Petrus ‘Dutch’ Hugo. ‘Dutch’ Hugo did not go through the University Flying Squadrons, but joined the Royal Air Force the traditional way.
Hugo took part in the Battle of France, The Battle of Britain, air battles over Dieppe, commanded a Wing in the Battle for Tunisia and in the Battle for what Churchill called Europe’s soft underbelly, Italy. His final assignment was the liaison officer to Marshall Tolbukin’s 2nd Ukrainian Army.
Hugo was the youngest person to reach the rank of Group Captain in the Royal Air Force and was decorated with the D.S.O., D.F.C. with 2 Bars, 1939-1945 Star with the “Battle of Britain Clasp”, Air Crew Europe Star with the “France and Germany” clasp, and Africa Star with the “North Africa 1942-43” Clasp, Italy Star, Defence Medal, War Medal, American Distinguished Flying Cross and the French Republic Croix de Guerre 1939-45 with Bronze Palme.
Along the way Hugo accounted for 17 destroyed and 5 shared destroyed; 2 unconfirmed destroyed, 6 unconfirmed damaged, 3 probables and 7 damaged enemy aircraft.
Hugo proudly stands amongst his fellow South African Aces who served with distinction in the Royal Air Force, all of whom scored in excess of 16 aerial victories in World War II: Pat Pattle, “Sailor” Malan, Chris Le Roux and Albert Lewis.
A special thanks to Tinus Le Roux for the use of his photographs from Pampoensdrift.
Pilot Officer Petrus Hendrick (“Dutch”) Hugo was born on a farm, Pampoenpoort on December 20th, 1917, in the sheep rearing country of Victoria West. He was the son of Pieter Francois Hugo and Susanna Catharina Hugo. After matriculating, he studied aeronautics at the Witwatersrand Technical College. (Some sources say he attended the Witwatersrand College of Aeronautical Engineering) He joined the RAF in December 1938 when England began to expand her air strength after the Munich crisis, being awarded first place for Dominions in the entrance examination. Hugo did his ab initio training at 6 E&RFTS, Sywell, and a civil flying school. His Afrikaans origins and pronounced accent soon earned him the nickname “Dutch”, and he was known by this throughout his RAF service. Hugo spent six months at Number 13 Flying School at Drem and was classified as an exceptional Pilot, an excellent marksman and suitable for a posting to a fighter squadron on completion of his training. Hugo went to the 11 Group Pool at St Athan, Wales, on 23 October, 1939 to attend Fighter School. He was then posted to No. 2 Ferry Pool at Filton in on 17 November, 1939.
Hugo was posted to No. 615 Squadron on December, 1939. He was promoted to Flying Officer on 21 October,1940. He was awarded the DSO on 29 May, 1942. He received the D.F.C. on 23 August, 1940, the first Bar on 25 November, 1941 and the second Bar on 16 February, 1943. He ended the battle with 4 kills and two shared.
Hugo’s first few years were spent on a farm near Frankfort in the Free State where the family had an English governess so when he moved to Victoria West in the Karoo he and his brothers had some difficulty with their mother tongue in this predominantly Afrikaans speaking community. Piet was a clever child and was soon fluent again. After matriculating he enrolled at the Witwatersrand Technical College and despite impressive progress towards a degree in aeronautical engineering he decided to quit his studies in 1938 and sailed in 1938 to join the RAF. With a certain war brewing between Britain and Nazi Germany, many Afrikaaners in the Karoo did not fancy fighting in what they called a jingo’s war and Piet’s decision wasn’t a popular one.
In 1938 Hugo went to Britain and attended a Royal Air Force course at Sywell Civil Flying School in early 1939. There he received 50 hours’ preliminary training. His Afrikaans name and accent soon earned him the name “Dutch”, and thus he was known to the RAF throughout his service. Hugo was promoted to Pilot officer on probation on 21 October 1939.
At the end of his training at No. 13 Flying Training School at Drem he was deemed “an exceptional pilot, an excellent marksman and suitable for a fighter squadron.” He was posted to the Fighter School at St Athan in Wales, and then to No. 2 Ferry Pool, Filton near Bristol. He escaped this fate in December 1939; three months after the war began, with a posting to No 615 (County of Surrey) Squadron at Vitry-en-Artios, in France.
No. 615 Squadron was an Auxiliary Air Force Squadron and was equipped with Gloster Gladiators at the time, and Hugo had his first operational flights in these obsolete biplanes. On 23 January 1940 Hugo was promoted to the rank of Pilot Officer, the probation falling away.
The weather was so bad at Vitry-en-Artois that No. 615 found it easier to operate from St Ingelvert nearby. Even there, the severe frost made the muddy ruts dangerous, as they froze hard.
Hugo and his fellow pilots suffered the boredom and appalling weather of winter, 1940, doing practice escort affiliations with the Lysanders of No. 2 and 26 (Army Co-operation) Squadrons, but were delighted towards the end of April 1940, when they were warned to prepare to re-equip with Hurricanes. The events following 10 May when the Germans struck, however, were to see Gladiators fighting in deadly earnest. Although no records exist it appears that around 15 May, No. 615 Sqn still flew twelve Gladiators and that by 18 May these had been joined by nine Hurricanes.
On the afternoon of 20 May 1940 Hugo shot down a He III whilst on patrol between Arras and Dounai at 16h00, his first victory whilst flying a Hurricane. At the debriefing he mentioned that small objects had spiralled towards his aircraft from the doomed German bomber suggesting a secret weapon – possibly coils of wire designed to foul up his aircraft’s propeller. The CO who also shot down a Heinkel 111 on this operation disclosed that the so-called secret weapon was in fact enemy tracer!
No. 615 returned to England in the steamer Biarritz from Boulogne, arriving at Dover on 21 May 1940. They were re-equipped with Hurricanes although there was still a flight of Gladiators at Manston until 30 May 1940.
Piet Hugo and his good friend Bill Fowler rebuilt an abandoned French Morane 138E monoplane using it on many occasions to fly young French beauties from the beach at Wissant.
BATTLE OF BRITAIN
On July 14 1940 Hugo’s section spotted 3 Stukas near Dover at 15h09 which they attacked. Hugo engaged the leading one of the trio and after a short burst from fairly close range noticed the rear gunner had stopped firing back at him. Breaking away because he was overshooting the dive-bomber, Hugo fired a burst into the second of the Ju87s that had already been attacked by F/O Collard and was eventually credited to him. Turning quickly so that he could engage the first Stuka again; Hugo closed in rapidly and fired two short sharp bursts. The Ju87 caught fire in the starboard wing and then fell into the sea, where it left a patch of burning oil. Hugo was flying Hurricane P2963. The Ju87 was destroyed with Oblt. Sonnberg being killed and one crewman listed as missing. However Foreman, in his authoritative RAF Victory Claims of WW2, still lists this victory as unconfirmed.
Bagshawe provides more detail of the dogfight:
“Several Ju87s were engaged near Dover and as Piet attacked one of them from behind, his Hurricane was travelling too fast and he nearly rammed it. When making a second attack the enemy aircraft was diving steeply and although he fired several bursts and observed numerous hits, the Ju87 levelled off above the sea. By this time Piet’s aircraft was over-shooting once more so he throttled back, lowered the undercarriage and with the stall warning horn blowing, opened fire at close range observing pieces of Perspex glittering in the sun as shells shattered the cockpit canopy, The 87’s rear gun was pointing upwards at an angle but there was no sign of the rear gunner. A fire had started in the starboard wing and a few moments later the stricken aircraft ditched, slewed around, turned over and sank.”
On 17 July, 1940, flying a Hurricane MkI Pilot Officer Hugo damaged a Do17 at 12h00 south of Redhill. Foreman gives him full credit whilst Williams gives him a half share.
On 20 July, 1940, Hugo, flying a Hurricane, shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3, of Stab. I/JG 27, over convoy Bosom at 18h03 near Cap Griz Nez. The pilot, Maj. Helmut Reigel, was posted as missing. Hugo is also credited with another Bf 109 on this day. These victories are unconfirmed and Hugo was once again in Hurricane P2963. Wynn also credits Hugo with 2 Bf 109s on this day. Baker gives the following description of the dogfight:
“Hugo fired haphazardly at a number of aircraft in his initial excitement and was getting nowhere when he suddenly found himself on the tail of a Me109. A long burst from a range of one hundred and fifty yards found its target and the Messerschmitt spun down leaving a trail of grey smoke behind it. A few seconds later Hugo spotted another Me109 below him. He fired into the cockpit of the Messerschmitt, which gave out a cloud of black smoke, turned on its back and then spun away”
However Foreman, in his authoritative RAF Victory Claims of WW2, still lists the two victories as unconfirmed.
