Robert Stanford Tuck

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Roland Robert Stanford Tuck
Robert Stanford Tuck.jpg
Stanford Tuck in the cockpit of his Hurricane c. 1940.
Nickname(s) Bob
Born (1916-07-01)1 July 1916
Catford, London
Died 5 May 1987(1987-05-05) (aged 70)
Canterbury, Kent
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Air Force
Years of service 1935–1949
Rank Wing Commander
Commands held No. 257 Squadron RAF (1940–42)
RAF Coltishall (1947–48)

Second World War

Awards Distinguished Service Order
Distinguished Flying Cross & Two Bars
Air Force Cross
Mentioned in Despatches (3)[1][2][3]
Distinguished Flying Cross (United States)

Wing Commander Roland Robert Stanford Tuck DSO, DFC & Two Bars, AFC (1 July 1916 – 5 May 1987) was a British fighter pilot and test pilot. Tuck joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1935. Tuck first engaged in combat during the Battle of France, over Dunkirk, claiming his first victories. In September 1940 he was promoted to squadron leader and commanded a Hawker Hurricane squadron. In 1941–1942, Tuck participated in fighter sweeps over northern France. On 28 January 1942, Tuck was hit by anti-aircraft fire and forced landed in France and was taken prisoner. At the time of his capture, Tuck had claimed 29 enemy aircraft destroyed, two shared destroyed, six probably destroyed, six damaged and one shared damaged.[4]

Early years[edit]

Tuck was born at Catford, London. After a less-than-stellar school career he left St Dunstan's College, Catford in 1932 to join the Merchant Navy as a sea cadet before joining the RAF on a short service commission as an acting pilot officer in 1935.[5] Following flying training, Tuck joined 65 Squadron in September 1935 as an acting probationary pilot officer. He became a pilot officer on probation in September 1936[6] and his pilot officer rank was confirmed in early 1937[7] (which was backdated to December 1936).[8] In September 1938 he was promoted to flying officer[9] and in May 1940, he was posted to 92 Squadron, based at Croydon, as a Flight Commander flying Spitfires.

Battle of France[edit]

Tuck led his first combat patrol on 23 May 1940, over Dunkirk, claiming three German fighters shot down. The following day he shot down two German bombers and as aerial fighting intensified over the next two weeks his score rapidly mounted. Tuck was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) on 11 June[10] and received it from King George VI at RAF Hornchurch on 28 June. The citation for this award, published in the London Gazette said "...this officer led his flight in company with his squadron on two offensive patrols over Northern France. As a result of one of these patrols in which the squadron engaged a formation of some 60 enemy aircraft, the Squadron Commander was later reported missing, and the flight commander wounded and in hospital. Flight Lieutenant Tuck assumed command, and on the following day led the squadron, consisting of only eight aircraft, on a further patrol engaging an enemy formation of fifty aircraft. During these engagements the squadron has shot down ten enemy aircraft and possibly another twenty-four. Throughout the combats this officer has displayed great dash and gallantry.[10]

Battle of Britain[edit]

Bob Stanford Tuck, colour painting by Cuthbert Orde, 1941

His combat successes continued into July and August as the Battle of Britain gathered pace, although he himself was forced to bail out on 18 August. While attacking a formation of Junkers Ju 88s over Kent, he shot one down and damaged another. However, during the exchange his Spitfire was hit by return fire and he bailed out near Tunbridge Wells. In another incident on 25 August Tuck's Spitfire was badly damaged during combat with a Dornier Do 17 bomber, which he destroyed 15 miles off the coast. His aircraft had a dead engine, but he glided it back to dry land and made a forced landing.

On 11 September, during the height of the Battle of Britain, Tuck was promoted to acting Squadron Leader and posted to command the Hawker Hurricane-equipped No. 257 Squadron RAF, based at RAF Coltishall (his substantive rank had been raised to flight lieutenant on 3 September[11]). He led his squadron into combat through September and continued to claim further victories. His last two official victories of the Battle were on 28 October, where he claimed two "probable" Bf 109s. He received a Bar to his DFC on 25 October.[12] The official citation for his second DFC, published in the London Gazette reads:

Flight Lieutenant Roland Robert Stanford TUCK, D.F.C. (37306).
Since 11 June 1940, this officer has destroyed six enemy aircraft, and probably destroyed or damaged six more. One day in August, 1940, he attacked three Junkers 88's, destroyed two and damaged the third. Later in the month he intercepted two Ju 88's at 15,000 feet, and in a head-on attack, destroyed one. In a similar attack on the second, a cannon shell blew away his oil and glycol tank and a piece of his propeller, but he reached the coast and landed by parachute. In September, 1940, he shot down one Messerschmitt 110 and probably a Messerschmitt 109, and one week later destroyed a Bf 109 over the sea. Flight Lieutenant Tuck has displayed gallant and determined leadership.[12]

