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BATTLES IN THE DARKNESS
On the night of 12/13 March the enemy launched a major attack on Liverpool when more than 300 aircraft were despatched. That night there was a full moon and little cloud conditions that greatly improved the chances of the Defiant units intercepting Luftwaffe bombers [..].
No 264 Sqn. flying from Biggin Hill, enjoyed better luck. Firstly, Flg Off Desmond Hughes (in N 1801) spotted an He 111 over Dorking and was able to claim his fourth victory;
The enemy aircraft was engaged from about 50 yards from this position with a series of one-second bursts. The first burst started a small fire in the starboard engine, whilst the next two bursts set the engine thoroughly on fire. Sgt Gash transferred his attention to the cabin and fired several more bursts, the de Wilde ammunition being seen to burst inside the cabin, which forthwith filled with flames. The bandit then fell in a left hand spiral dive and plunged to earth, where the bomb load exploded.
The pilot of the He 111, Stabsfeldwebel Karl Bruning of 5./KG 55, was the only survivor. He later recalled, ‘All hell was let loose. Both engines were hit – they stopped at once’. Bailing out, he noted ‘below me I saw my aeroplane spiralling earthwards in flames.
More information from this forum thread: http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/showthread.php?t=7504
I’m researching my father’s history during the war and am following up a story told about his service with the Home Guard. Apparently whilst serving he was present when a German fighter pilot was downed and captured by the local Home Guard. Date March 1941, area Ockley Surrey, whilst waiting for the young man to be collected by the powers that be everyone was offered a cup of tea by the local farmer’s wife except the pilot – Dad (a pilot himself) insisted that he be offered one also upsetting the rest of the Guard! Question – can anyone verify the loss of a fighter over Surrey at that time. Any details/information would be appreciated.
In looking through the daily entries for March 1941 in Vol 2 of The Blitz Then and Now, there are only a few fighter losses, and those either had no survivors or were lost in the Channel. However, there is one rather lengthy detailed account on pp. 468-469 by Stabsfeldwebel Karl Bruning of KG55 telling of his being shot down by a Defiant of No. 264 Squadron around 9:30 the night of March 12, with his He 111 crashing at Dene Farm, Ockley, Surrey. Bruning, the pilot, bailed out but was the only survivor from his crew. He recounts how he was picked up by two people who turned him over to a Home Guard unit, and was given tea and cigarettes. This must be the capture that your father related to you.
Adam added this interesting information about the badge:
Fred explained their badge.Irish legends have it that two giants wanted to claim the land as their own. As they waded towards the coast one cut off his hand and threw it so it landed on the land (Ulster) first, hence the red hand.
I know that after 264 Fred joined another Defiant unit 515 Squadron that had a system named Moonshine, it sought to replicate large formations of bombers to confuse the German Freya radar system. It was a dangerous mission as the Defiant was unarmed in this version.Regards Adam
Fred Gash joined the RAF in September 1939 as an Airman u/t Air Gunner. He completed his training and joined 264 Squadron at Kirton-in-Lindsey in August 1940. Gash teamed up with P/O FD Hughes and on 26th August they destroyed two Do17’s in daylight.
In the early hours of the morning of 16th October they destroyed a He111 over Brentwood and then overshot the runway in mist on return to Luton. Both were unhurt.
Above: Gash, standing left, with S/Ldr. PA Hunter of 264
During the night of 23rd November they attacked a He111 but Gash’s turret jammed and it was only claimed as a probable. Hughes and Gash destroyed a He111 on 12th March 1941, damaged another on 8th April and destroyed a Ju88 on the night of the 10/11th.
Gash was awarded the DFM (gazetted 18th April 1941) and Hughes the DFC.
His subsequent service is currently undocumented but Gash was commissioned in May 1943 from Warrant Officer and released from the RAF in 1945 as a Flight Lieutenant.
Wing Commander Frederick Desmond Hughes, Commanding Officer of No. 604 Squadron RAF standing in front of a De Havilland Mosquito NF Mark XIII at Predannack, Cornwall. 1944/45
© IWM (CH 14226)
Colorised by Doug Banks
He wears the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) with two bars and the ’39/45 Star with the Battle of Britain rosette (D. Banks)
Frederick Desmond Hughes was born in Donaghadee near Belfast, the son of the director of a linen firm, on 6th June 1919 and educated at Campbell College, Belfast and Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he read Law.
He learned to fly with the University Air Squadron and he was granted a Direct-Entry Commission in the RAF on 3rd October 1939. He went to No. 1 ITW Cambridge in November 1939. On 1st January 1940 Hughes was posted to RAF College FTS Cranwell on No. 2 war course.
He was detached for a few days in May to 5 FTS Sealand to convert to Masters. He then returned to Cranwell, where the course ended on 1st June. Hughes was sent immediately to No. 1 School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum for No. 8 Course. On 10th June Hughes was one of 20 officers from the course who were posted to 5 OTU Aston Down. After converting to Defiants he was posted to 264 Squadron at Duxford on the 19th.
Flying with Sgt. F Gash as his gunner, Hughes claimed two Do17’s destroyed on 26th August, a He111 destroyed during the night of 15th/16th October, a He111 damaged on 23rd/24th November, a He111 destroyed on 12th/13th March 1941, a He111 probably destroyed on 8th/9th April and a He111 shot down on 10th/11th April.