Hugo is credited with shooting down a Bf109 on 25 July, 1940, near Dover whilst flying Hurricane N2328. However Foreman also lists this BF 109 as unconfirmed.
Hugo is credited with a 1/6 share in a Heinkel 59 on 27 July, 1940, 10 miles east of North Foreland at 19h00. Hugo was once again flying Hurricane N2328. The other pilots with whom he shared the He59 were Squadron Leader J R Kayall, Flying Officer P Collard, Pilot Officers S J Madle, D H Hone and R D Pexton. The British Government had decided that it could not recognise the right of the He59 floatplanes to bear the Red Cross, since it was probable that these aircraft were being used to report movements of British convoys, and a fortnight before had instructed British pilots to shoot them down.
Hugo is credited with shooting down a Bf 109 on 12-8-1940 whilst flying Hurricane P3160 near Beachy Head at 12h45. It was possible that the Bf109E-4 was one of two aircraft reported missing by JG 54 over the Channel. Hugo wrote in his combat report: “Dense smoke and liquid poured from the German pilot’s machine. Although my engine stopped I dived after him. Fortunately my engine restarted. The Me(sserschmitt) pilot pulled out of his dive at about 6000 feet and then started to dive again. I was hot on his tail and at about 3000 feet opened fire. The German pilot continued to dive and landed in the water. Within a minute the aircraft had sunk and I saw the pilot swimming about in the middle of a big patch of air bubbles which had been caused by the sinking of his machine. I sent back on my R/T asking for a launch to be sent out to the German airman’s rescue and gave his position. I then flew to base.”
On 16 August, 1940, whilst Pilot Officer Hugo was flying Hurricane I P2963 attacking He111s he was hit and slightly wounded in the legs by a Bf110 at 17h30 near Newhaven. Franks, in Royal Air Force Fighter Command Losses of the Second World War – Volume 1 – Operational Losses: Aircraft and Crews 1939-1942, states that the Hurricane was repaired and issued to the Royal Navy on 11 November 1941 whilst Ramsey, in The Battle Of Britain Now And Then, states that the Hurricane was in fact a write-off. Mason and Baker credit Hugo with a share in a He111 probable whilst Shores and Williams credit Hugo with a Bf110 damaged. Foreman lists Pilot Officers L M Gaunce and Hugo sharing in the damaging of a He111 in the Brighton area at 17h10. It would seem that Shores and Williams have got this one wrong.
On 18 August, 1940, Pilot Officer Hugo took off from Kenley flying Hurricane R4221 KW-J. Hugo was shot down by Bf109s and crash-landed near Orpington at 13h17 and was admitted to Orpington Hospital with leg wounds. The plane was Category 3 destroyed. Hugo in fact crashed in Sudbury Park. He was wounded in the left leg, left eye and right jaw. Hough and Richards list Hugo shot down by one of the hardened veterans of JG 26 but do not state which one.
South Africa knew nothing of Hugo until, on 23 August, 1940, there was flashed to South Africa the news that Petrus Hugo of Victoria West had won the DFC for shooting down six Germans. This caused a sensation in Victoria West, driven like most South African communities into pro-war and anti-war factions. Even the anti-war faction felt more than a sneaking glow of pride at the news that a local boy made good. The farmers of Victoria West decided to club together amongst themselves to buy a plane for the RAF – The Petrus Hugo plane. However a local farmer told the press:
“The Spitfire will not only honour Petrus Hugo but will salute the bravery of an Afrikaans speaking South African fighting for freedom. We farmers sit on our stoep as the sun goes down and look on the land that is ours. We are not giving our money to bolster a jingo war but to help ensure that South Africa remains a nation that today stands eagerly alert waiting to push back the forces of evil.”
The London Gazette of 23 August, 1940, provides Hugo’s citation:
“Pilot Officer Hugo has displayed great keenness to engage the enemy on every possible occasion and in July, 1940, he destroyed five enemy aircraft”
By the end of September 1940 Hugo was fit again and rejoined No. 615, by then at Prestwick in Scotland.
The London Gazette of 29 October, 1940, recorded that on 21 October 1940 Pilot Officer Petrus Hendrik Hugo D.F.C. (41848) was promoted to the rank of Flying Officer.
At the latter end of the summer of 1940, Air Vice-Marshall Leigh Mallory who commanded a group of frontline Fighter Wings did everything in his power to persuade Hugo to take a rest from operational flying. Leigh-Mallory felt that it wasn’t reasonable for any pilot to stand the excessive strain of constant air battles for such a long stretch without his nerves and health suffering, but Hugo would not hear of it. First Hugo persuaded Leigh-Mallory to let him fly for another 3 months and then he produced a certificate coaxed out of his medical officer stating he was fit for operational flying.
AFTER THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN
In February 1941 ‘Dutch’ Hugo’s portrait was painted by the famous war artist Cuthbert Orde.
In late summer 1941 the squadron was equipped with Hurricanes with 4 cannons and from mid-November were engaged on raids on enemy shipping, and coastal installations in Northern France.
“Dutch” Hugo, by this time a flight commander, led many of these strafing attacks and, between September 18 and November 27, helped to sink over twenty enemy ships, ranging in size from a 500-ton cargo vessel to the tiny E-boats and R-boats of the German Navy. During the same period he also helped damage a further ten ships and set on fire to at least three oil tanks, four distilleries, and a locomotive.
On 18 August 1941 Hugo shared with 8 aircraft, 1 flak-ship sunk, 1 blown up and 1 set on fire off Ostend. Hugo also shared with 4 aircraft and 4 minesweepers sunk off Ostend on this day.
On 1 October, 1941, Hugo shared with 8 aircraft, 3 E-Boats sunk off Le Havre.
Hugo was more successful on 3 October, 1941, when he shared with 8 aircraft, the sinking of 1 R-Boat, 2 flak-ships set on fire, 500 ton cargo vessel on fire, 5 flak-ships damaged and 2 R-Boats damaged.
Hugo shared between 4 aircraft, 1 flak-ship damaged on 9 October 1941 off Ostend.
On a raid on Ostend seaplane base on 14 October 1941, Hugo shared with his commanding officer Sqn Ldr Denys Gilliam, in the destruction of a Heinkel 59. Shores and Williams credit Hugo with ¼ of the victory. It was indeed only a ¼. The other pilots who got a share were: Captain CTMP De Scitivaux, Squadron Leader Gilliam, as mentioned, and Lt JA Maridor.
On 16 October, 1941, Hugo shared with 2 aircraft, 1 barge sunk, 1 barge set on fire, 3 oil tanks set on fire, 1 flak-ship damaged and 1 R-Boat damaged near Flushing.
On 17 October, 1941, 2 cargo boats were set on fire by 8 aircraft near Zeebrugge.
On 7 November, 1941, Hugo and 7 other pilots caused the worst possible damage they could when they set a distillery on fire near Beauchamps! They did the same at Ramecourt on 8 November, 1941, and at Bourbourgville on 15 November, 1941. They attacked Bourbourgville again on 23 November, 1941.
Between giving the drinkers heart failure Hugo shared a locomotive set on fire with another pilot on 18 November, 1941.
The London Gazette, 18 November, 1941, records that P.H. Hugo D.F.C. (41848) was promoted from Flying Officer to Flight Lieutenant effective 21st October 1941.
On 27 November 1941, near Fecamp, Hugo was one of 8 aircraft that set 2 Flak-ships on fire.
For his part in these many diverse activities of the squadron during this period Hugo was awarded a Bar to his DFC. The official citation to the award paid tribute to his “great skill and determination”, his “high qualities of leadership and courage”, and ended with the thought that “his enthusiasm remains unabated”. See full citation below.
The Second Supplement to The London Gazette of Friday, the 21st of November 1941, published on Tuesday, 25 November, 1941, announced that Flight Lieutenant Petrus Hendrik Hugo, D.F.C. (41848), No. 615 Squadron had been awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross with the following citation:
“Since early September, 1941, this officer has participated in numerous attacks on enemy shipping during which some 35 vessels have either been sunk, set on fire or damaged; also several E-boats were damaged in 2 further attacks. Other losses sustained by the enemy were a petrol storage tank which was set on fire, and 1 of their aircraft destroyed. In the execution of operational tasks necessitating the greatest skill and determination, Flight Lieutenant Hugo has displayed high qualities of leadership and courage. Although he has been continuously engaged on operational flying since the war began his enthusiasm remains unabated.”
