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Thread: 87 Squadron in Algeria

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    Default 87 Squadron in Algeria

    Hello

    I'm new to this forum and wonder if anyone can help?

    I'm working on the design/layout of a memoir of a former pilot who served with 87 Squadron. As I have an interest in aviation and Hurricanes in particular, this project is particularly interesting to me. Unfortunately the author has passed away and the slightly incomplete manuscript was found after his death so there are some questions we'll never get answered from the source.

    Anyway, he landed with 87 Squadron as part of Operation Torch and flew from bases at Setif and Taher. Later he was posted away from Algeria to assist the training of pilots on Hurricanes in Portugal. He writes of the good fortune of this posting as, in his words:

    "Had I stayed on in North Africa with 87 Squadron I would have been rubbed out along with the majority of the squadron. The squadron was in Algeria when the Germans cut them off, starved them out, then attacked and killed them."

    I've been trying to fact-check as I work with the manuscript, if only to maintain the chronology, and I can find no mention of this destruction of the squadron in either online sources or the books I possess. The Air Research Hurricane Squadron book ends before the North African phase and also the squadron gradually moved over to Spitfires (I've got less books on them!). Other books I'm able to dig out mainly cover the fighting with Rommel in the north-east and the Algerian fighting is less well described esp from the RAF POV.

    So can anyone confirm the destruction of the squadron in Algeria? I believe they did fly from Bone airfield but that is based on fleeting references. The incident sounds pretty dramatic and I'm surprised that no mention of it is made in the squadron histories I've been able to find online.

    Thanks for any info.

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    Hi petemac3,

    welcome aboard.
    I would recommend you to check the primary source - 87 Sq Operations Record Books which are held in TNA, Kew.
    You can browse the preview online on their site and download some parts for a fee if you found something interesting.

    http://discovery.nationalarchives.go...rtments=Refine

    HTH

    Pavel
    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
    http://cz-raf.webnode.cz

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    petemac3, Hi,
    Pavel's advice is sound.
    Can we have your man's name/number. We can then check from various other sources what he might have been doing - and when!
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Hello,

    As far as the delivery of Hurricanes is concerned, the following is known:

    After lengthy negotiations, it was agreed in August 1943 that, among other items, modern fighter aircraft would be supplied for the defence of Portuguese territories, in sufficient number to equip six day fighter squadrons with 10+5 airplanes each, i.e., a total of 90 aircraft minimum.
    One of the points of the agreement was that a small number of aircraft would be supplied immediately and ferried by air. This took the shape of a secret operation with the code name "Mildew".
    On 6 August 1943, six Hurricane Mk.IICs were flown from North Africa via Gibraltar, overflying Lisbon at 1100 before landing at Alverca. The RAF pilots wore civilian clothes and were to remain in Portugal, as instructors of the future Portuguese pilots ... The British pilots stayed in Portugal until the end of August 1943.

    See:
    Portuguese Fighter Colours 1919-1956.
    Tavares, L. A. & A. J. Soares.
    Sandomierz:MMP Books/Stratus,2016.
    p.145.

    Col.

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    CWGC only shows 4 Casualties for 87 Sqn for 1943. 11/03/1943(Malta Mem), 31/03/1943(Malta Mem), 08/10/1943(Catania War Cem), and 24/11/1943(Alamein Mem) – 75% NKG. 10 Cas in 1944/1945 – all in Italian operations. None of the above occur on the same date!
    A putative 1943 massacre of 87 Sqn by the ‘Germans’ in Algeria might just need to be carefully checked?
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Last edited by Resmoroh; 15th February 2019 at 14:35. Reason: QSD
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Thanks for all your swift responses.

    I did see that there are Operations books available at Kew just before finding and registering for this site. Clearly a resource to investigate further, although I'm at the wrong end of the country for a quick visit!.

    The pilot concerned is Squadron Leader Ken Hughes. There's one picture that features him in the Hurricane Squadron book and it relates to some small images that his daughter found in his possessions.

    The info re Portugal ties in with what he writes in his memoir, apart from the details about arrival in the country. He was one of the six, and writes that they were instructed to assemble at midday over Faro and then land at an airfield called 'Orto', which, as the text was taken down by an assistant who may have misunderstood his pronunciation, I took to mean Ota.

    Completely agree re the putative 'massacre', hence my enquiries. Wouldn't want to start unfounded allegations or a diplomatic incident!

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    Well I think for a general overview the preview may be enough, at least to determine which months contain information useful for your research.
    Records of Events (F541) seems to me informative (I have seen him several times in May 1943) while Summary of events (F540) is not so informative but I think you may be find his posting in/out at least.

    Pavel
    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
    http://cz-raf.webnode.cz

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    Thanks Pavel
    Just had a quick look by following your link. The previews are quite awkward to view but as you say, they may give me some clues, though as the Algerian incident he refers to was outside of his posting and after his transfer to Portugal it's harder to know precisely where to look.

    Cheers
    Pete

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    Is this the fellow we're after?

    HUGH KENNETH HUGHES
    b. 20 Feb 1920 (MMS Bond). Reg Croydon 2a 810.
    1 Jan 1937(or some time thereafter) Enlisted RAFVR(Pilots) 748578 in Block 740000-759999. I would guestimate Enlistment as Mar 1938 (18th b/day?).
    1 May 1942 Cmd 748578 Flt Sgt Hugh Kenneth HUGHES as A/Plt Off RAFVR(GD) (121439).
    1 Nov 1942 Prom Fg Off.
    1 May 1944 Prom Flt Lt.
    1 Jun 1945 Award DFC (as Flt Lt, 3 Sqn).
    d. Jan 2006 Reg Bath & North East Somerset 3001E E9D 164.


    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Last edited by Resmoroh; 15th February 2019 at 15:59. Reason: QSD
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Yes, that's him. Interesting, though not entirely surprising perhaps, that his promotion to Squadron Leader isn't officially recorded. He writes of the verbal notice of his promotion on 24 April 1945, then taking leave that became extended due to catching Scarlet Fever, after which he took on the role but he writes, "I never did wear the 'Scrapper Ring'" as he had to wait for official confirmation but by that time he also knew he was going to be released.
    Last edited by petemac3; 15th February 2019 at 16:26.

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