Flt Lt Hugh Beresford

Flt Lt Hugh Beresford

Hugh Richard Aden Beresford was born in 1915 and was the son of Hans Aden Beresford who was the Rector of Hoby & Rotherby for 26 years.

Hugh joined the RAF on a short service commission in 1935 and after completing his training he was posted to 3 Squadron at Port Sudan on March 6th 1936. Beresford returned to the UK with the squadron in August and on April 1st 1937 he was posted to the No 1 Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Unit at Biggin Hill. On October 4th he was appointed Personal Assistant to the AOC of 11 Group.

On May 17th 1940 257 Squadron was reformed at Hendon and Beresford joined it as a Flight Commander. Hugh had an aristocratic bearing which gave the men of his squadron much needed morale at a time when his CO showed the conduct of a coward by flying away from the action. Although Hugh was privately very nervous and vomited under the daily intense suicidal stress of the Battle Of Britain, when the pilots were almost always greatly outnumbered — the Luftwaffe sent 1500 planes at its height — he most bravely went straight into attack. He shared in destroying a He111 on August 18th and claimed a Me110 on the 31st.

When the call to 257 Squadron came to scramble in the afternoon of 7th September 1940, Flight Lieutenant Hugh Beresford had already been up three times that day, seeing off German planes. As the well-respected A Flight Commander, he had been in action almost daily during the Battle of Britain.

Hugh Beresford’s Hurricane P3049 roared away from RAF Martlesham, and with the rest of the squadron, turned to face a large formation of enemy aircraft over the Thames Estuary intent on sustaining the continuous bombing of London.  An escort of Luftwaffe fighters above dived towards the squadron as they attacked.

Hugh Beresford tried to warn the other pilots of the danger over the radio by issuing a frantic warning to the squadron about the attacking fighters, stating that he could not attack as another Hurricane was in his line of fire.  Then there was silence.  In his final few moments of life he had used his last breath to save others.

None of the squadron saw what had happened to him, but a River Board worker inspecting the water ditches which criss-crossed the flat Isle of Sheppey, was watching the dog-fight developing above in a crescendo of engine noise and rattling of machine guns. He saw a lone Hurricane break away and dive vertically into the soft estuary ground alongside a ditch at Elmley Spitend Point, Sheppey. There was no fire or explosion. No time could be spent during the weeks of the Battle of Britain to mount salvage operations and as the aircraft was deeply buried it was eventually forgotten.

Hugh Beresford was classified as missing in action. For decades no one knew the exact spot where he laid buried.  39 years later, in August 1979, there was renewed interest by some enthusiasts in locating and excavating the wrecks of wartime planes. Hugh Beresford’s Hurricane was discovered and on September 29th the entire wreckage was recovered and the unfortunate pilot was found still in his aircraft.  Hugh Beresford and his tattered identity card were recovered.

He was laid to rest with full military honours in Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey, with the Band of the RAF and the Queen’s Colour Squadron providing the honours.

Commonwealth War Grave Headstone

Commonwealth War Grave Headstone

Hugh is commemorated on a plaque in All Saints Church Hoby along with his father and grandmother.

Hoby All Saints Church Memorial

Hoby All Saints Church Memorial

For further information on Flt Lt Hugh Beresford, please see the following links: http://www.beresfordfamilysociety.org.uk/background.html