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The Airmen's Stories - S/Ldr. R R S Tuck


Robert Roland Stanford Tuck was born at Catford, London on 1st July 1916.

His father Stanley was successively a clerk, finance manager and company secretary. He served in the Army, including the Sussex Yeomanry, in the First World War. He remained in the UK in administrative roles and reached the rank of Captain, a rank he continued to use in civilian life. His wife's name was Ethel. The family lived in Ravensbourne Crescent, Catford.

Tuck was educated at St. Dunstans Preparatory School and College, after leaving in 1932 he went to sea as a cadet with Lamport and Holt. He made one return voyage - on the SS Marconi, under charter to the Union Castle Line, sailing to Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, South Africa to pick up fruit.

He then worked as a clerk for the Crittall company, particularly known for producing windows. He was also a clerk in a firm of stockbrokers.

He joined the RAF on a short service commission in September 1935. Tuck was posted to 3 FTS Grantham on 28th September and with his training completed joined 65 Squadron at Hornchurch on 5th August 1936.


On 17th January 1938 Tuck was taking part in formation flying practice when, near Uckfield in Sussex, his Gladiator collided with the aircraft flown by Sgt. GE Gaskell, who was killed.

Tuck baled out and was admitted to hospital with a large head wound and suffering from shock. He was left with a large scar. Gaskell was buried in St Luke's churchyard, Whyteleafe, Surrey, close to RAF Kenley. The accident was attributed to a mistake he had made.

In April 1938 Tuck collided with F/O LC Bicknell whilst they were doing aerobatics. Bicknell baled out safely. In late 1938 Tuck was chosen to represent 65 Squadron at the service initiation of the Spitfire.

On 1st May 1940 he was posted to 92 Squadron at Croydon and he joined on the 4th, as ‘B’ Flight Commander, with the rank of Acting Flight Lieutenant.

Over Dunkirk on 23rd May he claimed a Me109 and a Me110 destroyed and probably another Me109, on the 24th two Do17s destroyed, on the 25th a Do17 shared and on 2nd June a Me109 and a He111 destroyed and two Me109s damaged.

He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 11th June 1940) which he received from the King at a ceremony at Hornchurch on 28th June.

Tuck shared in the destruction of a Do17 on 8th July, damaged a Ju88 on the 25th, shared a Ju88 on 13th August, destroyed two more on the 14th and on the 18th destroyed a Ju88 and probably another.

On this day Tuck was shot down by return fire from a Ju88. He baled out over Horsmonden and was slightly injured in a heavy landing. His Spitfire, N3040, crashed at buildings at Park Farm, subsequently christened Tuck’s Cottages. Tuck was taken to the nearby home of Lord Cornwallis, where he was given a bath, spent some time in bed and then had tea with the family.

On 25th August Tuck destroyed a Do17. His Spitfire, N3268, was severely damaged in the engagement off St. Gowan’s Head. He glided 15 miles to the coast on a dead engine and made a forced-landing, writing off the aircraft.

On 11th September Tuck joined 257 Squadron at Martlesham Heath. He took command of the squadron on the 12th and was promoted to Acting Squadron Leader on the 13th. He quickly transformed a squadron suffering from very low morale.

On the 15th he claimed a Me110 destroyed and a probable Me109, on the 23rd he destroyed another Me109, on 4th October a Ju88, on the 12th a Me109, on the 25th another Me109 destroyed and two others damaged and on the 28th two more Me109s probably destroyed.

Tuck was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 25th October 1940).

On 9th December he destroyed a Do17 and on the 12th he destroyed a Me109. Tuck was officially on leave when he shot down this aircraft and he was flying an operational sortie with 92 Squadron from Biggin Hill. He was back with 257 on the 29th, when he destroyed a Do17.

He was awarded the DSO (gazetted 7th January 1941). On 2nd and 19th March 1941 Tuck claimed Do17s destroyed, during the night of 9th/10th April he shot down a Ju88, on 27th April he damaged a Ju88 and during the night of 11th/12th May he destroyed a Ju88 and probably another.

He was awarded a second Bar to the DFC (gazetted 11th April 1941). After shooting down two Me109s and damaging another on 21st June Tuck was himself shot down into the Channel. He was picked up after two hours in his dinghy, by a coal barge from Gravesend. In early July 1941 he was appointed Wing Leader at Duxford. On the 8th he claimed a Me109 destroyed and on 7th August he destroyed another and probably a second.



