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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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152 Squadron Spitfire Vc JG725 F/O. Robert John Heugh Drummond

Operation: Ground attack.

Date: 24th April 1943 (Easter Saturday)

Unit: No. 152 (Hyderabad) Squadron (motto: 'Faithful Ally'). 322 Wing. 242 Group. (NWATAF)

9Type: Spitfire Vc

Serial: JG725

Code: UM-?

Base: 'Paddington' Souk el Khemis, Tunisia

Location: Pont-du-Fahs

Pilot: F/O. Robert John Heugh Drummond 119720 RAFVR Age 29. Killed


Taking off at 14:45 hrs to carry out a strafing run on two gun posts and roads north of Pont-du-Fahs.

Two aircraft taking part, the other Spitfire Vc JN109 flown by Fl/Sgt. J. Utterston 1369512 fell victim to the fierce enemy flak batteries.

F/O. Drummond was killed, Fl/Sgt. John Utterson 1369512 survived to be taken PoW. He remained for the rest of the war in Stalag Luft Heydekrug and Stalag Luft Gross Tychow PoW No. 1107.

The squadron lost 4 Spitfires on this day, the other two pilots survived Fl/Lt. M.H Pocock (Blue 1) flying Spitfire JK109 and Sgt. R.E Macdonald (Blue 2) flying Spitfire Vc ES138

Note: John Utterson trained at the British Flying Training School Falcon Field, Mesa, Arizona. Course 3, 27th August 1941 - 22nd January 1942 and promoted to sergeant before returning to England. He survived the war.

Burial and other details:

F/O. Robert John Heugh Drummond. Massicault War Cemetery. Grave VI. E. 20. Born on the 04th November 1913 at Masterton. Educated at Lansdowne Primary School, Wairarapa High School, Victoria University, and Canterbury University. Moved to the UK in September 1938 and went to Oxford University (Balliol College). Served in British Army as Officer Cadet Training Unit. Commissioned in the Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment on the 18th of May 1940.

Attached to RAF as a pilot under training in late 1941. No. 5 Service Flying Training School and pilot badge awarded on the 11th December 1941. Transferred to the RAFVR and commissioned on the 14th of March 1942. Joined 26 squadron flying the Mustang on the 20th May 1942. 171 squadron on the 14th of June 1942 flying the Tomahawk and Mustang. To HQ 35 Wing on the 31st October 1942. To Algeria via Gibraltar and 152 squadron on the 12th of December flying the Spitfire.

Son of Robert Crawford Drummond (died 05th November 1959, age 90) and of Agnes Cecilia Mary Drummond (née Telford - died 05th October 1957, age 79), of Masterton, New Zealand. Brother of Norah (Burnard), Jean (Phillips-Turner), Ronald, Patricia (Hutchison), Celia (Manson), Rosalind, Sarah (Evans), Bruce, Rosamond (Agar). Husband of Vera Jane Drummond (née Carter).

A letter from Brian Doyle regarding the final moments of Heugh Drummond. (Sent to us from Diana O’Brien - niece of the pilot)

Brian Doyle was Heugh’s first cousin. He was serving in the Air Force (not sure whether it was R.A.F. or N.Z.R.A.F., somewhere in Northern Africa when Heugh was killed. This is an extract from a letter to his family dated 19th October 1943:

“I managed to get in touch with a chap recently who was with Heugh Drummond on the flight from which he was reported missing. This chap Sgt. Smith is his name said that four of them went out to attack a ground target and were on their way back somewhere between Medjez-el-Bab and Pont du Fahs when Heugh called up and said that his section which was some distance away from the other was being attacked by twenty aircraft. About the same time, Smith’s section was also attacked by twenty aircraft and they were kept busy enough looking after themselves. The next thing he remembers hearing from Heugh was when he called up his No. 2 to ask him if he was alright as apparently the No.2 was going down.

There was no reply. Shortly after this someone else who was coming to help them called up Heugh to ask him his position but there was no answer and he was not heard from again. His No.2 has since been reported a prisoner of war but his squadron has heard nothing more of Heugh himself. A rather strange point was that after the occupation of Tunisia they examined the wreckage of crashed British planes in that area but none of them appeared to be his. As it’s about four months since he disappeared I’m afraid there’s not much hope of his still being alive.

Extract from a letter dated August 27, 1950, from Brother Salvator, Franciscan Novitate ‘Maryfields’ Campbelltown N.S.W. Brother Salvator was a second cousin of Heugh’s.

'Perhaps you were all wondering why I should have asked about Hugh Drummond in my last letter home. Well, one of my fellow novices was in the RAF during the war and was a great friend of Hugh Drummond who was a New Zealand Pilot. So you see I just wanted to make sure he was my cousin. This Brother has written out the following for me in which, I presume you will be greatly interested:

‘Hugh was at Gibraltar at the beginning of Dec. 1942. He probably arrived there in the liner ‘Llansteffan Castle’ which sailed from Glasgow on Nov. 25th. On the morning of December 10th, he flew a Spitfire across the Mediterranean to Oran and the same afternoon flew up the coast of North Africa to Algiers. On Dec. 18th he flew up to Souk el Arba, the most advanced airfield in Tunisia, and joined No. 152 Squadron RAF.

He started operating at once and two days later, in company with another pilot, destroyed a German Junkers 88 Bomber in an air fight over Medjez el Bad about 30 miles west of Tunis. On the 28th December. he was one of a small formation which destroyed four German Heinkel bombers in the air southwest of Tunis.

During the first week of January 1943 his Squadron was based at Constantine in Algeria, and then for the rest of the month at Setif, also in Algeria. At the beginning of February, the squadron returned to Tunisia, to a new airfield at Souk el Khemis.

Above as described: 'Heugh' as he was known, shown 4th from the left wearing a 'Beanie' hat. (Diana O’Brien - niece of the pilot)

The squadron was very busy there, and Hugh was one of the most active pilots in the area. He was very resourceful and often did as many as three flights over enemy territory in one day. This novice who knew him, left 152 Squadron at the end of April to return to England. A few days later Hugh failed to return from an operational flight in the vicinity of Tunis.

At the end of 1943 this novice met with another of the pilots of 152 Squadron who told after the Germans had surrendered in North Africa a grave had been found marked ‘unknown New Zealand Spitfire Pilot’ It was then taken for granted it was Hugh’s.

But knowing to what lengths the Air Force went to trace missing pilots this same novice is quite certain that if Hugh’s parents have been told of the discovery of his grave then they must be satisfied that the grave mentioned was someone else’.

Note: A letter from Heugh, heavily censored and undated has at the top “7 days after my birthday which I spent at sea in one of HM ships”. Heugh’s birthday was the 4th of November so he must have written it on the 11th of November. From this, we can presume he left Glasgow at the beginning of November 1942. From this letter, it seems that he is anchored off the coast of Gibraltar.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot, thanks to Diana O’Brien (niece of the pilot), the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Library Heritage Collection, Weekly News of New Zealand, Air Museum of New Zealand, Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland, other sources as quoted below:

KTY 29-08-2022

KTY 12-09-2022 Letters and photograph added

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