Categories 1942

SAS raid hits German airfield at Fuka

A Special Air Service jeep patrol is greeted by its commander, Colonel David Stirling, on its return from the desert. 18 January 1943.

The early members of the Special Air Service were currently known as L Detachment, SAS Brigade and would not be designated the SAS Regiment until September 1942. The original name was intended to cause confusion amongst the Germans about the nature and strength of these unconventional forces – suggesting that it was just a small part of a large parachute Brigade.

The purpose of the SAS was to mount raids behind enemy lines – in the desert they arrived by truck or jeep, rather than parachute. Their early raids had been costly affairs where they sustained heavy casualties. But on the night of 26th July they mounted one of their most successful raids ever. They had driven for days across the desert, guided by men from the Long Range Desert Group, until they were well behind enemy lines. The men at the target German airfield at Fuka were caught completely off guard. Carol Mather was one of the officers on the raid, which was led by the SAS’s founding officer, Colonel David Stirling:

We left the escarpment RV at last light and climbed up the rocky cliff in our two columns. There was a full moon and so driving was comparatively easy. David led off at a terrific speed and it was not long before we were suffering from punctures. We had fifteen before we reached our objective, and for each one a halt of five minutes had to be made.

One jeep and its crew had to be abandoned on the way owing to a cracked sump, and at this halt David gave us our final instructions.

“Right lads, we haven’t got much time. At the edge of the aerodrome form a line abreast and all guns spray the area. When I advance follow me in your two columns and on my green Very light open fire, outwards at the aircraft – follow exactly in each other’s tracks, 5 yards apart – speed not more than 4 mph. Return to the RV independently moving only by night.”

He spoke casually as if putting us into our butts for a grouse drive.


We descended across an old battlefield, where some of our corpses were lying still unburied, in the full moonlight. The burnt-out tanks and corpses looked cold and comfortless, and I took another swig of rum.

Then we heard an aircraft overhead – it was circling low. Suddenly all the aerodrome landing lights were switched on and we saw our target perfectly illuminated, and the German bomber came in to land. The noise of its engines drowned our own.

A hundred yards more to the aerodrome edge and we formed line abreast, halted and suddenly fired our sixty guns. A minute’s fire to spray the defences and then we followed David in our two columns.

In one minute we were amongst the parked aircraft – Messerschmitts, Stukas, Junkers and Heinkels lay all around us. The green Very light went up and we wound slowly like a snake, firing at the aircraft as we went.

Clouds obscured the moon, and one after another the planes burst into flames, but not a gun was fired on us. We fired into their huts and tents, and we could see one or two figures running helplessly about. Some of the aircraft would only be fifteen yards away, and as I passed them at the end of the column they would glow red and explode with a deafening “phut” and there would be great heat.

We had passed through the dispersal area, and were swinging round for a second visit, when an Ack Ack gun some 300 yards away opened up on us wildly. Our port-side guns returned the fire, but the gunner had hit one of our jeeps in the centre of the column as we drew away, the shots passing over our heads.

See Sir Carol Mather: When the Grass Stops Growing: A Memoir of the Second World War.

Portrait of Lt Col Robert Blair ‘Paddy’ Mayne, SAS, in the desert near Kabrit, 1942.

As we moved off the aerodrome Paddy Mayne spotted an untouched bomber and, jumping from his jeep with a bomb in his hand, ran up to it and, placing the bomb in its engine, ran back and caught us up.

We had burnt thirty aircraft, damaged more, and lost one jeep and one man, a Frenchman, killed. The whole thing had taken fifteen minutes. Then we melted into the desert in two’s and three’s, as arranged.

16 thoughts on “SAS raid hits German airfield at Fuka”

  1. Re Edward McDonald DCM, his army number was 2928608. From what I could find he was a Sergeant in the Cameron Highlanders and was then commissioned as a second Lieutenant in the West Yorkshire Regiment, which is what they used to do.

