Wilbur Wannenburg

These photographs originate from the private collection of  34 sqdn Air Gunner Wilbur Wannenburg. It was kindly made available by him. I scanned and placed the photographs on this web site in order to share these gems to enthusiasts and the wider public. 

Thanks to Christel de Wit who helped with captions of the photographs.

Please respect the copy rights of these photographs and contact me to obtain the necessary permission if you want to duplicate some of this material in other web sites or printed matter.


Tinus le Roux

May 2013 


1) Foefie Van Rensburg and Wannie, 43 Air School, Port Alfred, South Africa


2} Wannie's brother Chippy and his Dad and Whiskey.


3) Wannie, still a pupil Pilot with his Brother Chippy


4) Allan, Uncle Dickey and Wannie, still a pupil pilot


5)  Chippy Wannenburg


6)  Chippy, Air Gunner in 24 Squadron SAAF in the Western Desert


7) In Johannesburg, Still a pupil pilot


8) Passing out parade: Straight Air Gunner: October 1944,  34  Air School, Port Alfred, South Africa


9) Wilbur Wannenburg: Straight Air Gunner - getting  half wing, October 1944


10) Liberator Heavy Bomber of the South African Air Force: EV 105 G of Sq 31 SAAF, flying over Cairo on the way to Celone Airfield , Foggia Italy 1944

      This same Liberator, under Lt P Robert (Bob) Klette flew a supply drop mission to Warsaw, in aid of the Polish Home Army, and on night of 13/14 August

      1944 it made a miracle crash landing on Warsaw aerodrome, with the wheels up. All crew was taken POW except WOII Herbert James Brown, who died in  

     German captivity a few days later.


11) The full aircrew of the famous Sq 34 SAAF Liberator KL 367 F. It was the only SAAF Heavy Bomber Liberator ever to visit South Africa  (May 1945)

       The Crew:Back left to right: Lt Clarry Land – (Wireless Op), Lt Puxley ( Pux) - ( 2nd Pilot), Capt Val Andries - ( Pilot), 

       Pilot Officer Jeff Willis RAF – (Bomb Aimer), Lt Andy Anderson -( mid upper Gunner), Lt Bill Holden – (Navigator)

     Front left to right: WOII Wilbur Wannenburg ( Wannie) – ( Beam Gunner) and Sgt Paddy Walsh RAF - (Rear Gunner)


12) The War in Europe over, we signed up for the Far East and left our base at Celone in Italy for Cairo to await orders for the Far East. The Japanese

       surrendered and we remained in Egypt ( Shandur) to assist with the shuttle service bringing all soldiers back home.  Here we arrive from Celone in Cairo

     West Aug 1945.




14) Aviano, Italy - the Liberators of Sq 31 and Sq 34 SAAF drop supllies


15) . Liberator V of Sq 31 


16) Liberator X for X-ray of Sq 34 SAAF  (Graffiti at back " X for Breakfast")


17) Wheels up as a Liberator takes off from Celone Italy in 1945


18)  Lib from beam 1945


19) Celone Airfield, Foggia complex Italy, 1945. Home of 2 Wing SAAF ( Squadron 31 and Squadron 34) and also the 463rd Heavy Bombardment Group (H), 5th Group, 15th USAAF.  Notice the old and the new runways.


20) This could be Liberator KH 239 S that went down, in bad weather, on a supply drop to Italian Partisans on the night of 12/13 October 1944 at Cantalupa


21) WOII Wilbur Wannenburg, Air Gunner, Sq 34 proudly wearing his Squadron 34 badge  


22) WOII Wilbur Wannenburg after a trip to Capri, wearing the Clover Shamrock Bells of San Michele - a good luck charm from WWII



23) Supply Canisters parachuting down over Yugoslavia for the Partisan Forces of Marshall Tito, Feb 1945


24) The Sq 34 erks ( Ground Crew) of KL 367 F.   Kotze is a misspelling, the Crew chief was Air Cpl Euverard Coetzee.

      The crew is:   Back Row Left to Right: Cpl Euverard Coetzee ( note stripes) - Crew Chief; Armourer - Unknown; Els - Engine Fitter. 

      Front Row Left to Right: Philips - Engine Fitter;  Van Niekerk - Engine Fitter; Ground Crew - Unknown; Front Dodds - Engine Fitter. 


25) Field Marshall Jan Christiaan Smuts visits 2 Wing SAAF just after VE Day May 1945


26) The Squadron dogs being fed by Air Gunner Grenville Doke- Sq 34 Camp at Celone, July 1945

Grenville Doke (A.G.) feeding the dogs outside his residence. My diary 1st April 1945 - "My 22nd raid this afternoon, on Arsa coal wharf. Flak was very accurate but the weather was bad and we were not very successful. Captain Rosslee's kite was holed twice - just missed Dupe and the navigator. On the way to the target they came alongside and Grenville (Doke) took a photograph of us. Only in the air for 3 hours 35 minutes. Our escort was there and if there were any Gerry fighters in the area they kept away from us. There can't be many of them left." (I do not have the photo Grenville took. Re "Dupe" - Du Plessis, Captain Rosslee's second dickey? I cannot remember).


