WW2 SAAF 1 Squadron Fighter Pilot Vivian "Red" Penberthy

 Tribute web site: WW2 SAAF 1 sqdn Desert Fighter Pilot Vivian "Red" Penberthy


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 Mark Penberthy, son of Vivian Penberthy. Vivian was one of the few extremely young pilots who was involved with  the fierce air battles of the Western desert in 1941. Mark sent to me photograph scans and info of his dad and we decided to construct this web site.

The purpose of this site is to present and preserve these surviving documents and photographs related to the ww2 history of Lt. Vivian "Red" Penberthy. Also presented here the flight log book of Vivian, photographs of fellow pilots and other related historical information. 

Vivian joined the SAAF in January 1941 and within only 6.5 months of training  was thrown into battle against the German Luftwaffe and Italian Regia Aeronautica in North Africa. The odds against our SAAF squadrons were overwhelming as the German pilots had years of combat experience and their Messerschmitt bf-109's been superior in many respects to the SAAF's Hurricane aircraft.

Besides this desperate situation our SAAF boys put up a significant fight and many enemy aircraft were shot down. Vivian himself shot down 3 fighter aircraft before he got shot down on 7 December 1941. During his operational service in 1 SAAF squadron of 1941, he flew over 150 hours in 82 combat sorties within nearly 4 months. He was only 19 years of age.

The hardship did not end here. As prisoner of war Vivian spent 3 1/2 years in Italian- and German POW camps. In this time he was also in Stalag Luft III POW camp in Germany where the famous but tragic  "Great Escape" happened.

After the war Vivian left the SAAF and obtained an Agricultural degree at the University of Witwatersrand. He spent most of his life in Rhodesia with the Department of Agriculture. He was also prominent in the gliding circles in Rhodesia and was for a while the CFI at Midlands flying club.

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 Vivian in his squadron, photographs, stories etc. Please e-mail me. Most welcome will be any photographs of 1 squadron while Vivian 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

November 2011


 Military career

3/1/1941 – No. 1 Air School

31/1/1941 – No.2 EFTS

3/5/1941 – No. 21 Air School

25/6/1941 – Central Flying School

18/7/1941 – 71 OTU Ismalia

25/7/1941 – No 1 Squadron SAAF Western Desert

August 1941 –  Flew 18 operations (39.25 hours)


September 1941 – Total operations 40 (84.05 hours)

October 1941 – Total operations 48 (104 hours)

23rd October 1941 – ME109 destroyed

November 1941 – Total operations 75 (147.25 hours)

4th December 1941 – Mc202 destroyed

7th December 1941 – ME109 destroyed

7th December 1941 – Shot down; captured...

Total operations 82

POW 1941 – 1945 Italy (PG No.5) and Germany (Stalag Luft III)









 Training unit: Penberthy is in the 3d row from the front and 3d from the right.


Vivian with his Hurricane  in the desert.

Photograph caption: "Me and my bus"


Western desert 1941

Caption on this photograph: " A serious minded young man - posed while thinking of my mess account"


Western Desert 1941

Photograph caption:" First wash for four days-during our last blitz-always ready"


POW in Italy at PG No.5



Here a photograph of the 1 sqdn pilots having a meal at the officer's mess, LG130.  Vivian is seated next to Billy Herbert with Tom Meek, Jerks Mclean and Sandilands also at the table.

Remarkable find!  This photograph shows the serial number of DG626 and appears to be brand new and just being delivered. The long range fuel tanks are still attached.  Vivian flew this plane with his last couple of sorties and it was the the same machine that he got shot down on 7/12/1941. Thanks to Stefaan Bouwer for tracing this via his connections in Australia with "Buz and Sue"

Make a Free Website with Yola.