests for air support. They were manned by the Royal Air Force, with a small Army staff attached, and located at the headquarters of each corps. From them four main channels of communication branched out–to the forward infantry brigades in the field (an Army responsibility), to aircraft in the air, to the landing grounds, and to advanced Air Headquarters, Western Desert.”

(3) The official history comments in that marvelously English way as follows on this matter: “By the end of 1941 the general standard of operational efficiency was steadily improving.”

Sources

AIR2/5420 – Report by Wing Commander Geddes on Libyan Offensive, March 1942

AIR54/51 and 63 – ORBs of No. 12 and No. 21 Squadrons SAAF

Australian War Memorial – Operational Histories WW2 – Air Vol. 3 Chapter 9 ‘Second Libyan Campaign’ (note that the diagram and description of the system in operation on page 194f does not appear to be correct, since it states that the Air Support Controls could decide about strikes)

Denis, R. and Saunders, A. Royal Air Force 1939 to 1945 Vol. II ‘Fight Avails’

Hyperlinks to other sources provided in the text.

Some more on the B-17 Bombers with No.90 Squadron

I had previously mentioned these oddball planes (3 of them, with No. 90 Squadron, detached from No. 220 Squadron of RAF Coastal Command), and asked for information on their use. I now have a bit more information, and a nice picture of one of them.

Boeing B-17 of No. 90 Squadron Detachment in RAF Colours, Egypt 1941
 
The three planes were trialled in North Africa, after the initial failure in Europe. As far as I can see they carried out day-light raids on Benghazi and Tripoli harbours, and at least one, maybe two of them were lost during the operation. Their use was the subject of an exchange of telegrams between Whitehall and Tedder in Cairo, in which the former pointed out the benefits of the planes, but emphasised the shortcomings, and the significant need of technical support to keep them going. Tedder however insisted on the trial, since it would give him the ability to conduct daylight raids to harass the Axis harbours during unloading, and it was agreed that four planes would be sent. By 11 December however, Tedder had agreed to despatch these to Malta, probably for return home, to be overhauled.
 
Some raids that I have found which were carried out went to Derna Town on 19 November, which was hit at 1055 hrs GMT through full cloud cover, results not observed. The total airtime was ten hours on this one. Another raid was carried out on the Gazala landing grounds which were bombed with 500 lbs bombs throughout the day on 21 November.

A note on RAF losses in CRUSADER

This is very preliminary, but I thought readers might be interested.  Jon commented earlier on this post, that the RAF as a rule kept 50% of strength in reserve.  Going through the weekly loss figures during Operation CRUSADER shows why.

Losses are being defined as write-offs (Cat. E) and need for return to base workshop (Cat. B) – many thanks to Jan Safarik who provided this explanation here. The loss figures extend to week ending 13 February but do not include the week 6 February, which is missing. But on the other hand the week 13 Feb has such high losses that I wonder if it does not include the preceding week…

In any case, Hurricane losses amounted to 74% of strength at the start of the battle.  Tomahawk losses to 112% (!). Blenheim losses to 60%, and Wellingtons to 49%. The brunt of the losses in the battle was borne by the single-engine fighters, which accounted for 61% of total losses, and the light bombers, which accounted for another 19%. A very high 11% of the losses were Wellingtons, and the rest is accounted for by various types.

Of note are the high losses in Beaufighters, showing how hard these planes were worked – 14 out of 24 planes, or 58% became casualties. It can’t have been fun to be in the two squadrons (No. 252 and No. 272) operating the type during CRUSADER. On the other hand, the Beaufighter has the highest ratio of Cat.B (repairable) casualties, at 43%.  By comparison, the Blenheim has only 24%. While there can be many reasons for this, it may tell us something about the toughness of the planes?

Some odd losses as well – a single Caproni (captured Italian transport), a single Whitley (what on earth was she doing in North Africa?), a single Wellesley, a single Sunderland (with a very interesting story behind the loss – scroll down halfway on this page)