The identity of this later victory, achieved on 23 September 1940, is believed to be the future German ace Hans-Joachim Marseille. Flying Bf 109 E-7, Werk Nummer (W.Nr) 5094, Marseille was pursued to the Cap Gris Nez area near Calais, France, and forced to take to his parachute. He was later rescued by a Heinkel He 59 float plane. Tuck was credited with the destruction of W.Nr. 5094, whose pilot, Marseille, was the only recorded German airmen rescued in the location on that date.[13] Tuck's official claim was for a Bf 109 destroyed off Griz Nez at 09:45—the only pilot to submit a claim in that location.[14]

In January 1941, Tuck was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO)[15] and the citation published in the London Gazette reads:

Acting Squadron Leader Roland Robert Stanford TUCK, D.F.C. (37306), No. 257 Squadron.
This officer has commanded his squadron with great success, and his outstanding leadership, courage and skill have been reflected in its high morale and efficiency. Since 4 October 1940, he has destroyed four hostile aircraft, bringing his total victories to at least eighteen.[15]

In March 1941, Tuck was awarded a second Bar to his DFC,[16] the citation published in the London Gazette reading:

Acting Squadron Leader Roland Robert Stanford TUCK, D.S.O., D.F.C. (37306), No. 257 Squadron.
This officer has displayed conspicuous gallantry and initiative in searching for and attacking enemy raiders, often in adverse weather conditions. Since December, 1940, he has destroyed three enemy bombers and one fighter, thus bringing his total victories to twenty two.[16]

In June 1941, Tuck survived being shot down over the English Channel, being rescued by a Gravesend coal barge. Tuck claimed a total of seven destroyed, four probables and two damaged on the Hawker Hurricane.[17]

Tuck had an extraordinary piece of ill-fortune when he intercepted a German bomber heading towards Cardiff. He fired at extreme range in poor light, causing it to jettison its bombs in open countryside instead of on the city. The last of its stick of bombs caught one corner of an army training camp and killed one soldier. The soldier was the husband of Tuck's sister.[18]

Having already been the subject of one of Cuthbert Orde's iconic charcoal drawing portraits in September 1940, Tuck sat for a second picture by Orde – this time a full colour oil painting – in 1941.

In July, 1941, Tuck was promoted to acting wing commander and appointed Wing Leader at RAF Duxford where he led fighter sweeps into northern France. After a brief trip to America with several other RAF Fighter Command pilots to raise awareness of Britain's war effort, he returned to a posting at RAF Biggin Hill as Wing Leader. It was while flying from Biggin Hill that Tuck's last mission of the war occurred. On 28 January 1942, while on a low-level fighter sweep "Rhubarb" mission[19] over northern France, his Spitfire was hit by enemy ground-based flak near Boulogne and he was forced to crash land.


Captured by the very German troops Tuck had been firing upon as his aircraft was hit, he later recorded that their mood was understandably hostile and his own survival was certainly in question. However, his noted "Tuck's luck" came to his rescue when his captors spotted that, by a remarkable chance, one of his 20mm cannon shells had passed precisely down the barrel of an exactly similar sized ground weapon and had exploded therein, peeling open the barrel "like a banana". The German troops thought this hilarious and such "Good shooting Tommy!" that, in their enthusiasm to slap his back in congratulation, they were actually trampling on the bodies of their dead comrades. Saved for the moment, Tuck then spent the next couple of years in Stalag Luft III at Żagań (Sagan), before making a number of unsuccessful escape attempts from several other prisoner of war camps across Germany and Poland. In company with the Polish pilot Zbigniew Kustrzyński, he finally escaped successfully on 1 February 1945 as his camp was being evacuated westwards from Russian forces advancing into Germany. Tuck's Russian, learned from his childhood nanny, was now crucial as he spent some time fighting alongside the Russian troops until he managed eventually to find his way to the British Embassy in Moscow. He eventually boarded a ship from Russia to Southampton, England.[18]

Post-war RAF career[edit]

His squadron leader rank was made permanent in September 1945[20] and he became a temporary Wing Commander in April 1946.[21] He received his final decoration, the Distinguished Flying Cross from the United States Air Force on 14 June 1946,[22] before he retired from the RAF and active service on 13 May 1949[23] having had his permanent rank promoted to Wing Commander in July 1947.[24] His final accredited aerial kills numbered 27 and two shared destroyed, one and one shared unconfirmed destroyed, six probables and six and one shared damaged.[25]

Later life[edit]

Following retirement Tuck continued flying as a test pilot, including working on the RAF's long-serving English Electric Canberra.