After the severe losses on shipping strikes 615 Squadron was posted to the Turnhouse Sector near Edinburgh to regroup and rest. This did not please Hugo who decided that a drastic step had to be taken to get the Squadron back on operations, He was aware that Winston Churchill was the Squadron’s Honorary Air Commodore so without further ado he paid the great man a visit at No. 10 Downing Street. How could the Prime Minister deny an interview to one of his fighter pilots with a double DFC, Hugo didn’t beat around the bush as he told Churchill with great conviction that the Squadron could not wait to get back to the fight and not sit on their arses in Scotland. Although Churchill could not give HUgo a firm promise he was obviously impressed with his fighting spirit because 615 soon found themselves back in 11 Group!
Promotion quickly followed, when he was given command of No. 41 Spitfire Squadron towards the end of November 1941.
His first victories with this squadron were scored on 12 February 1942, over the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau as they made their escape from Brest Harbour. The squadron sighted and attacked twenty Me109s in the early afternoon and in the ensuing battle Hugo shot down one and then knocked the pieces out of a second. Forman records a BF109F destroyed and 1 damaged at 1300 over the Belgian coast by Squadron Leader PH Hugo.
On 14 March, 1942, Hugo added a Bf109s to his bag over a German convoy near Fécamp at 11h15. Baker, in addition, credits Hugo with 1 Me109 damaged. Foreman has recorded the Bf109 destroyed but not the damaged Bf109 in his list of RAF claims for the day.
On 26 March 1942 whilst the squadron was escorting twenty-four Bostons on a raid on Le Havre Hugo shot down a BF109. Baker, in addition, credits Hugo with 1 Me109 damaged. Foreman list contains two claims for Squadron Leader Hugo one as destroyed and one as damaged at Le Havre at 1610.
TANGMERE FIGHTER WING
Paul Richey records on 10 April 1942 that no.41 Squadron was led into action by Wing Commander P H ‘Dutch; Hugo DFC, who had only recently been promoted and was about to take up a Wing leader post. It happened sooner than expected as Mickey Robinson was shot down and killed on the 10th and Hugo replaced him. On 12 April 1942 Hugo took over command of the Tangmere Fighter Wing.
During April Piet Hugo married Angela Seeds who was serving as a nurse with the VAD. She was the daughter of Major Seeds who had fought in the First World War in the RFC as an observer. The wedding was at St Georges Church in Hanover Square. Most attendees wore the Air Force blue uniform. The fitter and rigger who looked after his Spitfire also attended the wedding.
During a running engagement between Dunkirk and Cap Gris Nez on April 27 1942 Hugo was once again shot down and injured. In a fierce battle Hugo had probably already destroyed an FW190 and damaged a second, when his own aircraft was hit and he was wounded in the left shoulder. He baled out and landed in the Channel, but he was not in the water very long before he was picked up by a rescue launch. A sergeant pilot who was flying adjacent to his Wing Leader was a witness to what happened: “When 4 Me109s bore down on my section we turned towards them and they broke away. Wing Commander Hugo attacked their east flank and while he was firing at one of the enemy aircraft I saw another diving down behind him, I shouted a warning but with more ME 109s diving down on us I couldn’t help him. I broke left towards the attackers, blacked out a few seconds and when recovering my sight I observed the Wing Leader below and ahead flying towards the coast with white smoke pouring from his Spitfire. He reported he was hit and going home. I caught up with his aircraft and began weaving above it the same time calling the operations controller giving its precise position. The port side of the stricken aircraft was covered with oil and white smoke was escaping in quick bursts. At 5000 feet the Wing Commander rolled his aircraft over on to its back and baled out. As I circled him, he waved to me while floating gently down in his parachute. He landed in the sea and climbed into his dinghy. By this time other aircraft had arrived to provide protection so I pinpointed the position and searched the surrounding sea for a rescue launch eventually finding a naval patrol boat. After waggling my aircraft’s wings and pointing the nose in the direction of the dinghy, the vessel headed in the right direction. I then flew back and forth between dinghy and boat until a rescue had been effected. We heard later a cannon shell had burst at the side of the Wing Leader’s cockpit and he had been wounded in the shoulder.”
Hugo was flying in Spitfire Vb BL248 taking part in Circus 142. Foreman confirms Tangmere Wing Commander Hugo’s claims as above giving the time as 14h30.
Hugo was posted to the Headquarters of Number Eleven Group in order to rest and recuperate. When he was discharged from hospital the Medical Officer had issued him with a chit to the effect that he was to undertake no operational flying for 6 months. A moral victory for Leigh-Mallory! The only thing that happened to Hugo of importance during the next few months was the award of the Distinguished Service Order, which was announced in the second Supplement of The London Gazette on the 29th May 1942 published Hugo’s citation:
“This officer has completed over 500 hours operational flying, a large proportion of which has been on patrols over enemy territory. During the autumn of 1941, he performed outstanding work in attacks on enemy shipping. He is a fine leader and during a period of 5 months from November, 1941, his unit destroyed at least 12 and damaged several more enemy aircraft. Both as squadron commander and wing leader, this officer has displayed exceptional skill, sound judgement and fighting qualities which have won the entire confidence of all pilots in his command. He has destroyed 13 hostile aircraft and damaged a further 7.”
Hugo received his DSO from the King on Tuesday, 24th February, 1946, at Buckingham Palace. Hugo was the 12776 person to receive the DSO award.
Hugo’s friends predicted his stay on the ground would not be long as he “would give them no peace until allowed to fly again.” They were quite correct because within 3 months the incorrigible Piet Hugo was back on operations as leader of the Hornchurch Wing.
When Paddy Finucane was shot down in July 1942, Hugo succeeded him as wing leader of the Hornchurch Spitfire Wing, but Hugo only remained with the wing for about six weeks before he was sent to North Africa where he joined Number Three-two-two Spitfire Wing. Duncan Smith described Peter (sic) Hugo, on his arrival at the Wing, as follows:
“He was an exceptionally good marksman and perhaps the best leader I ever followed, with the exception of Harry Broadhurst. His anticipation and tactical sense was uncanny, and it was impossible to get him excited or carried away by the stress of the moment. He did not say a great deal either in the air or on the ground, but when he did you sat up and took notice. He had done a great deal of fighting in Hurricanes, attacking shipping and flak-busting, as well in Spitfires in the straightforward fighter role.”
Duncan Smith continues:
“With Peter(sic) Hugo we practised the technique of escorting the Fortresses and after some misunderstandings evolved suitable formations and tactics. The Typhoons were used as ‘enemy fighters’ to carry out dummy attacks and also to give the Fortress gunners ‘shooting’ practice. We had more conferences: then the big day came on 17 July 1942 when we escorted twelve Flying Fortresses to Rouen. They were to bomb from 22,000ft. None of us had seen bombing from this height before. We didn’t think they could hit anything from this height. We need not have worried. They hit Rouen marshalling yards end to end. The first enemy attack hit us about 10 miles from the French coast and from there to mid-Channel. We were constantly engaged by formations of FW190s and Me109s. We turned into and broke up four separate attacks from twelve to fifteen FW 190s. We managed to shoot down two and damage another two. No enemy fighters broke through our protective screen or got anywhere the bombers. So ended our first escort mission and, incidentally, the first attack carried out by the Americans in Europe.”
18 AUGUST 1942 D-DAY -1
On 18 August 1942 the Station Commanders, Wing Leaders, and Squadron Commanders were summonsed to 11 Group Headquarters to be briefed by the AOC and Harry Broadhurst on the part the fighter squadrons were going to play in the Dieppe operation. It all went like clockwork and the commanders returned to their individual stations for individual station briefings, bursting with excitement and anticipation.
At Hornchurch all communication with the outside world was cut and everyone was confined to camp. At six in the evening George Lott called a briefing for the Wing at which he and Peter(sic) Hugo outlined the tasks for each of the Squadrons.
19th AUGUST 1942 –D-DAY
For the air operations over Dieppe Leigh-Mallory had approximately seventy squadrons available to him. This included 48 squadrons with Spitfires, including 3 from the USAAF. He in fact had a far greater fighter force available that Hugh Dowding had at any one time during the Battle of Britain in 1940.
