Historical Trivia: Close Encounter

On the 12th November 1942, the 3rd Parachute Battalion under the command of  Lt. Col. R.G. Pine-Coffin (his men frequently called him Woody or Wooden Box) captured the German held airfield at Bone on the Algerian-Tunisian border (now known as Rabah Bitat Airport).  3 PARA conducted an almost perfect drop capturing the airfield in the early hours of Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa.

By 8.30 the airfield had been secured but their landing had been watched by a flight of German JU-52 transport aircraft who were also destined for the airfield at Bone.  On board the transports were a battalion of Fallschirmjager, the Para’s Axis counterparts.  Ill-equipped for a combat drop - they had been planning to land and reinforce the area, and not wanting to land on an enemy held runway without the element of surprise the JU-52s were forced to turn around and return to Tunis. 

If 3 PARA had arrived just a couple of hours later they would have dropped onto a battalion of elite german paratroops and faced heavy casualties capturing the airfield. 


Image One Source (British 1st Airborne troops training in N. Africa, 1943)
Image Two Source (Fallschirmjaeger pose in front of a JU-52)
Wings of War, (2005), P. Harclerode