The historical heritage of 41 Squadron has seen it serve as an Army co-operation unit, a fighter squadron, light reconnaissance, light air transport, VIP/IP and routine air transport unit. Originally founded on the 16 October 1940 at AFB Waterkloof as an army co-operation unit flying Hawker Hartbees biplanes, it was soon involved in the serious business of supporting the South African Forces during the Italian East Africa campaign. The initial involvement was cantered in Somalia (Mogadishu) and steadily moved North and West, serving with distinction in Eastern and Northern Africa. The Squadron’s primary roles were varied (as it is today) including strafing, bombing, artillery spotting, pamphlet dropping and photo-reconnaissance.
During September and October of 1941, a contingent of the Squadron converted to Curtiss Mohawks and completed a brief period as a fighter detachment before the Squadron converted to Hurricanes in 1942. In 1943 the squadron moved to the Middle East, flying air defence patrols and convoy escort duties over North Africa, the Mediterranean and Crete.
In February 1944 the Squadron converted to Spitfire Mk V’s and Mk IX’s, flying bomber escort duties for various SAAF Squadrons and other operational tasks (combat air patrols) from Cyprus and Palestine before being disbanded on 30 October 1944. Most of the Squadron members were transferred to other operational SAAF Squadrons.
Spitfire Mk IX
In January 1963 the Squadron was reformed as a part-time Army Co-operation unit based in Potchefstroom flying Auster’s and later Cessna 185’s, mainly in the Artillery spotting role.
It became a fully-fledged SAAF Squadron in 1968 and was re-equipped with the Atlas A3M Bosbok and C4M Kudu. In 1976 the Squadron was equipped solely with the Kudu and moved to Lanseria airfield. It saw extensive service in the protection of our border, successfully utilising the Kudu in the light transport, reconnaissance, casualty evacuation, pamphlet dropping and general duties roles. The unit was moved back to AFB Swartkop in 1985.
In 1988 the Kudu was retired from service and the Squadron re-equipped with the modern and versatile Cessna Caravan (C208).
The transfer back to the Squadron’s original home, AFB Waterkloof, occurred in January 1991. Three Beechcraft King Air 200’s and one King Air 300 were received throughout the mid to late 1990s during the integration of the various TBVC states.
Beechcraft King Air
The Pilatus PCXII was received straight from the Pilatus factory in 1997 and completes the current aircraft inventory. The versatility and cost-effectiveness of these aircraft mirror the Squadron’s original diverse roles and ensure an all-weather, day/night and internal/external long-range capability.
The early 2000s brought another dimension to the squadron’s roles when the Air Transport School was formed at 41 Squadron. The School operates under the 41 Squadron mantle as a separate entity and is charged to oversee all flying training within the Transport Directorate. The future planning is that all courses and flying training within the Directorate Air Transport and Maritime Systems will be held under the auspices of the school, which is planned to become a separate FSE in the medium term.
41 Squadron has continued the heritage of being involved in the thick of all operations, having served successfully in all the major humanitarian operations and exercises in many roles throughout the African subcontinent (including Madagascar) in recent years. The original ‘jack of all trades’ image is strongly reflected in the Squadrons ‘can do’ attitude emulated in the current unofficial Squadron motto of “Count On Us”.