By the beginning of August 1942, the fighter pilots in fighter command were being led by many experienced air fighters, most of the leaders of Leigh-Mallory’s Dieppe Squadrons were veterans of the Battles of France and Britain. Approximately 50 of the squadron or flight commanders at Dieppe had seen action in the Battle of Britain alone. Amongst the veterans was the Hornchurch Wing Commander Petrus Hugo who had already claimed some 10 victories.
At 4:40 whilst it was still dark Wing Commander Hugo led the Hornchurch Wing off. In his Spitfire appropriately coded P-H. *1 Squadron was commanded by Squadron Leader ‘Ras” Berry, 122 Squadron by New Zealander S/L JRC Killian (Spitfire BL812), 154 Squadron by New Zealander S/L DC Carlson (Spitfire Bm476) whilst 340 Free French Squadron was commanded by Commandante Bernard Duperior.
Wing Commander Hugo led the Hornchurch Wing, consisting of 122, 154 and 340 squadrons on their second mission of the day arriving over Dieppe at 9:50 thirty-five minutes after taking off.
At about midday Group Captain Broadhurst, instead of making his intended rendezvous with the bombing force, had turned towards Dieppe following a call from the Hornchurch controller, informing him that German dive-bombing was being reported from the battle area. Reaching the area he saw Dornier 217s and Junkers 88s escorted by FW190s. The bombers were at 11,000 feet and an estimated 30/50 FW190s stepped up to 15,000 feet. After engaging the FW190s he broke away and met up with the Flying Fortresses as they were making their bombing run on Abbeville.
On return to Hornchurch he chatted to Wing Commander Dutch Hugo and went with him to dispersal to talk to the pilots. They discussed the German’s tactics and the general situation at Dieppe. Broadhurst then put a call into the AOC describing the attack on Abbeville and suggested an alteration to patrol height which was adopted.
The final patrols of the day were flown at 1810 and 2055. One of the last combats of the day was by 340 Squadron. The Frenchmen, led by Wing Commander Dutch Hugo, patrolled around 5,000 feet in 8/10ths cloud. One Dornier was seen and was attacked and damaged by Capitaine Bechoff flying Spitfire GW-Z serial number EN889. It was 340 Squadron’s fourth mission of the day.
The Supplement to the London Gazette, 4 September, 1942, confirms that Flt. Lt. P. H. Hugo, D.S.O., D.F.C. (41848) was promoted to Squadron Leader (war substantive) on the 12th of July 1942.
322 WING NORTH AFRICA
322 Wing was formed on 7 September 1943 with the role to support the forthcoming invasion of French northwest Africa. 322 Wing was to be commanded by Group Captain C Appleton and led by Wing Commander PH ‘Dutch’ Hugo. The wing comprised initially of 3 Squadrons of Spitfire MkVs, 81 Squadron led by Squadron Leader Ronald ‘Razz’ Berry, 154 Squadron led by Squadron Leader DC Carlson and 242 Squadron led by Squadron Leader D Secretan.
Here in a period of hectic scrapping over and around the North African coastline, Hugo added nine confirmed destroyed, two probables and five damaged to his list of kills in just over a month. Shores and Williams list his score for this period as eight claimed victories, two of them shared, and at least two probables.
At 11:00 on 7 November 1943 Spitfires of 81 and 242 Squadron left Gibraltar, led by Group Captain Trail and Wing Commander P.H. Hugo arriving at Maison Blanche at about midday. In the interim the Spitfire pilots found very little fuel available and were confined to the ground for the rest of the day. No food or bedding could be found and they settled down to a period of very rough and uncomfortable living.
On 8 November 1942, the opening day of the allies’ North African landings, Hugo took the first Spitfire wing, No 332, commanded by Group Captain Charles Appleton, from Gibraltar into Maison Blanche, east of Algiers where they spent the first two days very busy defending the harbour of Algiers and the army moving rapidly east.
On 11 November, a landing was made at the small port of Bougie but Allied shipping sustained heavy casualties as it was difficult to defend from Maison Blanche. One squadron was moved forward from Algiers to Djidjelli.
On 12 November 1942 Hugo was ordered to escort a formation of American C47s carrying paratroops to capture the harbour of Bone and then land back at Djidjelli to continue the defence of Bougie. Hugo’s first North African victory took place when he and F/L Eckhard shot down a Dornier 217 near Djidjelli. Shores & Williams give the plane as a Do17 from Stab/JG 53 and that it may have also been attacked by F/O Lea of 43 Sqn. This is quite strange as Shores et al in their book Fighters over Tunisia give the aircraft as a Do217!
Hugo himself gives it as a Do217 and describes the combat as follows:
“With No 154 Squadron (Sqn Ldr “Gus” Carlson), I escorted a closely packed gaggle of C47s flying at about 2000 feet on an easterly course directly to Bone; this took us over some very rugged mountains. Halfway there, while flying to the starboard of the transports, I suddenly saw a Dornier 217 diving steeply to attack the formation from the port side. The heavily armed, fast 217 could do a great deal of damage to the slow unarmed C47s. So calling Flight Lieutenant “Shag” Eckford to follow, I turned to cross over the formation and to intercept. The Dornier immediately steepened its dive, intending to get under the transports and pull into them. I was thus forced to dive through the C47s to head off the enemy, while Eckford went round after him.
“My passage through the formation clearly caused considerable consternation; there were some very close shaves, and a lot of unorthodox evasive action by the normally staid transports. But I got through and positioned myself between them and the Dornier, which at once turned away.
“This gave Eckford an opportunity to attack and immediately afterwards I opened fire from the starboard. There were strikes all along the fuselage and into the wing root; the starboard engine slowed, was feathered and then stopped. The Dornier rolled over quickly and dived into a narrow gorge leading up into the mountains. The pilot levelled off over the bed of the gorge and started ‘hedge-hopping’ up it, twisting and turning to follow its course.
“I called Eckford to stop attacking as I could see that having once got in the Dornier couldn’t get out again flying on a single engine; nor could it maintain height above the rising level of the gorge. The aircraft got slower and slower, there was a spurt of dust as the left wing-tip touched the surface – a pall of dust, debris and bits of wreckage were thrown up as the enemy ploughed to a stop.
“I reduced speed, put down my flaps and entered the gorge higher up. As I flew slowly down it I could see no sign of life in the tangled wreckage.
The next day I was moved to No 81 Squadron (Sqn Ldr “Razz” Berry) to Les Salines, an airfield just east of Bone, there I went to discuss airfield defence with the commander of the US Paratroops. I asked whether they had had any casualties the previous day.
“‘None,’ said the CO, ‘but some of my boys got roughed up a bit when some goddamned British flyer took his pursuit ship right through our formation.’
“Silence, I remembered, can sometimes be a virtue.”
In Shores and Massimello’s 2016 book they have Eckford and Hugo’s claim of a Do 217 but the Luftwaffe records only record the loss of a single Do 17Z shot down near Bougie which ties in with in with Flg Off H.R. Lea’s claim of a Do217!
On Friday 13 November, 1942, the Wing was now operating from Bône and Djidjelli. Baker has Hugo probably destroying a Ju88 and damaging another near Bougie Harbour on this day whilst Shores and Massimello only reflect a claim of a Ju 88 probable for Hugo near Bône.
On 15 November, 1942, Hugo was credited with a He 111 probable and a Ju88 damaged over Bone Harbour. Shores and Massimello reflect the claim for the He 111 probable near Bône. RAF pilots claimed 3 He 111 shot down and 1 probable near Bône whilst the Luftwaffe records record the loss of only He 111H-6 WNr 7416 A8+FH with the loss of two crew and two taken prisoner. Shores and Massimello also reflect the claim for the Ju 88 near Bône for Hugo flying a Spitfire Vc. 2 Ju 88 claimed shot down in the Bône area, Luftwaffe records record 1 Ju 88 shot down in the area, Ju 88A WNr 6319 with 1 crew member killed a 3 missing in action.
On 16 November, 1942, he was in two fights during which he destroyed a Ju88 and damaged two Bf109s. Shores and Williams do not make mention of the two damaged claims. Shore et al record that both Wing Commander Hugo and Pilot Officer Clarke of 111 Squadron claimed a Ju88 destroyed over Bone during the raid. The Luftwaffe however only reported losing I Ju88 in the Bone area.