    Hope that helps


  2. My dad was John Taylor. Lovely reading this, I believe his nickname was “the quiet man”.

  3. I have been trying to find out more about the Patrol Commander in this photo, whose name is Edward Mcdonald DCM and who was a Sgt from the Cameronians and 11 Commando and one of the Originals and of course by the time this photo(in Jan 1943) was taken, he was a Lieutenant. As far as I know he went to 2 SAS after David Stirling was captured and before 1SAS was split up into the Special Raiding Squadron and Special Boat Squadron.
    I have to say it has been quite hard to find out anything about him and i have even asked Mike Sadler(who I have met a few times) about him and he cannot remember him, though he is 98 years old.
    Strangely enough I know the names of all the characters in this photo and it is easier to find out more about some these these chaps and they are of course, Left to right:
    Jocky Henderson – Scots Guards(Killed with SRS at Termoli), Jock Mcdiarmaid MM – Black Watch, Dave Goldie – Scots Guards, John Taylor, who I believe was with a Scots regiment, maybe Scots Guards, William Kit Kennedy, Royal Scots Greys, so along with Edward Mcdonald they were essentially a Scots Patrol.

    So if anybody knows anybody who can be contacted or who knows anything about Lt Mcdonald it would be really good to know. Obviously records are not as good as they could be from this period and a lot of the personal stories, may of course still be locked up with the Official Secrets acts.

    thanks in anticipation.


  4. 1st man hit on the airfield during the attack died machine gunner bombardier John Ross.

    2nd main to die:
    Cpl andre zernheld of the free French paratroopers
    Killed escaping in the desert by German aircraft the day after the raid

  5. Hi, here are two books, of which I’m sure there are many others written about the SAS of this time. One is titled “Rogue Warrior of the SAS”, Arrow Books1989 Roy Bradford and Martin Dillon. It’s the story of Lt-Col Paddy Blair Maine, the guy sitting in the first jeep next to David Stirling. The other Book was written by Lt D I Harrison, who served with Maine in the desert and Europe. “These Men are Dangerous; The Special Air Service At War” Transworld Publishers, mine is a Corgi Book 1964 Edition. Originally published in GB by Cassell & Co 1957.
    These could/may answer all your questions. They are definitely worth the read. Amazing what these men did, considering they were writing the book as they went!
    Mary Australia has the National Archives where we can look up the war service records of family, I think England has a similar system. well worth the effort.

  6. I am trying to find out anything about my dad’s war service he was in the LRDG and later in the SAS I have no information only a few photos of him in uniform and overseas somewhere. Where should I start I do not even know his army number?!?

  7. As detailed in Michael Asher’s book _The Regiment: The Real Story of the SAS”, the man killed was a British soldier, Bombardier John Robson, Royal Artillery. He was 21 years old and a recent recruit into the SAS.

  8. JP dispot July 26, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    ” and one man, a Frenchman, killed. ” I would like to know the name of this soldier…

    André Zirnheld (Aspirant)

  9. My dad, John Taylor, is the man whose face is obscured by the gun.

  10. do u have records of all office’s and men with Captain Stirling ?, from 8th commando group.My father was Scots Guards/8th Commando then SAS with Capt Stirling. many thanks

  11. Regarding this massed jeep raid on the Sidi Haneish airfield near Fuka, one raider was killed on the airfield – Sandy Scratchley’s gunner. I doubt he was French but it is possible. The French SAS troop did participate in the raid using their own jeeps. Three of their jeeps were attacked after dawn by Stukas and one man was killed, Andre Zirnheld. He was one of the first to join the French SAS, coming from a Free French unit.

    The jeep that was knocked out by the AA gun was David Stirling’s! A 20mm through the engine. So he and gunners Reg Seekings and Johnny Cooper baled out and got on Scratchley’s jeep to escape. Photo recon the next morning showed 38 aircraft destroyed. The SAS had a policy of underreporting results. Probably well over 350 aircraft were destroyed by their time bombs or machine guns during the North African campaign.

  12. Unfortunately no more details are given in this text. Hopefully somebody else may be able to help.

  13. ” and one man, a Frenchman, killed. ” I would like to know the name of this soldier…

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