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Wingate: war and whimsy

The Vincent surrounded by tribesmen after arriving at Salela on November 20, 1940
R A COLLIS

I enjoyed Allan George’s feature on Major-General Orde Wingate (Military Misfit, BAW, Mar 2024) in which he rightly highlighted the general’s originality. To my mind, Wingate’s operations in Abyssinia were both significant and delivered real effect to the campaign’s outcome – probably more than the better known Chindit operations in Burma.

In Abyssinia, Wingate received significant RAF support, mainly in the form of the Vincent biplanes of No.430 Flight (previously ‘D’ Flight, 47 Squadron). Years ago, I was fortunate to correspond with two members of that unit, wireless operator Leading Aircraftman Frank Paget and pilot Flying Officer Reg Collis.

The latter wrote that, in mid-November 1940, he was tasked by Squadron Leader James Pelly-Fry (OC 47 Squadron) to fly a British officer and a representative of Emperor Haile Selassie to the Gojjam region in the Ethiopian highlands, to make contact with what he called “the band of intrepid men of 101 Mission.”

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