Episode 32 – First the Canberras, Buccaneers and Mirages then the paratroopers leap into hi

This is episode 32 and we’re joining with the SADF paratroopers aboard 9 planes flying towards Cassinga for the start of Operation Reindeer.

Its just before 8am on the 4th May 1978. Three hundred and 43 parachutists from 1,2 and 3 parachute battalions are about to jump from these planes in an airborne assault on SWAPOs HQ in southern Angola.

The major punch in this operation was going to be delivered by the Canberra medium bombers and six naval type low level Buccaneer bombers. Canberra’s had been in service with the Royal Air Force for twenty years and could fly at 50 000 feet – it also had a useful range of 2 600 nautical miles.
Unfortunately for the SADF, the bombing run that was about to take place just after 08h00 hours did not achieve its aims. The Canberra’s were up first, hugging the curves of the earth and at high speed. This meant that no-one heard them coming inside Cassinga. The Camberra’s arrived almost in silence, and just short of their IP or initial point they lifted their noses and climbed to a few hundred feet spewing the Alpha bombs from their open bomb bays.

These laid a carpet of spherical devices that exploded just above head height after they bounced – two lines of Camberra’s rushed over the town from north to south and side by side but many of the devices actually ended up bouncing into the bush and exploding over no-one. As the paratroopers were going to discover, the defenders had been shaken but not broken by that first run.