In 1953 he and his wife Joyce, whom he married in 1945, moved to The Lynch at Eastry with their two sons, Michael and Simon. He developed a mushroom farm in collaboration with Mr. Douglas Miller and successfully farmed mushrooms for over 20 years. Tuck found peace and contentment on his mushroom farm in Kent, choosing to shun the publicity enjoyed by some of his better known Battle of Britain comrades. He retired to Sandwich Bay in the 1970s where he was a member of St. George's Golf Club.[26]

There is a plaque in St Clement’s Church, Sandwich, which reads: "In memory of Wing Commander Roland Robert Stanford-Tuck DSO DFC** DFC(USA) AFC RAF. 1916–1987. A courageous officer who defended this nation in the skies above Kent during the Battle of Britain in 1940 and whose remains are interred with those of his beloved wife Joyce in the Churchyard".

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1956 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC Television Theatre.

Tuck also worked as a technical adviser to the film Battle of Britain (1969) and eventually developed a close friendship with the German fighter pilot Adolf Galland.[27] Testimony of this friendship is the fact that Tuck was the godfather of Galland's son Andreas Hubertus, born 7 November 1966.[28]

Robert Stanford Tuck died on 5 May 1987 at the age of 70.


On 9 May 2008, a plaque was unveiled in Tuck's memory at the Parish Church of St Clement, Sandwich, Kent.[29]



  1. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35107. p. 1574. 14 March 1941. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  2. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35284. p. 5571. 23 September 1941. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  3. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37598. p. 2817. 4 June 1946. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  4. ^ Price 1997, p. 90.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34205. p. 6302. 8 October 1935. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34339. p. 7232. 10 November 1936. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  7. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34390. p. 2557. 20 April 1937.
  8. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34427. p. 5269. 17 August 1937. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  9. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34558. p. 6202. 4 October 1938. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  10. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 34870. p. 3517. 11 June 1940. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  11. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34989. p. 6492. 12 November 1940.
  12. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 34978. p. 6193. 25 October 1940. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  13. ^ Mason 1969, p. 408.
  14. ^ Foreman 2003, p. 244.
  15. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 35037. p. 150. 7 January 1941. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  16. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 35134. p. 2114. 11 April 1941. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  17. ^ Holmes 1998, p. 81.
  18. ^ a b Forrester 2001[page needed]
  19. ^ 234 Squadron Missions
  20. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37590. p. 2674. 31 May 1946. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  21. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37560. p. 2236. 7 May 1946. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  22. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37610. p. 3007. 11 June 1946. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  23. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38611. p. 2395. 17 May 1949. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  24. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38020. p. 3418. 18 July 1947. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  25. ^ Forrester 2005, p. 192.
  26. ^ "The Kentish Village of Eastry 1800–2000", D.Welby, 2007
  27. ^ Battle for the Battle of Britain: The Making of the Movie, 2004.
  28. ^ Toliver and Constable 1999, p. 190.
  29. ^ "Kent church remembers its Battle of Britain Ace". Defence News, UK Ministry of Defence, 9 May 2008. Retrieved: 24 February 2009.


  • Battle for the Battle of Britain: The Making of the Movie DVD (released in conjunction with The Battle of Britain DVD). MGM Entertainment, 2004.
  • Foreman, John (2003). RAF Fighter Command Victory Claims of World War Two: Part One, 1939–1940. Red Kite. ISBN 0-9538061-8-9.
  • Forrester, Larry. Fly for Your Life: The Story of RR Stanford Tuck, DSO, DFC (Fortunes of War). London: Cerberus Publishing Ltd., 2005, 2001. ISBN 1-84145-025-1.
  • Holmes, Tony. Hurricane Aces 1939 – 1940. London: Osprey Publishing, 1998. ISBN 978-1-85532-597-5.
  • Mason, Francis. Battle Over Britain. McWhirter Twins Ltd, London. 1969. ISBN 978-0-901928-00-9
  • Price, Dr. Alfred. Spitfire Mark V Aces 1941 – 1945. London: Osprey, 1997. ISBN 978-1-85532-635-4.
  • Toliver, Raymond F. and Trevor J. Constable. Fighter General: The Life of Adolf Galland The Official Biography. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1999. ISBN 0-7643-0678-2.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
A K Gabszewic
Commanding Officer RAF Coltishall
Succeeded by
Denis Spotswood