Petrus Hendrik Hugo (left in the headline image), known as “Dutch,” was a South African who joined the Royal Air Force and took part in he Battle of France and the Battle of Britain and went on to become a RAF flight commander.
Along with “Sailor” Malan, another famous fellow Afrikaner to fight in the Battle of Britain, “Dutch” is also widely celebrated as one of the “few” (as coined by Churchill) who kept Britain in the war thereby turning the tide for Nazi Germany and ultimately liberating Europe from a tyrannical ideology. This is one very brave hero and this is his story.
Petrus Hendrik Hugo was born 20 December 1917 on the farm Pampoenpoort in the Victoria West district, Cape Province. He attended the Witwatersrand College of Aeronautical Engineering and in 1938 he went to the United Kingdom to attend the Civil Flying School at Sywell.
Hugo was awarded a Short Service Commission in the RAF in April 1939. His Afrikaans origins and pronounced accent soon earned him the nickname “Dutch”, and he was known by this throughout his RAF careerHe served at No.13 Flying Training School for six months and was assessed “exceptional” at the end of his course. He attended the Fighter School at RAF St. Athan in Wales, and in December 1939, joined No. 615 Squadron RAF at Vitry, in France, equipped with the Gloster Gladiator.
In April 1940, the squadron re-equipped with Hawker Hurricanes. During the Battle of France, Hugo shot down a Heinkel He 111 bomber on 20 May 1940. 615 Squadron returned to the UK and were stationed at RAF Croydon and RAF Kenley.
On 20 July 1940 Hugo shot down two Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters and shot down yet another Bf 109 on 25 July. He then shared a Heinkel He 59 floatplane with another pilot on 27 July. On 12 August Hugo shot down another Bf 109. On 16 August he claimed a He 111 probably destroyed over Newhaven, but was himself hit by cannon shell splinters from a Messerschmitt Bf 110. Slightly wounded in both legs, Hugo returned to action two days later. He was bounced by Bf 109s of JG 3 and wounded in the left leg, left eye and right cheek and jaw. He managed to crash-land, and was taken to Orpington Hospital. In late August, 1940, the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) was announced. By late September he rejoined No. 615, based at Prestwick in Scotland.
In mid 1941 the squadron, now flying the cannon-armed Hurricane IIc, returned to RAF Kenley. On 14 October 1941 Hugo shared a Heinkel He 59 flying boat shot down with three other pilots. He assumed command of 41 Squadron RAF on 20 November, which was flying Supermarine Spitfires, and was awarded a Bar to his DFC on 25 November. On 12 February 1942 during the channel dash of the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, he shot down one Bf 109 and damaged a second. On 14 March he shot down another Bf 109 over a German convoy near Fecamp, and on 26th he claimed another escorting Bostons raiding Le Havre. Promoted to wing commander on 12 April 1942, he took over as Tangmere Wing Leader, but on 27 April was wounded again, being shot down in the English Channel. In a running fight with Focke-Wulf Fw 190s of II./JG 26 he claimed a probable Fw 190 and damaged a second but was hit in the left shoulder, and had to bale out, being picked up by Air Sea Rescue. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order while recuperating at 11 Group HQ.
In late November 1942 he took over No. 322 Wing RAF. On 12 November he half-shared a Dornier Do 217 shot down near Djidjelli. He claimed a probable Junkers Ju 88 and another damaged near Bougie Harbour on 13 November, and on the 15th a probable He 111 and a damaged Ju 88 over Bône Harbour. On 16 November he downed a Ju 88 and two Bf 109s. He got another Ju 88 on 18 November and three more Bf 109s on 21, 26 and 28 November 1942.
On 2 December he shot down two Italian Breda Ba 88 bombers of 30 gruppo near La Galite, one being shared, and on 14 a Savoia-Marchetti SM.79. He led 322 Wing for the next four months until posted to HQ, North-West African Coastal Air Force, and also awarded a second Bar to the DFC.
He returned to command No.322 Wing in June 1943 and on 29 June destroyed a Bf 109. On 2 September Hugo shot down a Fw 190 near Mount Etna and on 18 November he got his last confirmed victory of the war, an Arado Ar 196 Floatplane of Seeaufkl. 126, over the Adriatic coast.
His final tally was 17 destroyed, three shared destroyed, three probably destroyed and seven damaged. Of these, 12 and one shared destroyed were scored in the Spitfire V
In the header image – Group Captain P H “Dutch” Hugo (left) is seen in his role of Commanding Officer of No. 322 Wing RAF, and Wing Commander R “Raz” Berry, who took over leadership of the Wing in January 1943, both conversing at Tingley, Algeria.
Image Copyright IWM Collection. Reference and caption Wikipedia and the Imperial War Museum
As “Dutch” Hugo’s family prepare to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth, we are glad to see that he is not forgotten. He lives on in every day of our lives and we thank the authors of this website for including his story.
It is my honour and privilege, thank you for the kind words
What a Legend. I still remember his calm and collective manner.
Hi Ladies, we have just bought the 1935 Rolls-Royce which was ordered by your grandfather and then passed into your father’s hands! WOuld you have any memories or photos of the car with your family? Did he take it back to Via Moshi or did it stay in the UK. I have photos that I can send to you. Thanks Sue – Real Car Co
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I understand that Petrus Hendrik Hugo is buried on the family farm at ‘ Boonste Pampoenpoort ‘ Victoria West District, South Africa. Would it please be possible for a relative to take a photograph of his gravestone or memorial. I live in Coventry, England and I am trying to compile a photographic database of the gravestones and memorials to The Battle of Britain airmen.
Hi Malcolm. Is this what you were after?
Hope that helps.
Greetings from from an early spring time in Coventry, England. Many thanks for providing the photograph of Petrus Hugo’s grave memorial. Petrus Hugo really was one of the great airmen who helped save my country from invasion in 1940. My interest in the airmen of the Battle of Britain is to try to obtain as many photographs as possible of their memorials and locations of their memorials to thus provide a central reference database in order that in future times it will be possible for relatives and descendents of ‘ The Few ‘ to be able to find out where they are buried. On a personal note my wife and I lived in Pretoria from July 1981 through to July 1984 and in April 1982 my parents visited us from the UK and we drove from Pretoria to Cape Town and stopped overnight in Beaufort West. I remember driving along the N1 through the Karoo, a couple of days after it had rained and being amazed about the number wild flowers that had magically bloomed overnight. And on some rock by the side of the N1 my father scratched his initials into it. We spent a week in Cape Town and then travelled back to Pretoria via the Garden Route. I had to stop my mother from trying to pick a Protea flower too ! Many thanks for taking the time and trouble to send me the picture of Petrus Hugo’s memorial. Alles van die Bester en ons vir jou Suid Afika. Malcolm Dunn Coventry, England