Incredible vintage photographs that illustrate the journey of the forgotten WW2 Battle of Britain hero-pilot have been unveiled in a new book chronicling his triumphs during the fierce aerial fighting that saved our nation from Nazi invasion.
Pat Hughes was an Australian fighter ace of World War II and served with the Royal Air Force in the UK and was credited with as many as 17 victories during the Battle of Britain, before being killed in action on September 7, 1940.
A dramatic landscape shot from the book reveals the horrific consequences of the blaze set on the London docks, which was followed by an alert, after anticipating the German invasion, which thankfully turned out to be a false alarm.
Intimate pictures of hero Pat include his sisters; Majorie and Constance and another with his parents; Caroline Christina and Paterson Clarence ‘Percy’ Hughes.
Pat Hughes is pictured at Point Cook, near Melbourne in Australia, which was the birthplace of the Royal Australian Air Force. He served with the British Royal Air Force during World War II, until he died when his Spitfire crashed in a field between Sundridge and Bessels Green in Kent
Australian flying ace Pat Hughes is pictured with Butch, his canine flying companion who he would take with him on his journeys. When the Battle of Britain started in July 1940, he joined in No. 234 Squadron’s first official aerial victories
Pat Hughes (right) is pictured with pilots of 64 Squadron, which was involved in covering the evacuation of Dunkirk and then fought during the Battle of Britain later that year
Other photos include him standing next to three 64 Squadron pilots. An endearing shot shows him with his canine flying companion Butch, who he would take with him on his journeys and a cheery shot of him smiling while having a picnic at St Eval in August 1940.
The stunning pictures are part of a book called A Spitfire Pilot’s Story – Pat Hughes: Battle of Britain Top Gun by an aviation journalist, Dennis Newton. The book is published by Amberley Publishing.
‘It was in America that the flying phenomenon took off. The tactical importance of aircraft was obvious by the time the US entered the war in 1917, and the hard-pressed French and British sought more planes and pilots from their new ally,’ Dennis said.
‘Most of the Australians wanted to be categorised for bombers or seaplanes with the object of taking up careers in civil aviation in the future, but not Pat Hughes.
‘He knew all about the great fighting aces of the First World War like the great Irishman Mick Mannock, the Canadian Billy Bishop, James McCudden, Harry Cobby, the Australian Flying Corp’s top ace; and even the legendary Germans: the Red Baron Manfred von Richthofen, Boelcke, Immellmann and Voss. Fighters were what Pat wanted!’
A dramatic landscape shot from the book, showing Tower Bridge, reveals the horrific consequences of the blaze set on the London docks on September 7, 1940. A German invasion was feared and an alert raised but it thankfully turned out to be a false alarm
Pat Hughes with his sisters Marjorie (left) and Constance. He was credited with as many as 17 victories during the Battle of Britain, before being killed in action on September 7, 1940
This picture was taken by Pat Hughes, showing a Hawker Hurricane prototype K5083, pictured at Martlesham Heath, where a Royal Air Force station operated betweeen 1917 and 1963
When the Battle of Britain started in July 1940, he joined in No. 234 Squadron’s first official aerial victories. He ranked sixth in the ‘ace of aces’ of the aerial campaign of summer 1940 and shot down at least 14 enemy aircraft.
He was killed in action on September 7, 1940, after his Spitfire crashed in a field between Sundridge and Bessels Green in Kent, even though he apparently bailed out, his parachute failed to open.
‘Patrolling over Tangmere, the twelve Spitfires from 234 Squadron led by Pat Hughes had spiralled up to 15,000 feet by 1:20pm. Down below on the airfield, the Hurricanes of 601 Squadron were taking off,’ Dennis said.
‘Pat spotted two groups of German aircraft. About fifty twin-engine Me 110s were coming in over the coast while fifteen others were already circling over Haslemere lower down.
Another picture taken by Pat Hughes, this time at sea. Pictured are comrades Desmond Sheen (right) and Bob Cosgrove in the swimming pool on the RMS Narkunda, which was requisitioned as a troopship by the Admiralty during World War II, but sunk in 1942
Pictured left is Pat Hughes’s wife Kay, whom he married in August 1940; right are Pat Hughes’s parents, Caroline Christina (nee Vennel) and Peterson Clarence ‘Percy’ Hughes.
Pat is pictured at a picnic at St Eval in North Cornwall in August 1940. Pat led 234 into some of the heaviest fighting of the Battle of Britain until he was killed in September that year
‘Detailing Red, Yellow and Green Sections to attack the larger formation, he led Blue Section down after those over Haslemere. As soon as the Spitfires were sighted the 110s formed their usual defensive circle.
‘Pat attacked the leading Messerschmitt head on, firing two short bursts. His aim was deadly.’
The Battle of Britain was a military campaign of WWII, when the RAF defended the UK against large-scale attacks by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe).
It began from July 10 to October 31, 1940, when over 1,700 Luftwaffe planes were destroyed and over 40,000 civilians were killed.
It was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces and was also the largest and most sustained aerial bombing campaign to that date.
The stunning pictures are part of a book called A Spitfire Pilot’s Story – Pat Hughes: Battle of Britain Top Gun by an aviation journalist, Dennis Newton
The Battle of Britain: The turning point of World War II
A German Junkers 88 lies in a cornfield after being brought down near the North East coast in 1940
The Battle of Britain refers to the aerial conflict between the British and German air forces in the skies over the UK between July and October 1940. It was a decisive turning point of World War II.
Its name was born after the then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill made the famous speech: ‘The Battle of France is over. I expect the Battle of Britain is about to begin…’
It was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces, and the largest and most sustained aerial bombing campaign yet. Germany needed to control the English Channel to launch an invasion of Britain.
The RAF had 1,200 planes on the eve of battle, including 800 Spitfires and Hurricanes — but only 660 of these were serviceable.
Some 2,585 German aircrew were killed or reported missing, with 925 captured and 735 wounded. There were 1,977 German aircraft destroyed.
The Royal Air Force lost 544 aircrew, 718 people from the RAF Bomber Command and 280 from the RAF Coastal Command, while 422 aircrew were wounded and 1,744 aircraft destroyed.
Britain also suffered immense civilian casualties with 23,000 dead and more than 32,000 injured.
In a speech to the nation, Winston Churchill said: ‘The gratitude of every home on our island, in our Empire and indeed throughout the world, except the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen, who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of World War by their prowess and devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’
September 15 is now celebrated as Battle of Britain Day.