Hughes was awarded the DFC (gazetted 18th April 1941) and Gash the DFM.
In January 1942 Hughes was posted to 125 Squadron at Colerne as a Flight Commander. He shared in the squadron’s first victory, a Ju88 on 27th June.
Later that year he also became the first (or one of the first) to take his pet dog on a sortie. His mongrel Scruffy, dressed in flying overalls for warmth, survived the sortie, only to be killed by a WAAF truck driver shortly afterwards.
Later in the year he teamed up with P/O L Dixon and they shared in the destruction of a Ju88 on 4th November.
Hughes joined 600 Squadron in North Africa on 19th January 1943 as a Flight Commander. Dixon went with him and during the night of 23rd/24th January they claimed two Ju88’s destroyed and on 12th/13th February a Cant Z1007.
Hughes was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 13th April 1943).
On 25th/26th April they claimed a Ju88 destroyed, on 12th/13th July a He111, on the 20/21st a Ju88, on 11th/12th August three Ju88’s and on the 17th/18th a Ju87.
Hughes was awarded a second Bar to the DFC (gazetted 28th September 1943).
At the end of 1943 he was posted back to the UK and went to a staff job at Fighter Command. In February 1944 he was promoted to Acting Wing Commander and posted to 85 Group TAF. Hughes returned to operations on 19th July 1944, taking command of 604 Squadron at Hurn.
In early August the squadron was operating from A-8, an airstrip close to the Arromanches beaches. With Dixon as his navigator, Hughes destroyed a Ju88 on 6th/7th August and they claimed their final victory on 13th/14th January 1945, a Ju188 over Rotterdam.
Hughes was awarded the DSO (gazetted 23rd March 1945).
He served on the directing staff of the RAF Staff College, Bracknell between 1954 and 1956 after which he was personal staff officer to the Chief of the Air Staff, then Air Chief Marshal Sir Dermot Boyle, for two years. Between 1959 and 1961 he was station commander at Geilenkirchen in West Germany. In 1962-64 he was director of air staff plans at the Ministry of Defence and ADC to the Queen.
As commandant of the RAF College, Cranwell between 1970 and 1972 he supervised the Prince of Wales’s flying training and presided over the college’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
Hughes was awarded the AFC (gazetted 1st January 1954), made a CBE (gazetted 1st January 1962), a CB (1972) and retired on 6th June 1974 as an Air Vice-Marshal.
He was made a Deputy Lieutenant of Lincolnshire in 1983.
He died on 11th January 1992.
This is post number 30 on this blog.
Little did I know someone was looking for Fred Gash back in the 70s.
Collection Gérard Pelletier
In the 70s I was a history teacher too young to be teaching history. In fact in 34 years as a teacher, I only taught history for two years to 12 year-old students in Montreal-North.
I learned very little about World War II when I was a student in the 50s and 60s. What I had learned was in war movies and in WWII books and comic books. In 2009 I found out that my wife’s uncle was a sailor on HMCS Athabaskan. I got curious when he did not want to tell us more about that faithful night on April 29, 1944.
This led me to write a blog which I named Souvenirs de Guerre. This blog was written in French to pay homage to a kid who lied on his age to join the Royal Canadian Navy. I then created Lest We Forget which is an English version of Souvenirs de guerre when English speaking people started sharing their Souvenirs de guerre or their father’s, uncles’ or grandfathers’ war memories.
Little by little my interest for WWII, which started back in 1958, led me to create more and more blogs like this one. 264 Squadron was created to pay homage to Sergeant Gérard Pelletier.
Sergeant Pelletier’s body was never found. He left an album with hundreds of photos which are all on this blog. Gérard’s niece shared all about her uncle.
Even his log book.
Fred Gash’s photo was one of the photos. He was posing for posterity with “Bubbles” Chandler.
Yesterday someone contacted me about Fred Gash.
I knew Fred Gash in Woking. We dug up a Heinkel that he shot down in 1941. His Pilot was Hawkeye Hughes. I presented him with part of the German bomber
Adam shared these combat reports…
A letter dated 6 December 1978…
A picture of Flight Lieutenant Hughes’ Boulton Paul Defiant.
Pages of his album…
A part of Heinkel 2994 of KG55.
Adam added these notes…
On 12/3 /41 Hughes and Gash intercepted the Heinkel 111 and shot it down over Surrey.
We dug some relics up in 1978/79 as part of an aviation archaeological team,The Air Historical Group based in Surrey. We had full Ministry permission to excavate as well as the farm owner.
Combat report showing Fred’s signature.
Desmond Hughes mentions Fred’s eyesight in his letter to me.
This is another combat report involving Fred .The Dornier has been raised and will be restored for the RAF Museum. It is currently at RAF Cosford (see newspaper cutting below).
Above is a photo of Hughes & Fred’s Defiant at either West Malling or Biggin Hill in 1941 showing 5 kills below the cockpit. The badge is the Red Hand of Ulster where Hughes came from originally.
Above is the important Heinkel makers plate showing 2994 which is so important when confirming historical detail. The German pilot baled out and was a POW in Canada for 4 years his name was Brunning.
Naturally Fred’s name is on the Battle if Britain memorial on Westminster a Embankment, London which I have visited
Hope this helps, Adam, Surrey UK
To be continued…