27) Sq 31 camp in the bitter winter of Dec/Jan 1944/45: New Years Day Celone Airfield, Foggia Italy, 1945




29) Bombing up the Flying Fortresses ( B-17's) of 463rd Heavy Bombardment Group (H), 15th USAAF at Celone


30) A mission over Yugoslavia crossing the The Dinaric Alps or Dinarides


31) The Celone Airfield, one of many airfields in the Foggia complex.



32) At Foggia Town Square: WOII Wilbur Wannenburg,  WOII (Steve) L Stephens and WOII Bill Pretorius - Air Gunners Sq 34 SAAF

      Steve : L. Stephens 607248V Airgunner of Sq 34 died in an aircrash over Celone.  SQ 31 Liberator KK 302 H, coming back from bombing the

      marshalling yards at Brescia Italy, was circling to come into land at Celone airfield and collided mid air with an RAF Wellington KL355 of 70 Sq  and all

     crew were killed.  Steve flew that day as Air Gunner with a Sq 31 crew.  He shared a tent with Wannie.  


33) At the Celone Aircraft Dump : A crashed Junkers JU 88 left behind by the feeling German Forces.  Mac McNamara and Steve ( L Stephens) inspects.


34)Grenville Doke (Doak) Sq 34 (RAF VR) and Wilbur Wannenburg after VJ day (Aug 1945) at Almaza SAAF Base (Transit) Camp near Heliopolis, outside Cairo 

  "I was at Almaza (arrived November 1944) on the way to Italy. (Picture - Grenville Doke and me dressed suitably for an Egyptian summer day). After the war in Europe ended we went back to Almaza, to join the Squadron going out to the Far East but the atomic bombs were dropped, the Japanese surrendered and we were sent to Shandur to make room at Almaza for the personnel being sent home. I stayed at Shandur for about five months and we did not know at the time that the Libs had left Celone and were operating from Shallufa, not too far away."


35) Alf Klein, Sq 34 SAAF Air gunner in Crew of Capt Arthur Bernstein, at the Celone dump site


36) Bill Pretorius, at Almaza 1944 before going to Celone: later Sq 34 SAAF Air Gunner in Crew of Capt Arthur Bernstein at Celone


  37) L (Steve) Stephens at Almaza 1944 before going to Celone  

37a)  L. Stephens 607248V Airgunner of Sq 34 died in an aircrash over Celone on 4 April 1945.  SQ 31 Liberator KK 302 H, coming back from bombing the marshalling yards at Brescia Italy, was circling to come in to land at Celone airfield and collided mid air with an RAF Wellington KL355 of 70 Sq  and all crew were killed.  Steve flew that day as Air Gunner with a Sq 31 crew.  He shared a tent with Wannie.  Steve and the rest of his crew are buried in the Bari War Cemetary, Italy.


38) Shorty Marx, Mac McNamara and Bill Pretorius at the Dumpsite at Celone 1945


39) Grenville Doke (Doak) at the Dumpsite posing with a German Junkers JU 88


40) Housing built from Bomb crates with tented roofs: This Casa belonging to Harry Human of Sq 34


41) Outside 34 Sq Ops Room - Squadron stand down today - the white flag is up


42) Wilbur Wannenburg, Sept 1944, prior to going to 43 Airschool at Port Alfred


43) Tommy: WO II  A R Thomas Air Gunner. Killed when Liberator KH 150 R of Sq 34 was shot down by anti-aircraft fire over Yugoslavia on  6/3/1945,  after bombing the Marshalling Yards at Graz, Austria. All crew died. Tommy is buried at the War Cemetery in Udine, Italy


44) Sgt Paddy Walsh - RAF(VR) - Rear Gunner


45) After the end of the war WOII Wilbur Wannenburg was based at Shandur in Egypt, assisting in transport flights to bring the troops home ( Tinus hope this is correct - he was at Shandur but what exactly he did I cannot recall right now, did he join Sq 24 - would like to know - cannot check as I do not have logbook - do you?)  Left to Right: Les, Ken, WOII Wilbur Wannenburg, Billy, Bob


46) WOII Bill Pretorius and Mac McNamara at Almaza base camp before going onto Celone.


47) WOII Wilbur Wannenburg (left) and WOII Alf Klein (right) - both Sq 34 Air Gunners, outside their tent at Celone Foggia, Italy 1945 - going to town means going into Foggia town. The Aerial, being the long pole visible, so as to catch the American GI Radio station Broadcast from Foggia: The American Expeditiary Forces radio station operated out of Foggia. And at 6am each morning with "Music while you Wake" whereafter at 6:30 am came on The Speckled Bird" with music requests, where name and tent number were mentioned amid light hearted chatter by the beloved "Bird".

 "Me on the left, Alf Klein on the right. Our tent behind. We found out that it was possible to build a crystal radio set using a razor blade and understood that a good aerial was necessary. We did not believe in half measures - note the aerial reaching for the sky. To listen to the Yank radio station in Foggia we used our flying helmets - one lead to the tip of the male plug, another to the back. Don't ask me how the thing worked!"

