Butch Freeman

Hi and welcome to this site;

While doing video interviews with surviving ww2 SAAF fighter pilots and subsequent research on their whereabouts, I made contact with Harry Freeman. He was a Spitfire pilots who served with 1 squadron in Italy during the latter part of the war. Harry kindly agreed to be video interviewed while telling some of his war stories.

The purpose of this site is to present these video interviews. Also presented here is the flight log book of Harry, photographs of fellow pilots and other related historical information.

Harry flying again at 90! Harry's children gave him this very special 90th birthday gift October 2012: a flip in a Tiger Moth that he also flew as a pupil pilot 70 years ago. (thanks Beverly for these pics)

 Harry joined the SAAF in 1941 at the age of 18. He did the usual ground and flight training courses to be qualified as a pilot in September 1942.  He was sent to North Africa in early 1943 as stand-by pilot for the combat fighter squadrons. By this time the Allied Air Forces had the upper hand over the Luftwaffe and fortunately the SAAF pilot casualties became less with subsequent few replacement opportunities.

While not being placed in a fighter squadron, Butch was posted to various units for advanced fighter training in the Middle East.

Eventually he was transferred to 1 squadron,  flying Spitfires on mainly escourts, ground bombing and -strafing missions. During this time he was twice severely wounded and both these instances returned the aircraft to base safely. For this he was awarded the DFC.

After the war Harry left the SAAF and worked in the insurance sector until his retirement in 1992.

This is a living web site. Any input and/or participation will be much appreciated regarding additional information, correctness, information from relatives of members who served with Harry in his squadron, photographs, stories etc. Please e-mail me. Most welcome will be any photographs of 1 squadron while Harry was with them.

If you have a family member who served as a SAAF fighter pilot during ww2 and you want to find out more about his war service please contact me and maybe I can be of assistance.

Tinus le Roux

February 2012

 Military service

 06/07/1941      No. 75  Air School Lyttleton

01/02/1942      No. 1 Air School Baragwanath (55 hours on Tiger Moths and Hornets)

25/03/1942      No. 25 Air School Standerton (88 hours on Miles Master)

27/11/1942      Getting wings

03/02/1943      71 OTU Carthago

13/03/1943      Various SAAF and RAF units in Middle East

23/10/1943      1 Sqdn SAAF, operational service (Spitfires 8 and 9)

26/12/1943      Gunnery School El Ballah

07/02/1944      1 Sqdn SAAF, operational service (Spitfires 8 and 9)

20/04/1944      Attacked by USAAF fighters, wounded, hospitalized

16/08/1944      Hit by enemy 40mm anti-aircraft fire, wounded, hospitalized

02/02/1945      No. 25 Air School

16/03/1945      Middle East, No’s 3 and 5 F.U., RAF

??/??/1945      DFC awarded

27/06/1945      1 Sqdn SAAF, flying Mustangs, prepare for operational service Far East

29/11/1945      Demobilized





Harry (R) with Colin Shaw at Trigno in Italy. Photograph from Bomb Finney's collection.


Standing L-R Lts Kritzinger, Anthony, Werner, Golding, Freeman Sitting Lt Shaw, Capt Wayberne,Lt MacWilliams, Schoen, Roy, Mitchell,Langton, Keyser,Boyd 

Harry next to Cecil Golding, photograph from Hinton Brown collection.


Wings parade;  November 1942, Standerton


Harry and Margaret after the war


Wedding on  11 March 1950 



Distinguished  Flying Cross "DFC" 


Harry's war service medals



ITALY 1943 - 1944

Harry went “up North” in March 1943. He did training at the 71 OTU (Operational Training Unit) and a number of other units on Harvards, Tomahawks, Kittihawks, Hurricanes and Spitfires.

Eventually in November 1943 Butch joined the “Billy Boys” of 1 SAAF squadron stationed at Palata in Italy. Here he flew the Spitfire Mk VIII and Mk IX.

The squadron was then led by major Hannes Faure and later major Johnny Seccombe. 

Operational missions were mainly bomber escourts,  bomb line patrols, top cover for bombing missions and recce patrols. Later the squadron changed to dive bombing and ground strafing missions.

On  2nd of April 1944  he was attacked by friendly P-38 aircraft from the     USAAF formation. With bullet wounds on his leg, arm and shoulder and a damaged Spitfire he managed to return the aircraft safely but was hospitalized.

16 August 1944, Harry was on a dive-bombing mission where they successfully destroyed a bridge. With subsequent ground strafing his Spitfire was hit by 40mm flak and Harry was severely injured. He returned with the aircraft safely to base, made a crash landing and became unconscious due to blood loss. Again hospitalized, this time for nearly 3 months. On his return to the squadron he was sent back to the Union. (November 1944)

In this tour Harry flew 165 operational hours with 116 combat sorties. 

Video on How Harry got wounded 

Video on How Harry was shot down by US fighters. 


Gunnery course at El Ballah, Egypt. Harry in front on the left. This course was from Dec 1943 to Jan 1944. Photograph obtained from Fritz Johl who was also on this course.


1 Squadron Spitfire IX in Italy with a 500 lb bomb under the belly.


 Harry 3d from right in front.

Spitfire under service:  photograph from the collection of armaments officer Labby Labistour


Clipped wing Spitfires taking off: Labistour photographs

Here photographs of Harry's collection:


Landing ground at ? in Italy


Hannes Faure, OC of 1 squadron with Captain  "Pops" Vossie  Vos, Ops officer of 1 sqdn.

1 Squadron mechanics


Hannes Faure with his two flight leaders: Stewart "Bomb" Finney and Lippie Lipawsky.


L.R. ; ?, Harry Gaynor, ? and the two squadron dogs Daba and Chum.


Harry Gaynor with Daba and Chum.


The king visiting  7 SAAF  wing where 1 squadron was part of.


Harry in front row 3d from left. Capt Vossie front row second from right. Hinton Brown in back row second from left.


 Harry in second  row second from right. Capt Vossie front row second from left. Hinton Brown in second row  on the right.

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