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Robert Stanford Tuck

Robert Stanford Tuck


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 formation.

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 to England.

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 Obituaries
Forrester, L. 1956. Fly for Your Life: the Story of RR Stanford Tuck, DSO, DFC.



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