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News Archive for December, 2018

Last of the Battle of Britain ‘Red Eagles’

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

Recently passed away Battle of Britain veteran Flight Lieutenant ‘Bob’ Hughes DFC AE, who served as an air-gunner with the night-fighter Bristol Blenheims of 23 Squadron (the ‘Red Eagles’), was a great supporter of the Shoreham Aircraft Museum and attended the opening in July 1988 and last visited the Museum at Easter 2018 for its 30th anniversary.

Bob Hughes

Despite the perceived less-glamorous role compared to the Hurricane and Spitfire fighter pilots, Bob always defended the work of the Blenheims during the 1940 ‘Blitz’, as by maintaining patrol lines in the night sky the Luftwaffe bombers were often forced onto divergent flightpaths making it harder for them to find their targets. The 23 Squadron Blenheim crews also did a lot of work helping to introduce air interception radar, which eventually proved such a success in use with RAF night-fighter Bristol Beaufighters and de Havilland Mosquitos.

Bob Hughes

Post-Battle of Britain, Bob had remarkable experiences as an air-gunner, surviving two tours on bomber operations, both in North Africa and Occupied Europe and spells as an instructor. Whilst serving at RAF Pershore as a gunnery instructor, Bob took part in the second ‘Thousand Bomber Raid’ on Essen, when to make up the numbers, Bomber Command had to draw upon personnel and aircraft from training units. Having flown in Vickers Wellingtons during his two bomber tours, Bob’s last op’ was in a 50 Squadron Avro Lancaster that was meant to bomb the ‘Big City’ – Berlin. He hadn’t ever been on a trip to the German capital city, so was keen to go and poke Hitler in the eye even though the Lancaster crew weren’t overly pleased to be heading to the heavily defended target. But on route the Lancaster had to divert to the secondary target of Magdeburg, so Bob still didn’t get to add ‘Berlin’ to his logbook; however, on the return from Magdeburg, the pilot of the Lancaster did divert again to get within sight of Berlin so Bob could at least get a glimpse of the city from the air, much to the protest of the other crewmembers. For his outstanding service, Bob received a well-deserved Distinguished Flying Cross.
Bob will not be forgotten.