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Robert Stanford Tuck DSO, DFC, AFC

Wing Commander – Spitfire N3040


With 30 confirmed combat victories Stanford Tuck was one of the most renowned and highly decorated fighter aces of the Second World War.

On August 18th 1940 massed formations of enemy aircraft raided London and airfields in the south and south-east of England. The first wave of 300 aircraft attacked shortly after mid-day and Stanford Tuck, flying Spitfire N3040 was scrambled to intercept them.

“I spotted two Ju 88’s that had passed over me at 15,000ft, heading SSW or S. I turned on them and gave chase. As there was no cloud, the two E/A (enemy aircraft) put down their noses and went straight onto the surface of the water.

“I flew straight ahead of them as fast as possible and then turned head-on and fired at the No.2 E/A. After passing close over the top of the E/A and pulling straight up, I observed that he had gone straight into the water with a terrific splash and disappeared. Up until this time I had only been hit in the wings and through the left side of the perspex on the windscreen.

“I then flew straight ahead again to attack the E/A that was left. Just when I had opened fire on this head-on attack, I saw a large greeny bluish flash from the nose of the Ju 88. Immediately following this, there was a loud crash on the underneath front of my aircraft. This seemed to tip my tail up and I thought I should hit the water. However, I pulled straight up and left the Ju 88 heading off on the same course, leaving a trail of oil on the water.

“I was now approximately 35-40 miles off Beachy Head at 4,000ft. My aircraft must have been badly damaged, as there was excessive engine vibration and glycol and oil temperatures were very high.

“I managed to reach the coast, but dense fumes were coming from the engine and under the dashboard. I could feel myself being overcome by these fumes, so I decided to abandon my aircraft. Jumped clear at 800ft.”

Stanford Tuck recovered from slight injuries sustained whilst bailing out of N3040, and on September 11th was given command of 257 Squadron where his combat successes continued. Having already been awarded the DFC following operations over Dunkirk, Stanford Tuck was awarded a bar to his DFC in October 1940; the DSO (an award for gallantry second only to the Victoria Cross) in January 1941, and a second bar to his DFC in April that year.

On January 28th 1942 Stanford Tuck was shot down and captured whilst on a low-level sortie over occupied France. For the next two years he was held in Stalag Luft III and other PoW camps in Germany and Poland. In February 1945 he escaped and following a period fighting alongside the Russians, found his way to the British Embassy in Moscow from where he was repatriated. Stanford Tuck retired from the RAF in 1949 with the rank of Wing Commander.

The cufflinks are made from fragments of the N3040s wreckage recovered from the crash site by aviation archaeologists.