The Takoradi Run
In the spring of 1941 a Bristol Blenheim and six Hurricanes took off in convoy from Takoradi Airport, Ghana, to embark on a 3600 mile journey across Africa to Egypt. The journey took seven days to complete, flying above an exhilarating but challenging African landscape and it became known among pilots as the Takoradi Run. By October 1943 over 5000 aircraft were successfully delivered using this new RAF ferry route, bringing much needed air assistance to ground troops fighting in the Western Desert.
The journey could be brutal: crews set out from Takoradi with minimal navigational aids and it was not uncommon for pilots to lose their bearings flying above endless miles of tropical and desert landscape.
Sandstorms were a weather hazard which caused engines to fail frequently and aircraft often limped into Cairo requiring acute attention from the ground crew before they were fit to be used in battle.
Out of necessity the convoy rule was “Fly on” – assisting a pilot in an ailing aircraft was not an option. Lost aircraft were reported at the next designated stopping point and, where possible, a search party sent out to look for the missing plane.
Project Josephine will follow the story of one Blenheim aircraft and its three-man crew, which went missing along this route in 1941. Tom, the young aircraft gunner, was the only crew member of this lost Blenheim to survive and eventually return home to Scotland.
In Edinburgh, Tom’s fiancée, Josephine, received the official government notification announcing his loss: ‘Missing – presumed dead ‘. Our documentary will tell the story of Tom’s remarkable rescue.
In 2020 the Pro Jo team will set out on an expedition to search for Tom’s Blenheim and the grave of the pilot who successfully landed the crew’s stricken aircraft, but lost his own life in the crash.
An extract from one of Josephine’s letters describes the event:
“… the heat was really unbearable, and the crew used their emergency tent to set it up under the aircraft wing… as local people gradually started to trickle out of the bush they were seen to be very poor yet regularly they left a scrawny chicken at the tent flap…”
Successfully delivered aircraft:
2,272 Hurricanes, 1,114 Blenheims, 736 Spitfires,
337 Beaufighters, 259 Kittyhawks, 232 Tomahawks