Wanstead’s unarmed Spitfire pilot

The fascinating tale of a Wanstead-born Spitfire pilot who set out not to kill in combat has been told following his death at the age of 94.

Wing Commander Gordon Hughes, who was born in Wanstead in 1918, became, according to the Daily Telegraph “one of the RAF’s outstanding reconnaissance pilots”, flying unarmed planes deep into enemy territory.

Hughes was from a Quaker family, whose strong tradition of pacifism no doubt influence his “aversion to armaments”, the paper says, one of the reasons he went into Photographic Reconnaissance.

“The unit’s Spitfires were not armed, allowing them to carry extra fuel to increase their range. Hughes became the great exponent of subtlety instead of firepower to avoid interception. Once asked if he regretted not having armaments in his Spitfire, he replied: ‘Oh no! That’s the thing about PR. It’s the only frontline job in this war where you aren’t asked to kill. Your weapons are the cameras.”

Nevertheless Hughes flew huge distances into hostile territory to get his photographs, and would often fly as high as possible despite the extreme cold to avoid the Luftwaffe. More details at the Telegraph. (HT, Justin McArdle!)