It was February 1942. The North African Campaign was not going well, and Axis forces were driving the Eighth Army back towards the Egyptian border.
208 Squadron, having been based at Tmimi in Libya since December 1941, had been forced back to Landing Ground 148 at Sidi Azeiz, some 50 miles west, leaving 3 unserviceable Hurricanes behind at Tmimi, such was the rapidity of their departure, in what was now ‘no-man’s land’.
Two were very badly damaged, and had been repeatedly ‘robbed’ for spares. It was determined, however, that one of them could be made serviceable and flown out of Tmimi before the Germans overran.
Sid Jefford writes on:
February 5 1942
The expected increase in enemy activity exploded into a full-scale push which, after a short time, became an advance. The Squadron Advanced Flight was now located behind Tmimi at Acroma near Tobruk, and the main Squadron party was hurriedly packing the transport for the move which took us some 50 miles further back - to LG148 at Sidi Azeiz.
At the morning work parade after settling in to LG148, the Engineering Officer had asked for volunteers to return to Tmimi, with the express intention to put into flying condition one of the three unserviceable Hurricanes still remaining on the strip, taking what was needed to do so from the other two. The volunteer party was to consist of a Senior NCO, two engine fitters, two airframe fitters, a wireless operator-mechanic and an NCO armourer. An arrangement had been made for this team to join with a South African Cavalry Armoured Car Unit, who would ferry them in and out of the field and supply them with food. The volunteer party moved out from Sidi Azeiz in the early hours of the following morning. Their precise orders were to prepare one aircraft for flying by ‘robbing’ the other two, then to remove all other useful components from the donor aircraft for use as spares. If an aircraft had been successfully repaired, the party was to radio for a pilot and ‘mine’ the other two aircraft for destruction. If any one of the three aircraft could not be repaired, all three were to be destroyed.