Tuck was sent to the USA on a liaison trip in October, with five other pilots, including Malan and Broadhurst. Back in the UK, he became Wing Leader at Biggin Hill. On 28th January 1942 he was shot down by flak, whilst on a low-level strafe just outside Boulogne. He was captured. The German ace, Adolf Galland, by this time, Inspector of Fighters, was in the vicinity and entertained Tuck in a German mess



Tuck was in various PoW camps, including Stalag Ludt III at Sagan in Lower Silesia, Germany, now Zagan, Poland. Here he shared a room with Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, known as X, in charge of escape activities. Bushell had been shot down over Dunkirk and captured in 1940 when he was CO of 601 Squadron.

Tuck served on the escape committee, with responsibility for supplies. In a letter to his parents Bushell wrote of Tuck, "He is a charming fellow and we have a lot of laughs." Several hundred prisoners were involved in escape activities under X and there were numerous plans and, major efforts were directed at creating three tunnels, known as Tom, Dick and Harry.

Other escapes continued. In December 1943 three prisoners, including Tuck and F/Lt. Z Kustrzyriski hid in a refuse cart. They had to give up before the cart left the camp because they were in danger of suffocation from the amount of refuse placed on top of them.

The tunnel codenamed Tom was discovered by the Germans and Dick became used for storage. Work continued on Harry.. Without knowing the details, the Germans realised that escape activity was continuing. To disrupt it, in March 1944, a number of prisoners, including Tuck and other escape leaders, were moved to a camp at Belaria about 5 km from Sagan.

On 28th January 1945, with Russian forces approaching the area , the Germans began to march about 1300 prisoners westwards from Belaria. The temperature was well below zero as they set off, each prisoner having been given one Red Cross parcel. It is believed that about 15 prisoners escaped at some point in the march.

At an overnight stop in a barn other prisoners covered Tuck and Kustrzynski and they wer left behind in the morning. Their subsequent journey was aided by local people. At one point they mingled with French PoWs, also on the march, in view of German guards. On 21st February they were hiding in an attic when a German soldier climbed in and saw Tuck. Kustrzynski attacked the German and killed him.

Shortly afterwards they gave themselves up to a Russian Lieutenant with Kustrzynski claiming to be American, assuming that he would be shot if it was realised that he was Polish. After much interrogation and journeying the two, now joined by other PoWs, arrived in Odessa. Two days later they boarded the SS Duchess of Richmond (a Canadian Pacific liner used as a troopship).

Tuck disembarked at Naples on 3rd April and was interviewed by a British intelligence officer. He was then flown to the UK.

Tuck was awarded the DFC (US)(gazetted 14th June 1946). He retired from the RAF on 13th May 1949 as a Wing Commander.

After a month of leave and a refamiliarisation course on RAF aircraft Tuck was posted to the tactics branch of the Central Fighter Establishment at Tangmere. He spent a considerable amount of time being interviewed on his experiences as a PoW by MI9 whose main wartime role was providing assistance to prisoners and evaders.

Tuck became OC Coltishall and then was briefly in Singapore before he resigned his commission and left the RAF on 13th May 1949 as a Wing Commander.

He worked for English Electric as services liaison officer based at Warton, Lancashire.. In 1955 Tuck resigned from the company and moved, with his family, to Eastry, near Sandwich, Kent, where he took up mushroom farming.

Tuck's elder brother, John, served in the Army and was captured in France in 1940 when serving in the Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry (Queen Mary's). The brothers met at least twice as PoWs.

In 1956 Tuck was the subject of an early British edition of the TV programme This is Your Life. Guests on the programme included Kustrzynski and W/Cdr. RE Havercroft. In 1956 a biography of Stanford-Tuck was published - 'Fly for your Life' by Larry Forrester and this is still widely available

Tuck died on 5th May 1987 of pneumonia. His ashes were interred at St Clement's church, Sandwich.


In May 2008 a plaque was unveiled in the church of St Clement, Sandwich, Kent (where his ashes are interred), for more details click here

A biography, Stanford Tuck, by Helen Doe, was published in 2023, he had begun using that form of his name some time previously.

His portrait had been made twice by Cuthbert Orde, one in 1940 and one in 1941 (below).




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