On the 18November 1942, near Tarbakha another Ju88 fell to Hugo’s guns. Hugo was leading 72 Squadron in a sweep over Tarbarka with 17 newly-arrived Spitfires in the morning; when a Ju88 was seen at 5,000 feet east of Bone. The aircraft was attacked by the Wing Leader whereupon it blew up and crashed watched by Bobby Ozspring:
“As we climbed out of Bone we sighted a lone Ju88 pushing his luck as he crossed our track. We poured on the coals to get there first but Piet got the edge and bored in on a full quarter attack. His shooting was a sight to behold, as in one long burst his cannon shells racked the enemy from nose to tail. With a momentary fiery explosion, it disintegrated and fell in a shower of bits. “
The aircraft was Ju88A-14 WNr 144206 of 1./KG60 and Obfw Alfred Achnieder and tree crew were listed as MIA.
On 21 November, 1942 shot down a BF109 near Bone. At 1430 81 Squadron, led by Wing Commander Hugo, was just taking off for a patrol when eight Fw190s of III/JG2, which had now arrived in Tunisia and a 14 Bf109s from JG 53 attacked, two fighters diving on Hugo and two on Sergeant Monston. Sergeant Stodhart, whose aircraft was a few feet off the ground crashed due to a close bomb burst, and was badly burned; in all three Spitfires were destroyed and five were badly damaged, either on the ground or just in the air, II/JG2 claiming to have destroyed a total of ten. One of the Spitfires which had got into the air and was shot down, was claimed by Oblt. Bühligen, the unit’s first air victory in Africa. Wing Commander Hugo claimed to have shot down one Bf109 during the attack and a second was claimed by the airfields anti-aircraft defences: Flight Lieutenant Law of the AA Flight was killed and so were four airmen.
The Commanding Officer of 111 Squadron, Tony Bartley describes what he saw:
“I saw a Spitfire tearing down the runway towards me. The pilot had just retracted his undercarriage when a second projectile hit directly in front of him. The aircraft staggered, hit the ground and skated along the runway surface towards me with flames pouring from its punctured petrol tanks. When it came to rest, I watched with horror the pilot struggle but fail to extricate himself from his inferno.”
On 26 November, 1942 Hugo shot down a Bf109 near Bone.
On 28 November, 1942, Hugo shot down his third Bf109 within 7 days; this aircraft was shot down in the Tunisia forward area. 81 Squadron flew a morning sweep, led by Wing Commander Hugo and accompanied by four American Spitfires of the 2nd Fighter Squadron on their first mission. During this sweep Wing Commander Hugo claimed one Bf109 destroyed and a second one was claimed destroyed by Squadron Leader Berry and Flying Officer Rigby. At Bone after dark, a raid by seven JU88s was made on the airfield, 11 aircraft being rendered unserviceable; five Hurricanes of 225 Squadron were totally destroyed, and the main runway was hit. Group Captain Appleton, commanding officer of 322 Wing was hit by a bomb splinter which almost severed his leg – it was amputated the next day. To replace this loss, the Wing Leader ‘Dutch’ Hugo took his place (though promotion did not follow at once) and Squadron Leader ‘Razz” Berry, commander of 81 Squadron shared with Hugo in leading the Wing.
On 2 December, 1942, he shot down two Italian Breda 88s near La Galite, one of them with the help of several Spitfires from 81 Squadron. Shores and Williams state that they are believed to be two S-79s of 280a Squadriglia, 130o Gruppo Aut Sil. There were five RAF claims for the four losses. Once again Shores et al have them as Ba88s. Shores and Massimelo also record the claims as Ba88s, however, the only comparable Italians loses they record are the 5 S-79s of 280a Squadriglia, 130o Gruppo Aut Sil.
Hugo whilst flying a Spitfire Vb claimed his last victim in North Africa, another Italian Bomber, a Savoia 79 that he shot down on 14 December 1942, while patrolling over the damaged cruiser Ajax off northern Tunisia with 81 Squadron. Hugo claimed one destroyed and whilst four Squadron pilots, Sgt NA Plummer, Flg Off HC Rigby, Plt Off Williams and Flg Off K I Waud, claimed one shared destroyed. The Italians, however, only lot one aircraft. S,79 MM 22178 FTR of 57° Sq. 32° Gr. 10° St BT. The pilot Cap Gugliemo Rotondo, co-pilot Rapagiolo and crew are listed as MIA.
Hugo took over command of 322 Spitfire Wing on 29 November 1942. Hugo continued to lead this wing until March 1943 when he was posted to the Headquarters of North West Africa Coastal Air Force. At the same time he was awarded a second Bar to his DFC.
To the south-west of Bone American engineers of Aero Construction Company had been working on the provision of an all-weather landing strip. The commanding officer of the construction unit being a Major Tingley, Wing Commander of 322 Wing, ‘Dutch’ Hugo spoke of the aerodrome as ‘Tingley Aerodrome’, and the name quickly stuck. During 7 January 1943 the Wing received the announcement that their Wing Commander had received a second Bar to his DFC. It was only published on 16 February 1943 though.
On 8 January, 1943, Wing Commander Hugo landed the first Spitfire on the new Tingley Aerodrome and expressed his satisfaction with the new American tracking material which covered the ground.
On Tuesday, 19 January, 1943, taking off from Constantine, Wing Commander Hugo and 14 pilots of 81 Squadron were ordered to proceed to Gibraltar to collect the first Spitfire MkIXs to be shipped to the Middle East, which the Squadron was going to have the honour of taking into action.
On 22 January, 1943, confirmation was finally received at Tingley of Wing Commander ‘Dutch’ Hugo’s promotion to Group Captain, having been in command of 322 Wing for some weeks; Squadron Leader ‘Razz’ Berry was confirmed as Wing Leader, being promoted to Wing Commander. Once again it was almost a month before being officially published. At the age of 24 Hugo became the youngest Group Captain in the RAF.
On Sunday, 24 January, 1943, Group Captain Hugo arrived at Tingley airfield, after a short leave, flying in with the first Spitfire MkIX to reach the front.
On 15 February, 1943, Wing Commander Petrus Hugo was awarded the Croix de Guerre 1939-45 with Bronze Palme. The citation for this award is as follows:
“After having brilliantly participated in the campaign over France conducted in the Autumn of 1941, in the course of many offensives missions against enemy navigation, his squadron to which were attached French pilots.in 1942, personally led at the head of the Group ‘Isle de France’ 19 offensive missions of which 5 were carried out in a single day, 19 August, 1942, during the course of the combined operations over Dieppe.”
The Supplement to the London Gazette dated 16 February, 1943, announces the award of the second-bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross to Wing Commander Petrus Hendrik Hugo, D.S.O., D.F.C, (41848) with the following citation:
“In operations in North Africa, Wing Commander Hugo has taken part in many sorties on which he has destroyed at least 4 enemy aircraft. He has displayed gallant leadership and great skill during an outstanding record of operational flying.”
There is nothing strange about the citation giving Hugo’s rank as Wing Commander even though he was only promoted to Wing Commander on 22 June 1943, See below, as he was acting Wing Commander of 322 Wing.
On Friday, 12 March, 1943, as the Wing moved to Souk el Khemis it was learnt that Group Captain Hugo was soon to leave the Wing. On 13 March, 1943, Wing Commander ‘Razz’ Berry took over 322 wing from Group Captain Hugo.
On Saturday 20 March, 1943, Group Captain Hugo dropped in on his fellow South Africans of 1 Squadron SAAF and gave them a lecture on fighting in the north. Barry Keyter describes a visit by Peter(sic) Hugo to their base. It is best told in Keyter’s own words:
“After Sailor Malan he was the best known South African in the air war over England during the blitz and we all admired the man. He was the epitome of what a real hero would be: well-built, unassuming good looks and slow and sure in his speech. He had something like 26 confirmed victories at that stage and his name always cropped up whenever fighter pilots were discussed.” They put on a show for Hugo. “It was good entertainment and amused Hugo tremendously. It would have been a very enjoyable evening if it were not for the ‘bloody racket’ outside. There were continuous outbursts of flak as the airfield defences fired at low-flying Jerry Ju88s. They, in turn, would drop their bombs from very low level in the vicinity and the tent would shake. Quite a few lads slipped out the mess and others excused themselves as they were on stand-by the following morning. Eventually there were about ten of us left. Whilst singing ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’ a Ju88 dropped a butterfly bomb about 200 yards from us. We all felt a little bit embarrassed to dash for the slit-trench as our hero did not seem at all tense during the deafening crackling of the butterfly bombs. Then one of us near the exit lost self-control and dashed for the cloak that served as a door and we all, in a flash, got the same idea. There was a major traffic jam as we all tried to get out at the same time. Then, suddenly, as if a bull was charging, a big strong fellow scattered us and was the first into the slit trench: Hugo! ‘I thought you idiots were never going to take shelter. You are all stone mad!’ he shouted. It became a huge joke for ages after in the other squadrons.”