48)  "34 Squadron A.G. Alf Klein on the parking area. Admin and ops room buildings in the background."


49) Reale Square Sorrento where WOII Wilbur Wannenburg went on leave staying at the Hotel Reale and having a spot of Vermouth in a tea cup on the terrace before 10am in the morning with Sgt Clarry Land. Alcohol was not served before 10 in morning, but the Hotel Reale staff were innovative!


50) A B-17 Flying Fortress lying at the aircraft dump at Celone - WOII Grenville Doke (Doak) at 912






"My diary 3rd April, 1945. Novska Marshalling Yards Yugoslavia. My 23rd op. We took off at 18.05 in F. We have flown in her nine times since that test flight and I think Skipper must have some influence with the O.C. or whoever. After that test he said she was heavy on take-off but that he liked her. So, when we use her I stand behind Skipper on take-off and watch for the end of the runway and I give a silent sigh of relief when she lifts. It is silly, really, because her undercarriage is always well clear of the runway long before we get to the end and I do have faith in Skipper. We had no trouble on the trip to Novska or over the target but a kite blew up in front of us on the way back - just over the Dalmation coast. It was on the water burning when we first saw it but when we got to what we thought was the approximate position the fire was out and we couldn't see a thing. It was almost pitch dark, there was no moon. I couldn't see a thing and with Skipper manoeuvring the kite like that I did not know whether I was looking down at the sea or up at the sky at times. Captain Rosslee arrived on the scene and luckily he came in on our starboard side because Pux was flying F at the time and he saw Captain Rosslee. It must have been about an hour after our arrival that we set course for because we were starting to run short of fuel. We left M there. We landed at 23.10 and they arrived back at base at 23.45. The only news today is that one of 70 (RAF) Squadron's kites is missing. Somebody said that two chutes were seen to open after the explosion and that a portion of the kite burned for seven minutes after hitting the water."

53) "pupils on Course Pilots Navigators Bomb Aimers at 65 Air School Feb/August 1944: Left to right front row - Cowie, Davies, Roy Dietz, Joe Erasmus, Fourie, Green, Hardie, Halliday, Kendall, Kruger. Back row : : Handley, Hunter, Ken Hussey, MacKenzie, Pritchard, Ruda, Vause, "Dougie" (Greek), Baxter, Brand. 

CORRECTION: In the second photo below read "Stowe" for "Vause"

 54) "part of Course 21 B at 65 Air School Feb - August 1944 : Left to right front row - Yugoslav (name unknown), Wilbur Wannenburg, Yugoslav. Back row - Madsen, McNamara (went to 34 Squadron), O'Brien,Dave Rawden (31Squadron),Doc Russell (arrived 34 Squadron about 4th April 1945 and wrongly referred to as D), Bob Salveson, Smythe, Stephens (34 with Capt. Uys), Vause, Foofie van Ryneveld."

 55) "We never had a photo taken because nobody wanted to stand on the extreme left but long after the War, for the sake of my family's history, I decided to assume that position so that later generations could see what Dad/Grandpa/Greatgrandpa wore when he was flying. Left to right - Wilbur, Mac (MacNamara), Alf Klein, Bill Pretorius, Tommy (WO1 Thomas), Steve (Stephens)"

 56)" Course PNB (Pilots, Navigators, Bombaimers) 21 (b) at 75 Air School and the surnames of the pupils but will only post them if you think they will be useful. When we remustered and went down to 64 Air School the courses were very much smaller and not all of them had been with me on 21(b). Here is a picture of Course VPAG (Volunteer Pupil Air Gunner) 1 (3) "C" at Port Alfred. Left to right back row (no first names unfortunately): Prinsloo, Pietersen, Muir, Pretorius (Bill, ended up in my tent at 34),Wilson, Vlok,Nunns, Stephens (in my tent at 34, flew with Capt. Uys and wrongly referred to as Stevens, not Stephens, elsewhere. Front row - Porter, Wannenburg, Van Ryneveld, Wilson, Perry. After passing out and having enjoyed some leave we were sent hither and thither. Some of them I never saw again. In December, at Almaza I was told I was going to 25 Squadron (Marauders). I was shipped to Italy and on 15th December 1944, at Advanced Transit Camp at Bari I recorded - "Things are moving: we are on stand-by and the gen is that we are leaving tomorrow. We were also told that we are not going to 25 Squadron, we are going to 2 Wing which is operating from Foggia with Liberators. These are heavy bombers, 4 engines."

57)  "As far as I know they are all of 31 Squadron or of roads in its vicinity On 34 we also had snow but the road running passed our camp to the airstrip was in far better condition."


 58)"F over Celone. It is a display at the Ysterplaat Museum. I bought a plastic Lib, put it together, added some roundels (not necessarily accurate) also an "F", had a photo of Celone enlarged and mounted it all in a plastic container. The Museum added a miniature medal awarded for the Warsaw ops and also put a picture of a Lib and crew on the outside (at the back) of the container, The actual display looks far better than the photo - I used my camera and found that the light bouncing off the different sides of the container did not really result in a clear picture."

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