The Airmen's Stories - S/Ldr. C B Hull
Caesar Barraud Hull was born on 23rd February 1914 at Leachdale Farm in Shangani, Southem Rhodesia. His father served in the desert campaign in German West Africa in the First World War. In 1918 the family was farming at Nylstroom in the Transvaal, South Africa, moving in 1922 to Voeglestruiskvaal, near Rustenburg. Hull and his elder brother were taught at home by their parents until 1926, when they went as day boys to St John's College, Johannesburg. They later became boarders in this, the best and most expensive school in Transvaal. On leaving, Hull returned to the family farm, then at M'Babane, Swaziland. He went to work for a mining company and in 1934 he was picked for the Springbok boxing team at the Empire Games at Wembley.
After returning home, Hull applied to join the South African Air Force. There was an initial difficulty because he did not speak Afrikaans but eventually he went as a cadet to the SAAF Reserve Training School at Roberts Heights. On completion of the course, Hull's lack of Afrikaans prevented his transfer to the SAAF.
In 1935 Hull applied for an RAF short service commission and was provisionally accepted. He began his ab-initio course in July, went to No.1 RAF Depot, Uxbridge on 16th September 1935 and on the 28th was posted to 3 FTS, Grantham. With training completed, Hull joined 43 Squadron at Tangmere on 5th August 1936. Flying in a Fury, he represented 43 Squadron in aerobatics on 26th June 1937 at the Hendon Air Display.
Hull teamed up with Prosser Hanks of No. 1 Squadron to perfect a routine whereby they would change seats in mid-air in a two-seater Audax. Peter Townsend had also joined 43 and he and Caesar became close friends.
In Spring 1938, having won three eliminating boxing bouts, Hull decided against taking part in the Imperial Championships to be held in South Africa because he did not wish for a three months absence from 43 Squadron. The officer who took his place was killed in an aeroplane crash in Rhodesia. In late 1938 43 Squadron was re-equipped with Hurricanes.
After the outbreak of war 43 Squadron was tasked with coastal patrols and posted to Acklington, near Newcastle on 18th November 1939. On the afternoon of 30th January 1940 a section of ‘B’ Flight under F/Lt. Townsend were scrambled to defend a convoy which was being attacked, but in the foul weather nothing was seen. On returning to base they passed F/O Hull and Sgt. Carey, who had also been scrambled but had their takeoff delayed by a strong cross-wind. The pair intercepted and destroyed a He111 bomber off Coquet Island. The crew of five were rescued by one of the boats they had been trying to destroy. This was 43 Squadron's first kill.
On 3rd February a section from ‘B’ flight led by F/Lt. Townsend intercepted a He111 attacking a ship east of Whitby, the aircraft was brought down on a farm near Whitby, the first enemy aircraft to be brought down on English soil in WW2. Two of the crew were killed and two seriously injured. The injured survivors were visited in hospital by Townsend, Hull and Simpson, bearing gifts of fruit and cigarettes. The other two crew members were buried with full military honours at Catterick.
(Above: Townsend (left) and Hull (right))
43 Squadron, based at Wick from 26th February, continued to intercept raids by He111’s and Hull destroyed one over Scapa Flow on 30th January and shared two more on 28th March and 10th April.
In response to the German invasion of Norway on 9th April Fighter Command was re-organised with Hull being posted to 263 Squadron as a Flight Commander. The squadron’s obsolete Gladiators were loaded onto HMS Furious and it sailed from Scapa Flow for Norway on 14th April.
Their arrival at Bardufoss was delayed by bad weather but they were soon in action and Hull damaged a He111 on the 22nd, shared another on the 24th and destroyed two Ju52’s, damaged a third and probably destroyed two He111’s on the 26th.
By 27th May 1940 263 Squadron were based at Bodo covering the withdrawal by sea of British and Norwegian troops. Eleven Ju87’s escorted by three Me110’s appeared and Hull destroyed one Ju87. He was then hit by fire from a second Ju87 and a Me110. He managed to crash-land just short of the airfield, wounded in the head and knee. Hull was evacuated back to the UK in a Sunderland flying boat for hospital treatment.
He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 21st June 1940) and a ‘Mention in Despatches’ (gazetted 11th July 1940).
(The evacuation was covered by just three Gladiators and in June 1977 a memorial was unveiled to F/Lt. Hull, P/O Falkson and Lt. Lydekker RN, the airmen involved, at Bodo airfield).
Hull's evacuation to England saved him from being one of 26 pilots lost when HMS Glorious was sunk on 8th June, returning from Norway with all that could be saved from the air component.
Hull was hospitalised for treatment of his injuries, this was followed by a period of rest and he did not rejoin 43 Squadron at Tangmere till 30th August when he was posted there to replace S/Ldr. JVC Badger, who had been shot down and killed that day. It was recorded that the battle-weary squadron was invigorated by Hull’s return.
(Above: 43 Sqdn in Scotland L to R: Sgt. JA Buck, P/O A Woods-Scawen, F/Lt. CB Hull, F/O Wilkinson, Sgt. GA Garton)
He claimed two probable Me110’s on 4th September and a Me109 destroyed plus a shared Ju88 on the 6th.
Sunday 7th September saw the first big Luftwaffe raid on London. 43 Squadron were scrambled and Hull led them to intercept a large force of Do17’s escorted by Me109’s. The combat that followed was very intense and Hull was last seen going to the aid of F/Lt. RC Reynell, a very popular Australian pilot. Both men failed to return.
Hull’s Hurricane, V6641, was found in the grounds of Purley High School near Croydon, he was dead from a bullet wound.
The following day 43 Squadron was withdrawn to RAF Usworth to recover and train fresh pilots.
F/Lt. John WC Simpson, a close friend from pre-war 43 Squadron days, heard the news while recovering from wounds received when he was shot down on 19th July and recorded:
For two days I have been thinking of Caesar. I loved him as I would a brother. There can never be anyone to replace him in character, charm and kindliness. We came to 43 together and grew up in it together. We knew each other from A to Z and it was a privilege no one else could share. I don't know what to say. I thought I was quite used to people dying. Do you realize that there are only three of us still alive who were serving with the squadron when the war began ? I went for a long walk in the woods when the news came and I cried for the first time since I was little.
Dear old Caesar. He commanded the squadron he began in as a Pilot Officer. I would have loved to fly with him as my CO. It seems funny to think that I shall never see him shaking that left foot of his when he was excited. And that laugh!
I have never heard anybody say an unkind thing about Caesar and I never heard him say an unkind thing about anybody else. One can't say more than that, can one ?
Hull was buried at St. Andrews, Tangmere.
When the news of his loss reached Southern Rhodesia, his friends and family there placed a memorial plaque alongside the main road linking the towns of Bulawayo and Gwelo, on the approach to the Shangani River Bridge. In 1986 the area became very unstable and the plaque became overgrown and untended. Hull’s family were able to retrieve it in 2004 and donated it to the Tangmere Aviation Museum.
Ceasar’s brother, Robin Yorke Hull, was killed in action in North Africa on 1st January 1942.
Majority of research courtesy of Bill Musgrave (ex-237 (Rhodesia) Squadron, RAF Middle East Command 1943-1945)