On 22 March, 1943 Group Captain Hugo visited 7 Wing, Lieutenant Colonel Loftus taking him around to 2 Squadron SAAF’s mess. The evening ended off with the singing of, mostly, South African “Liedjies”. The singing was conducted in brilliant moonlight and to the accompaniment of occasional Anti-aircraft fire and bombs dropped at a landing ground in the vicinity, and rounded off a pleasant and interesting evening according to the War diarist.
Shores, Ring and Hess credit Petrus Hugo with a score of 8½ for the Tunisian campaign.
By this time South Africans who had joined the RAF before the war and who had survived until 1943, the first time during the war that anybody had time to think ahead, and most had advanced quite far in wartime rank with the RAF. The prospect of resigning from the RAF and joining the SAAF with equal rank and status had become most problematic. By now the SAAF had expanded and numerous pilots had advanced to command the limited number of positions available. Charles Laubscher and Maurice Barber, both notable RAF pilots, are known to have taken the chance by resigning from the RAF and joining the SAAF. They got SAAF equivalent of their former ranks, but only Laubscher managed to get an operational fighter posting and went on to command 11 Squadron in Italy. For the likes of ‘Sailor’ Malan, ‘Dutch’ Hugo and Chris Le Roux there was little prospect of a career in the SAAF with so many young men of by now proven quality vying for the few fighter squadron and wing commander positions available. It is not known if they wanted to, although giving the above visits to the SAAF Squadrons and Wings it appears that Hugo may well have been tempted.
BACK TO NUMBER THREE-TWO-TWO SPITFIRE WING
In June 1943 he took command of Number Three-two-two Spitfire Wing again and during the next eighteen months took it to Malta, Sicily, Italy, Syria, Corsica, southern France and then back to Italy where it was disbanded in November 1944.
On 4 June, 1943, 322 Spitfire Wing began arriving from Tunisia, 81 Squadron landing at Takali led by the newly promoted Wing Commander CF Gray DFC, the new Wing Leader, while 322’s former Wing Leader and OC Group Captain ‘Dutch’ Hugo was again appointed OC Wing.
On 10 June, 1943, 8 Spit-bombers of 152 Squadron were led by Group Captain Hugo departed Malta at 1600 on a raid to bomb buildings and the marshalling yards at Pozzallo, where two direct hits were reported on a road running east to west running from the town. This was the first operation from Takali by RAF’s 322 Wing. Spitfires from 81 and 242 Squadrons flew top cover for 152 Squadron.
On 11 June, 1943, a factory at Pozzallo was the target and received two direct hits from 152 Squadron Spit-bombers. Group Captain Hugo led the covering fighters from 232 and 242 Squadron on the raid but they did not encounter any fighters.
On 17 June, 1943, USAAF Liberators mounted a bombing raid on Comiso and Biscari, They were escorted by 70 Spitfires drawn from 322, Safi and Kendri Wings led by Group Captain Hugo, Wing Commander Gray, and Wing Commander Billy Drake. The escort made rendezvous with the bombers just north of Malta and provided cover. Enemy aircraft were sighted but they did not engage.
On 22 June 1943 Hugo was promoted to the rank of Wing Commander (war substantive).
Hugo shot down a Bf109 on 20 June, 1943, near Comiso in Sicily according to Baker. Shores and Williams list this victory as taking place on 29 June 1943 as damaged. Cull et al confirm it was 29 June, 1943 and provide the following background:
“Just after 1500 11 Spitbombers from 154 Squadron attacked, bombs seen falling among hangers and on or near the runway. A workshop was also strafed. Light and heavy flak was experienced particularly from positions east and west from the aerodrome, two Spitbombers suffering damage although both reached Takali safely. On this occasion the enemy reacted strongly at least 20 Bf109Fs – from Stab and II/JG53, plus IJG77 and 3⁰Grupppo – being reported by escorting fighters of 322 Wing led by Group Captain Hugo (EN534/EN-Y) and 232 Squadron became involved in a series of running fights during which a Messerschmitt, possibly White 6 (WkNr18370) of I/JG77 in which Uffz. Rolf Nolte-Ernsting failed to return was claimed shot down jointly by Squadron Leader Arthur and Flight Sergeant JW Patterson. A second was claimed probably destroyed by Flight Lieutenant Bill Olmstead (JK274) and a third damaged by Group Captain Hugo.”
Canadian Bill Olmsted, a flight commander with 232 Squadron, recalls this day in his autobiography:
“Then on the 29th Duke (Sqn Ldr ‘Duke’ Arthur) allowed me to fly a IX as number 3 to Group Captain Hugo. We were top cover for 152 Squadron while they dive-bombed Comiso airdrome. Just as 152 started to dive over the target. Duke spotted five 109s behind him. The Group Captain immediately turned hard port, balls out, and since I was flying very side abreast of him that quick turn left me far behind. Flying Officer ‘Mac’ McMinniman, my number 2, followed as I tried to catch up.
Soon Olmsted and McMinniman and the Squadron mates were soon entwined in deadly personal battles as 10 more 109s dived into the fray. At one stage of the dogfight Olmted reports that he was flying is clockwise circles whilst McMinniman was do anti-clockwise ones below him preventing them from protecting each other.
Olmsted continues his story:
“I closed in on the rear 109 to seventy-five yards, opened fire with all my guns, saw strikes over the body and wings of the enemy. The 109 pulled-up to starboard and from less than 30 yards I emptied the rest of my ammunition into the cockpit and engine, seeing large pieces falling off the air frame accompanied by an explosion. The aircraft fell to port and dived into the ground.
“Our excitement in the mess was heightened by copious quantities of beer, quickly quaffed. Duke and Flight Sergeant Patterson shared a destroyed 109, Group Captain Hugo had one destroyed and I had my Me 109. We knew we had done well.”
Shores and Massimello confirm Arthur (Duke) (Spitfire Vb JK656) and Patterson’s (Spitfire Vb JK 708) shared victory, list Olmsted’s (Spitfire Vb JK 274) as a probable and Hugo’s (Spitfire VB EN534 “Y”) a damaged claim i.e. 1 shot down, 1 probable and 1 damaged. The German loses for the day at Comiso were 2 damaged and 1 destroyed.
Shortly after this flight Group Captain Hugo, together with his Wing Leader, Wing Commander Gray, was grounded, as Gray later recalled:
‘I was unfortunately grounded, as by some mischance I had seen the invasion plans, as had Piet Hugo, and it was feared that the Germans could get this information out of us if we happened to be shot down. We were not allowed to fly, which was unfortunate because we missed a bit of fun. But we were allowed to fly as soon as the invasion started.” During this period Group Captain Hugo flew Spitfire EN240 with personalised codes ‘PH’.
24 July, 1943, was a huge day for 322 Wing as they together with 244 wing encountered a formation of 25/30 Ju52/3ms escorted by dozen Bf109Gs from I/JG77 and II/JG27, plus a small formation of MC202s from 161̊Gruppo. 21 Ju52/3ms, 6 Bf109Gs and MC202 were shot down. Well how many did Hugo get? After the formation was spotted, Wing Commander Colin Grey explains what transpired:
“A fierce argument developed between Piet Hugo (OC 322 Wing) and me as to who was going to lead the Wing. I said it was clearly my job as I was the Wing Commander Flying, but Piet finally pulled rank. Fortunately the matter was resolved because at that moment the AOC rang and told Piet he wanted him to remain on the ground in case something further developed.”
To add injury to insult Gray shot down two Ju52/3ms Gray continues:
“I went through all the claims with the pilots involved and reduced the figure by one, but after the war Piet Hugo, who was working in the Intelligence Department of the Air Ministry, told me that he had been able to check the German records for this particular sortie and our original figures had been correct.”
In fact the wing claims to have shot down 30 enemy aircraft in total, so It is not surprising Higo was a little grumpy. The German records indicate a loss of 26 aircraft.
The day was not a total loss to Hugo, although he could once again not participate, his daughter born a short while previously was christened on this day with General Smuts as the godfather and the reception was held in South Africa House. Their daughter was christened Angela Petrina but was generally known as Mitzi.
During the late morning on 28 August 1943, several groups of bombers each set out with their Spitfire escorts to attack various targets. Group Captain Hugo led eight Spitfires from 288 Squadron covering Mitchells which bombed the marshalling yards north-west of Lamezia.
