The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. H Speke
Hugh Speke was born in South Africa on 17th April 1914 along with a twin sister, Venetia. After the early death of their parents the twins plus their brother William returned to England and were brought up by relatives there, Hugh settling in Pigdon, Northumberland.
He joined 604 Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force in 1937. Speke was called to full-time service on 24th August 1939 and was serving with 604 at Northolt in early July 1940. On 24th August he was captain of a Blenheim which crashed near Odiham during a night patrol, cause unknown. Speke and his gunner, Sgt. HJS Shirley, were unhurt.
Above image courtesy of Peter Speke, nephew
On 1st/2nd September Speke, flying with Sgt. AK Sandifer as his gunner, damaged a He111 at night followed by another on 12th December. He received a Mention in Despatches in March 1941.
In the early hours of 4th May 1941 Speke shot down a He111 of III/KG26, which crashed at Binford Wood, Crowcombe Heathfield
near Taunton. The surrounding woodland burned for three days though the crew baled out safely.
Above two images courtesy of the family of F/Lt. RH Scott of 604 Squadron.
During the night of 7th/8th July 1941, flying with Sgt. GL Dawson as radar operator, Speke shot down a He111 of KGr100 into the sea off Bournemouth, twenty-seven minutes later he shot down another from the same unit near Lymington. The next night he shot down a He111 from III/KG26 near Lulworth.
Speke was killed on 26th July 1941 on a routine night flying test in Beaufighter X7548 NG*S. The aircraft struck Oare Hill, Pewsey, Wiltshire at high speed, the cause was never discovered. Sgt. GL Dawson was also killed.
Speke was 27 and is buried in St Andrew's churchyard, Dowlish Wake, Somerset.
Speke was awarded the DFC (gazetted 29th July 1941) being credited with destroying four and damaging at least two enemy aircraft at night.
His brother, Major William Maitland Speke MC, was killed in action in Libya with 72 Field Regiment Royal Artillery on 18th February 1942.
Above: Speke's original CWGC marker is held within the church