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Aces of Aviation

Hawker Hurricane Mark I of Robert R. Stanford Tuck

Hawker Hurricane Mark I of Robert R. Stanford Tuck

Hawker Hurricane Mark I from the 257th Squadron of the RAF, piloted by Squadron Leader Robert R. Stanford Tuck in November 1940.

Wingspan: 12.19 meters.

Length: 9.55 meters.

Height: 4.07 meters.

Engine[s]: Rolls-Royce Merlin of 1030 horsepower.

Maximum speed: 496 kilometers/hour.

Service ceiling: 10180 meters.

Range: 845 kilometers.

Armament: Eight Browning M1919 0.303-inch machine guns.

Bob Stanford Tuck, descendant of General Picton, a British hero on the Spanish War of Independence, personified with exactitude the prototype of fighter pilot in the period of the Battle of Britain. Tall, handsome and nonchalant, as well as great sportman, good shooter and enthusiast fencer, he was a peacetime product of the Fighter Command who during the ending stages of the Battle of France piloted the Supermarine Spitfire as Flight Commander on the 92nd Squadron. In that time he had already shot down seven enemy aircraft and earned the Distinguished Flight Cross.

During August 1940 he was active in numerous occasions, destroying a Junkers Ju 88 the 13th day and another two the following day. He shot down another Ju 88 the 18th day but was close to crash against another one. He was wounded by crossfire and forced to parachute near Beachy Head, in East Sussex, suffering minor injuries that were solved with a stay of few days on the hospital. After returning to the operations theater the 25th day, he destroyed a Dornier Do 17 but had to perform a forced landing due to the damage sustained during the fight.

The 12th September he was sent to command the 257th Squadron (Burma) of Hawker Hurricane, which had suffered considerable losses and whose moral was clearly at ground level. With his extraordinary charm and personality Tuck soon enlivened the downhearted pilots and, as always, took the initiative by giving example; he destroyed a Messerschmitt Bf 109 the 15th day, another one the 23rd day and a Junkers Ju 88 the 4th October. The 12th day of that month, during a visit to his former unit, the 92nd Squadron, he attacked and downed a Bf 109 from the 2/LG 2 over Kent. Before the end of the month he had raised his record by destroying another Bf 109, with another two given as probable and another two damaged, all of them while piloting the Hurricane Mark I depicted in the illustration.

Bob Tuck was absent from his squadron, during a leave, when the Italian bombings over the stuary of the Thames, in November. But the following month he added to his record another two Do 17 and one Bf 109. With these his record had reached 25 victories, including confirmed and probable ones, and he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. After switching to the Hurricane Mark II, Tuck downed a Do 17 the 2nd March 1941. He continued flying in the Hurricane for three more months, downing a Ju 88 in the night of the 9th April and damaging another one the 11th May. The 21st June he engaged several Bf 109 over the English Channel and downed another two before being forced to parachute. In July he was sent to command the Duxford Wing, returning so to flying the Spitfire, when the RAF Fighter Command took part in the offensive of 1941.

The 28th June 1942, when his record reached 29 confirmed victories, he was downed and made prisoner during a raid over northern France. Before being sent to a concentration camp he was invited to lunch along with Adolf Galland, with whom he started a long friendship after the war. When escaping from the concentration camp, shortly before the end of the war, he spent some time fighting along the Russian infantry before being repatriated to England. Until his death in 1987, Wing Commander Robert Roland Stanford Tuck kept his juvenile enthusiasm for the RAF and the aviation in general.