322 Wing received a new Wing leader on 28 August, 1943, Lieutenant Colonel Laurie Wilmot, SAAF, who also flew a personalised Spitfire, MA408 ‘LW’
Whilst flying patrol over Augusta in the afternoon with 81 Squadron, Hugo shot down a Fw190 on 2 September 1943. It crashed on Mont Etna near Augusta.
Hugo took 322 Wing to cover the landings at Solerno and on 9 September had a unique experience when he witnessed a surrender of an enemy aircraft in mid-air. Hugo describes the surrender as follows: “It was a Savoia Marchetti 79 of the Regia Aeronautica. When the aircraft was intercepted it streamed a white parachute to indicate surrender. The antics of the big aircraft flying, trying to cope with the oscillations of the dragging parachute, plus the shaky landing on our small airstrip, caused great merriment. I had some difficulty, as the Commanding Officer, in accepting the Italians’ surrender with the customary decorum. Hugo recounts with some detail:
“But then the question was how to dispose of the aircraft. We had no room to keep it where it was. My Wing Commander Flying, Lieut-Colonel Laurie Wilmot, of the South African Air Force, one of the ablest wing commanders flying I ever came across assured me he had flown Ju 52s in the SAAF and could handle this; what he didn’t tell me was that his experience of Ju 52s consisted of taking control for ten minutes while the pilot had coffee. I had no hesitation in agreeing to let him take the aircraft to Catania.
“The take off was spectacular – to say the least – and so I believe, was the landing at Catania; but the aeroplane remained intact. The Air Officer Commanding, the Desert Airforce, who saw the landing, was suitably impressed – by the ruggedness of the SM79….”
In October, 1943, Group Captain Hugo tested the initial conversion of the Spitfire to Spitbomber MkVc with the 4 cannon and one 250lb bomb finding it handled well generally. On pulling out of a dive, however, the elevators felt soggy and the Spitbomber suffered an excessive sink rate which would have to be watched It is interesting to note that although Spitfire MkVcs were fitted with 4 20mm cannons, this armament seems to have been the exception rather than the rule, as the two extra cannon imposed a weight penalty which, as Hugo found, affected the aircraft’s performance. The more usual configuration appears to have been two 20mm cannon with four 0.303in machine guns. Two 250lb bombs could be carried, one slung under each wing or a 500lb bomb slung on the centreline.
His last confirmed victory was on 18 November 1943 whilst patrolling the coast of Yugoslavia near Tivat Harbour. He sighted and attacked and shot down in flames an Arado Ar196A-3 floatplane of Seeaufkl. The crew was killed .[xii] Hugo was flying Spitfire IX MA433 and the patrol lasted from 1450 to 1635 The Ar 196A-3 WNr 100430 of SAGr 126, was on a search mission for a missing Ju88 lost west of Budwar, Uffz Paul Rogge and Lt Friedrich Kellner were killed in action.
In the summer of 1944 he led his Spitfires on a series of strafing raids against enemy transport and supply columns, during which over a thousand vehicles were put out of action. Hugo’s share being fifty-five vehicles destroyed and a further twenty-nine damaged, all accounted for in less than six weeks between May 6 and June 20 1944.
On Monday, 3 April 1944 322 Wing arrived at Alto Airfield and was still commanded by Gro Capt Hugo, but was led by Wg Cdr ADJ Lovell, DSo, BFC & Bar.
On 6 May, 1944, Hugo destroyed 1 tank, 1 Motor Transport and 2 cars near Civita Vecchia.
On 7 May, 1944, near Lake Bolsena Hugo destroyed 1 Motor Transport, 1 bus, and one staff car. Also on 7 May, 1944, near Leghorn 1 tanker and 1 Motor Transport were destroyed by Hugo.
On 13 May, 1944, Hugo shared with 12 planes 1 F-boat destroyed and 1 damaged at Genoa-Spitzia. Three Squadrons of 322 Wing were led by Grp Cpt Hugo and Wg Cdr Lovell to attack F-Boats of the Italian coast at Genoa, several of these artillery carrying lighters being well straffed.
On 25 May, 1944, 3 ammunition Motor Transports were blown up by Hugo near Siena.
On 30 May, 1944, near Canino 1 Motor Transport and 1 bus fell prey to Hugo.
On 3 June, 1944, Hugo destroyed a Motor Transport near Orvieto, on 4 June, 1944, a staff car near Florence, and 3 Motor Transports near Ventralla and 2 half-tracks destroyed, 3 damaged and 1 ambulance destroyed near Lake Vico on 5 June, 1944.
6 June, 1944, was relatively quiet, with only a single ambulance destroyed in Florence by Hugo.
The next few days proved to have rich pickings for Hugo around Trasimeno. He destroyed 9 Motor Transports and damaged 7 on 7 June 1944, destroyed 1 Motor Transport and damaged 2 on 8 June, 1944, and destroyed 7 Motor Transports on 9 June, 1944. He added a further 7 Motor Transports destroyed and 4 damaged on 9 June 1944 near Casciano.
Between 10 and 12 June, 1944, Hugo destroyed 10 and damaged 9 Motor Transports in and around Orvieto.
On 13 June 1944 Hugo returned to Trasimeno and destroyed 1 Motor Transport.
On 14 June, 1944, Hugo destroyed 3 Motor Transports and damaged 2 near Poggibongsi.
On 20 June, 1944, 4 Motor Transports were destroyed and 1 damaged by Hugo near Siena.
On 10 July, 1944, Hugo damaged a Bf109 in an air fight over Alessandria in Northern Italy. This turned out to be his last victory in aerial combat and brought his final tally to twenty-two aircraft destroyed, four probably destroyed, and thirteen damaged.
On 25 August, 1944, Hugo shared with 12 aircraft hundreds of vehicles burning in the Avignon-Lyon area.
On 26 August, 1944, Hugo and 12 aircraft flew 2 sorties, road blocking Montelimar with hundreds of burning vehicles.
Hugo continued to fly operationally until November 1944 when he was posted to the air staff of Mediterranean Allied Air Force, and seconded to Marshall Tolbukin’s Second Ukrainian Army then moving from Rumania to Austria.
In the Supplement to The London Gazette printed on 14 November 1944, the following notice was published:
Air Ministry, 14 November 1944
The KING has granted unrestricted permission for the wearing of the undermentioned decorations conferred upon the personnel indicated in recognition of valuable services rendered in connection with the war:
Conferred by the President of the United States of America
Distinguished Flying Cross
Group Captain Petrus Hendrik Hugo, D.S.O., D.F.C. (41848) R.A.F.
LIAISON OFFICER TO MARSHALL TOLBUKIN’S 2ND UKRAINIAN ARMY
Hugo was attached as Liaison Officer to the Allied Military Mission with Marshall Tolbukin’s Second Ukrainian Army from 21 November 1944 to 13 December 1944. This army formed the left flank of the Russian forces, operating mainly south of the Danube; it was at that time advancing slowly from Bulgaria towards Hungary, with its headquarters at Sofia.
In 1982 Hugo shared, with Laddie Lucas, some of his reflections of his time with the Russians: “From what I could find out the air effort by the Russian Air Force was concentrated on the central and northern sectors of the front. The southern armies were meant to ‘take it on the chin’ and rely on artillery instead of the air.
“The Russian aircraft mostly in evidence were Stormoviks for ground attack and various marks of Yaks, Migs, and Laggs as fighters. For the use it was put to, the Stormovik appeared adequate; it was strong, heavily armoured and dependable and although the bomb-load was not heavy it could be accurately delivered.
“The fighters were not impressive and could not be compared with their American, British or German counterparts. They appeared to be strongly built but of inferior design. I, personally, would have preferred to tackle the GAF (German Air Force) in Hurricanes.
“I saw no evidence of the use of radar or even ground-to-air radio control. Pilots were briefed on the ground and expected to operate in accordance with their briefing. I had very few opportunities of speaking with Russian pilots as it had to be done through an interpreter with a political commissar always listening in. So they were understandably cagey and non-committal. Their flying ability appeared average; but, judging from the amount of wrecked aircraft to be seen, the wastage due to flak, the weather and the GAF was high. I even began to believe the astronomical claims by GAF fighter pilots.”
Subsequently Hugo returned to England to be sent to Central Fighter Establishment, where he remained until the war ended. He was awarded a Croix de Guerre from France and a US DFC.
Hugo served with HQ 11 group from 10 July, 1945, until his move to Staff College Bracknell as President Aircrew Reallocation Board on 7 August, 1945.
