On this day: WWII RAF ace Robert Stanford Tuck falls from the skies

Blogger: GemSen

On this day, 28th January, in 1942, RAF ace, Robert Stanford Tuck, was plummeting out of the sky, after being shot down by the enemy over northern France.

Born of Jewish parents, Tuck, with 29 known enemy kills, was taking part in a number of RAF Fighter Command offensive attacks known as the ‘Rhubarb Raids’.

The raids, performed by small numbers of fighter aircraft, sometimes just a pair, intended to bombard targets of opportunity. They were considered extremely risky operations because pilots had to cross the English Channel twice and the attacks were performed often at the limits of range. Pilot losses built up rapidly.

Tuck was doing well before he got hit by anti aircraft fire on that fateful day, and he was unlucky enough to crash-land right next to the gun crew that he had just attacked, including some that he’d killed. It didn’t look good and most people in his situation would have expected to have been saying their final prayers.

However, the notorious ‘Tuck's luck’ came into play when his German captors were impressed, astonished and amused that one of his shots had passed precisely down the barrel of their similar sized weapon and had exploded, peeling open the barrel like a banana.

Tuck’s life was spared, but he was taken prisoner and then spent the next couple of years in Stalag Luft III at Zagan (Sagan). That didn’t stop him trying to escape from several other prisoner of war camps across Germany and Poland though, and he finally escaped successfully on 1 February 1945.

The plucky pilot then spent some time fighting alongside Russian troops, where the Russian he learnt from his childhood nanny came in handy. Later, he managed to find his way to the British Embassy in Moscow and eventually boarded a ship from Russia to Southampton, England.

Tuck's RAF career

Born in London, Tuck after a less-than-stellar school career joined the Merchant Navy as a sea cadet before joining the RAF on a short service commission as an acting pilot officer in 1935.

Following flying training, Tuck joined 65 Squadron in September 1935 as an acting probationary pilot officer. By September 1938 he was promoted to flying officer and in May 1940, he was posted to 92 Squadron as a Flight Commander flying Spitfires. Tuck first engaged in combat during the Battle of France, over Dunkirk, claiming his first victories.

Tuck's squadron leader rank was made permanent in September 1945 and he then became a temporary Wing Commander in April 1946. He received his final decoration, the Distinguished Flying Cross from the US Air Force on 14 June 1946, before he retired from the RAF and active service on 13 May 1949 having had his permanent rank promoted to Wing Commander in July 1947. 

Distinguished Service Order DSO, Distinguished Flying Cross DFC, and Two Bars, Air Force Cross AFC.

Source: WW2today & Wiki

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