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Cheshire Steve

BARU North Africa 1943 role and location

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Looking through records of repair and salvage unit operating in the desert in 1943, I often see references to aircraft being delivered by land to B.A.R.U. - which I think is Base Aircraft Repair Unit. So these are planes that the RSU can't repair, as they fly out repaired planes. What I have failed to find is where the B.A.R.U. was located, and whether all planes that were scrap would be sent there as well as repairable ones, possibly for parts recovery. The RSU would change engines, but maybe they weren't able to handle airframe damage?

Anyone come across details of the B.A.R.U. operations?

Steve

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Thanks for that link - its the sort of information I was looking for but unable to find. From that I suspect the B.A.R.U. that is referred to is actually the British Airways Repair Unit at Heliopolis or Almaza (which are, as far as I can tell, the same place) - whereas I thought that interpretation of BARU must be a mistake. It still seems rather odd, British Airways Ltd was merged into BOAC in 1940. Civil aviation no doubt came under government control during the war, so were they deploying the in-house civilian expertise of the former British Airways as a Middle East base repair unit? It seems from your link that No 1 BARU became 168MU in 1/3/1944, and No 2 BARU became a BOAC unit at the same time - so maybe that does suggest a mix of military and civilians, later split into military and civilian outfits.

I have found a reference to an aircraft scrapyard at Heliopolis, so maybe it was the BARU that ultimately decided what could be saved from a crashed aircraft (or maybe just airframe) and disposed of the rest.

Steve

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There were still "Civil" airliners running during the war, under the auspices of BOAC.

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I think the acronym B.A.R.U. has a third interpretation - BOAC Aircraft Repair Unit. I have found it called that at this link which says it not only handled servicing of aircraft but also their reallocation between units (and from other sources also the retirement of aircraft and had a major scrapyard too) : http://www.adf-serials.com.au/bombay.htm

I have also found some detailed BOAC records, that record the creations of a British Airways Repair Unit in Cairo in August 1941, which is strange as minuted in Jan 1941 that BOAC must continue to call themselves BOAC and not British Airways. BOAC seems to have also taken over the ATA, so maybe BARU was also a main transport hub for ferried aircraft.

https://www.ab-ix.co.uk/pdfs/AMIL-BOAC-Gen-reports-services.pdf

The more I look at the Operational Records of 58RSU the more planes I see transported to B.A.R.U. mainly by road., and all types too. In the attached extract from the Operations Records, Harvard EX129, Tomahawk AK351, Tomahawk AN467, and Kittyhawk ET532. 4 planes in 4 days. It seems to have a pretty central role, handling and servicing huge numbers of aircraft but can't find much info about it at all. Maybe I am still using the wrong search terms.

1943Jul18.jpg

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Found something in "RAF Middle East - Official Story of Air Operations Feb 1942 - Jan 1943", which has a chapter on the backup operation that kept the planes flying, including RSUs and the dispersal of all sorts of maintenance (engine repair, plating worn parts, etc), and then mentions the following :

"In the summer of 1941 a hangar in an existing airfield was handed over to 5 engineers of British Overseas Aircraft Corporation, and they started to scout the back streets of Cairo to buy hammers, pliers, hacksaws, and such elementary tools, with which to found a unit for the repair of damaged airframes (the body of the aircraft as distinct from its engines). Within a year the unit had grown to many hangars, all crowded with aircraft needing repair, ranging in size from the smallest communications machine to the largest Liberator bomber. And more than 1000 aircraft had been rebuilt and sent back into the fight."

So I think that is it - the BOAC Aircraft Repair Unit or BARU grew from a few BOAC engineers to a huge unit in the desparate early part of the war in North Africa. It was the location where recovered aircraft are shipped back to by the RSUs where airframe work is needed, or to salvage airframe parts to repair others. They don't name the airfield, but lots of other sources refer to aircraft being deliveredto or from BARU Heliopolis at least to September 1943, and in early 1944 it seems much of this activity came under 168MU.

Steve

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