On 13 November 1945 Hugo was transferred to the reserve but called up for Air force duty in the Royal Air Force as a Squadron Leader in the General Duties Branch.
On 25 February, 1946, Hugo joined the Air Ministry as Director of Intelligence, a position he held until his move to the Air Ministry Unit for duty with the Foreign Office.
On 15 October 1946 Hugo’s appointment as a Squadron Leader in the RAF was made permanent with the following proviso: “Retaining their existing ranks under wartime rules. Relative seniority in permanent rank will be determined later.”
The issue of seniority was sorted out in the Second Supplement of the London Gazette of Tuesday, 25th of February, 1947, published on Friday, 28 February 1947. Petrus Hugo was given a seniority date of 1 September 1945 even though he had first been a Squadron Leader in 12 July 1942 albeit war substantive.
On 1 November 1947, “Dutch” Hugo was amongst a batch of 34 RAF Second World War Pilots who “relinquished the war substantive rank of Wing Commander” and were now Squadron Leaders substantive.
On 23 September, 1948, he moved to No. 230 Operational Conversion Unit on a refresher course before being posted as Commanding Officer of No. 90 Squadron.
He retired, at his own request, from the Royal Air Force on 19 February, 1950, retaining the rank Group Captain.
After resigning from the RAF Hugo returned to the Karoo where he soon realised that the Nationalist Government’s racial policies were disastrous. Consequently the British Government gave him a farm on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. He named the farm ‘Ol Kieret’ with the main crops being wheat as well as running 2000 head of cattle. Hugo also bred Alsatians whilst his wife Angela took an interest in Pugs, horses and cats.
In 1971 two disasters hit Hugo, firstly his wife, Angela died of cancer and one morning the police arrived at Ol Kieviet with an eviction notice. No reason was given and an appeal was not allowed; neither would the British Government assist a man who had fought so valiantly for their country in their darkest hour. Undoubtedly the deportation order was a matter of mistaken identity but the new independent Tanzanian authorities were not prepared to lose face by admitting their mistake. He was only allowed to take 8 small boxes of personal belongings.
He returned to South Africa and bought a sheep farm, Canariesfontein, in the Canarvon district near Pampoensdrift, the dorp where he had been brought up and from where he had set forth to join the RAF.
Most sources state Hugo died at Victoria West on June 6th, 1986. [i] This is confirmed by his headstone see Figure 9 below. He died of a heart attack and was laid to rest in the graveyard of the family farm. It was a simple ceremony befitting this humble hero, His weathered RAF cap and a large wreath in RAF colours were placed on his coffin.
Hough and Richards felt that Hugo’s shooting was almost on a par with ‘Sailor’ Malan’s.
Speaking on 14 September 1986 at a Battle of Britain Memorial Service held in Cape Town honouring the South African Ace Petrus Hugo, Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Stanford CBE DFC, then the Mayor of Somerset West, paid tribute to as follows:
“After I completed modest service with the SAAF in Italy during 1944 I was posted to the Central Fighter Establishment in England and was given a close support unit to command under Group Captain Hugo. For such a distinguished pilot he was the most humble man I have ever known. He had won a chest full of medals yet on his blue battle dress he wore only his RAF wings with “South Africa” embroidered on the shoulders. Standing 6 foot in his socks he was athletically built with broad shoulders, fine bone features and clear steady blue eyes. He was courteous and indomitable with a good sense of humour – a man to be relied upon and trusted on all occasions. Piet Hugo was one of those indomitable pilots who helped save Great Britain in 1940. What can on say about such a man? He possessed courage, dedication and humility. He was not one of those glamourous “fighter boys” like some we know. I do not speak unkindly on this issue because he never sought notoriety. It was a privilege to serve under him and we remember him gratefully now that he has taken to the wings of the morning.”
On 22 April 2010 Hugo’s medals were auctioned by the well-known memorabilia and medal auctioneers Spinks fetching £150,000 well above the estimate of £100-120,000.
“Dutch” Hugo’s group from left to right: D.S.O., D.F.C. with two bars, the 1939-1945 Star with the “Battle of Britain” clasp, Air Crew Europe Star with the “France and Germany” clasp, Africa Star with the “North Africa 1924-43” clasp, Italy Star, Defence Medal, War Medal, American Distinguished Flying Cross and the French Republic Croix de Guerre 1939-45 with Bronze Palme.
Hugo’s final victory tally is listed by Delve as 17 confirmed plus 3 disputed victories. Shores and Williams credit Hugo with 17 destroyed and 5 shared destroyed; 2 unconfirmed destroyed, 6 unconfirmed damaged, 3 probables and 7 damaged enemy aircraft. It has been adjusted from the 22 on Tidy’s and Foreman & Shores lists.
|1940 20 |
|Ju87 (Given as unconfirmed |
|Hurricane I – |
|½ Do17 Damaged (Given full credit by Foreman||Hurricane 1||S Redhill||615|
|2 Bf109Es unconfirmed||Hurricane I – |
|near South |
|Bf109E (some sources given as unconfirmed||Hurricane I – |
|1/6 He59||Hurricane I – |
|10m NE Dover||615|
|Bf109E||Hurricane I – |
|HeIII damaged (Some sources state a Bf110 damaged)||Hurricane I – |
|1941 14 |
|¼ He59||Hurricane IIc||off |
|1942 12 |
|Bf109F Bf109F damaged||Spitfire Vb – BL248 |
Spitfire Vb – BL248
|Channel Channel||41 |
| 14 |
|Bf109E Bf109E damaged |
(Only Baker records this claim)
|Spitfire Vb – BL248||8m N Fecamp||41|
|26 Mar||Bf109E BF109E damaged (only Baker records this claim)||Spitfire Vb – BL248||Le Harve||41|
|FW190||Spitfire Vb – BL248||Tangmere Wing|
|Bf109F damaged||Spitfire |
|off Le Havre||41|
|FW190 probable||Spitfire Vb BL248||Ostend||41|
|FW190 damaged||Spitfire Vb |
|½ ‘Do217’ (Some sources have it as a Do17)||Spitfire |
|Ju88 probable Ju88 damaged |
(not in official lists but recorded by Baker)
|HeIII probable Ju88 damaged |
(not in official lists but recorded
|Ju88 2 109s damaged (damaged (not in official lists but recorded by Baker)||Spitfire |
|2 Dec||2 ‘Ba88s’||Spitfire |
|Sea N |
|1943 29 June||Bf109 damaged||Spitfire |
Vc – EN534 EF-Y
|2 Sep||FW190||Spitfire IX||Augusta||322Wing|
|18 Nov||Ar196||Spitfire Vc – MA433||Tivat Harbour Yugoslavia||322|
|1944 10 |
|Bf109 damaged||Spitfire IX||N Italy||322Wing|
Total: 17 and 3 shared destroyed, 2 unconfirmed destroyed, 3 probables and 7½ damaged.
Hurricane I P2962 615 Squadron
N2328 615 Squadron
P4160 615 Squadron
Spitfire VB BL248 41 Squadron 9 Maintenance Unit on 22 November 1941. 41 Squadron on 5 December 1941. Struck off charge on 27 April 1942. Flying hours 110.40.
Picture below is the right Squadron and colour scheme but a later marque Spitfire than Hugo flew.
Spitfire VC EN534 EF-Y 322 Wing
3872 Rolls-Royce to FIX M61. First Flight 13 January 1943. 12 Maintenance Unit 29 January 1943. 47 Maintenance unit 9 February 1943. Sailed on Fort Hud on 20 February 1943. Arrived Gibraltar on 7 March 1943. North West Africa 31 March 1943. Struck off charge 15 March 1945.
MA433 322 Wing
Spitfire MT679 322 Wing
Spitfire book reports having no record of this plane!
PH would have been worn camouflage like the plane below.
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Newspapers and Gazettes
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National Archives United Kingdom
- Register of the Distinguished Service Order, Book 10, Aug 1941 – Jul 1943. National Archives WO390-12-0-2. Retrieved 1 October 2014. Index A-Z, pages 1-251.
- World War 2 Awards – HUGO, Petrus Hendrik. Retrieved 1 October 2014 http://en.ww2awards.com/person/41619
- Petrus Hendrik ‘Dutch’ Hugo, DSO, DFC and 2 bars. Retrieved 27 October 2014, http://www.geni.com/people/Petrus-Hugo/6000000021038937725
- Petrus Hendrik ‘Dutch’ Hugo, DSO, DFC and 2 bars. Retrieved 27 October 2014, http://www.samilitaryhistory.org/vol014dt.html