DSO DFC and bar
(July 1 1916 - May 5 1987)
Robert Stanford Tuck ws born in Catford, south London and
educated at St Dunstan’s College, Catford. After serving
in the Merchant Navy between 1932 and 1935, Tuck joined the
RAF, joining 65 Squadron at RAF Hornchurch in 1August 1936.
Tuck remained with 65 Squadron at Hornchurch until transferring
as a Flight Commander to 92 Squadron at Croydon.
Whilst with 65 Squdaron at Hornchurch tuck flew with the
Squadron’s acrobatic team and on two occasions Tuck
narrowly avoided death due to aerial collisions whilst practising
acrobatics. In the first of these collisions the other pilot
involved, Sergeant Geoffrey Gaskell was unfortunately not
so lucky and was killed.
Tuck was to become one of Britain’s top scoring pilots
during the desperate air battles over Dunkirk and during the
Battle of Britain. Tuck returned briefly to Hornchurch on
June 28th 1940 to be awarded his DFC by King George VI. During
the Battle of Britain, Tuck accounted for at least twenty
seven German aircraft but was himself shot down twice.
During this time Tuck was also chosen to fly comparison trials
between the Spitfire and a captured Messerscmitt 109 that
were critical in developing the Spitfire further in order
to take mastery of the air from its German rival. Like his
friend Adolph Malan, Tuck also realised that British fighter
tactics needed to change in order to confront the Luftwaffe
on equal terms and advocated the abandonment of the cumbersome
Vic formation in favour of the German Schwarm or Finger Four
Tuck ended the Battle of Britain as Squadron Leader of the
Hurricane equipped 257 Squadron, based at Debden,. On taking
command of 257 Squadron he found it a unit that had a near
catastrophic morale crisis but under his stewardship it became
one of the finest squadrons in the RAF.
Whilst in command of 257 Squadron Tuck also advocated the
improvement of British fighter armament to include cannons
and demonstrated that British fighters could undertake offensive
sweeps over Holland, Belgium and Northern France. These sweeps
would become the major theme of British fighter operations
until the end of the war in Europe.
Tuck was again shot down in June 1941 but was rescued from
the Channel where he had ditched. In July 1941 Tuck was promoted
Wing Commander at RAF Duxford from where he led fighter sweeps
over France. Unfortunately on January 28 1942, Tuck’s
Spitfire was hit by ground fire near Boulogne and he was forced
down and captured. Soon after his capture, Tuck was invited
to dinner by the German air ace, Adolph Galland.
Tuck spent the majority of the rest of the war at the infamous
Stalagluft III Prisoner of war camp. Whilst at Stalag Luft
III he attempted a number of escapes without success and was
involved in planning others. He finally escaped in February
1945 and briefly fought with Russian troops before returning
Tuck retired from active service in 1949 but continued to
fly as a test pilot for the RAF during which time he tested
the English Electric Canberra. Tuck, along with Al Deere and
Adolph Galland, was consulted during the making of the film
The Battle of Britain
Bishop, E, (Ed) 2002. The Daily Telegraph Book of Airmen’s
Forrester, L. 1956. Fly for Your Life: the Story of RR Stanford
Tuck, DSO, DFC.