22.02.1944 No. 263 Squadron Typhoon Ib JR302 F/O. Tuff
Operation: Shipping Reconnaissance
Date: 22nd February 1944 (Tuesday)
Unit: No. 263 Squadron
Type: Hawker Typhoon Ib
Base: RAF Harrowbeer, Devon
Location: Approx 8 Miles North-West of Guernsey
Pilot: F/O. Robert Bruce Tuff AUS/409257 RAAF Age 21. Missing believed killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
TUFF, Robert Bruce, F/O. (Aus 409257, Royal Australian Air Force) - No.263 Squadron - Mention in Despatches - awarded as per London Gazette dated 8 June 1944 and Commonwealth Gazette dated 22 June 1944. Public Record Office Air 2/9219 has recommendation for a George Cross which was reduced to this award.
(Note: some publications have listed his name incorrectly as 'Tough')
On the 22nd February 1944, F/O. Tuff was returning from an armed shipping reconnaissance when he observed that his squadron commander (Squadron Leader G.B. Warnes, DSO, DFC) who had been compelled to alight on the sea some 20 miles northwest of Guernsey, was in difficulties and some 50 yards away from his dinghy. F/O. Tuff passed the information to his deputy leader by radio telephone and informed him that he intended to abandon his aircraft and go to the assistance of Squadron Leader Warnes, who also appeared to be injured.
F/O. Tuff undoubtedly realised that, in view of the rough sea and poor visibility, it would be extremely unlikely that he would be able to alight on the sea close to Sq/Ldr. Warnes, and that to reach him he would probably have to swim a long distance in a perilous sea. He was a strong swimmer, however, and was evidently prepared if necessary to discard his own dinghy. Even if he reached Sq/Ldr. Warnes the chances of being picked up were extremely small in view of their distance from Guernsey and the roughness of the sea.
Nevertheless, F/O. Tuff, in cold blood, took the risk in order to try and save the life of his squadron commander. In spite of every effort being made to locate Sq/Ldr. Warnes and F/O. Tuff, they have not since been found. F/O. Tuff showed extreme bravery in attempting to help a comrade and his self-sacrifice was worthy of the highest praise…. a phenomenal case of quixotic bravery and devotion. Although opinions may differ on the wisdom of the Officer’s action in abandoning his aircraft, his utter disregard for his life in a desperate effort to save his CO deserves a very high award (1)
The Squadron circumstantial report stated that “it seems certain that F/O. Tuff did in fact bale out in order to try and help his Commanding Officer. The weather was bitterly cold, and freezing at sea level, with a moderate north east wind which made the sea rather rough (2)
In 1949 it was recorded that F/O. Tuff has lost his life at sea (2)
Australia: Victoria, Melbourne, Essendon. Group portrait of RAAF officers attending No 3 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS). Identified from left to right, back row: 403993 Donald Hamilton Thompson; four unidentified; 409252 Bruce Alexander Tait (who was killed in action on 29 December 1943 when the Lancaster Bomber he was piloting crashed at Grossziehten, near Berlin); unidentified; Bill Young; Evans. Second row: 9245 Sydney James (Jim) Commons; 407932 John Hereford Portus (who received the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) on 18 January 1944); 409257 Robert Bruce Tuff (who was killed in action on 22 February 1944 over the English Channel); unidentified; Ryan; 408932 John Lorne Seelenmeyer; four unidentified. Front row: Oldmeadow; 400438 William Dougal McBean; 408891 Norman Albert Augustus Smithells (served as Norman Albert Turnbull); unidentified; 409249 Freeman Rolland George Strickland; 409218 Ronald Ormond Patterson; 409223 Sergeant Douglas Robert Ramsay (accidentally killed in Hamilton, Vic on 8 January 1943); two unidentified.
F/O. Robert Bruce Tuff. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 258 (3) Born on the 11th July 1922 at Seddon, Victoria, the son of Robert H. and Margaret Campbell Tuff, of 123 Carpenter Street, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia.
Also lost on 22 Feb 1944 (3,4,5):
Typhoon JR304 - F/O. Robert Charles Hunter 150009 RAFVR. Son of Charles Henry and Elsie Dora Hunter, of Wolverhampton (recorded as 63 Sqn on CWGC website (3). Runnymede Memorial. Panel 207.
Typhoon MN246 – Sq/Ldr. Geoffrey Berrington Warnes DSO. DFC. 78429 RAFVR. Aged 29. Son of Clifford Norman and Dorothy Warnes and husband of Peggy Warnes. Commemorated on Runnymede Memorial Panel 201.
Researched by Alexander Maddison for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to sources as quoted below:
1. Halliday, Hugh A. (Hugh Alan) 2006, Valour reconsidered : inquiries into the Victoria Cross and other awards for extreme bravery, Robin Brass Studio, Toronto
2. Storr, Alan 2006, Vol 19 RAAF Members attached to the Royal Air Force in the Second World War and Missing with No Known Grave, 121 Creative, Canberra
3. Commonwealth War Graves Commission
4. RAFWEB, RAF Casualties Index 1940-1949
5. Franks, Norman 2008, Fighter Command Losses of the Second World War Vol 2, Midland
6. Australian War Memorial