Second World War – Flight Lieutenant Hugh Beresford, Hoby’s only casualty in the Second World War.
Flight Lieutenant Hugh Richard Aden Beresford
Killed In Action
Service: Royal Air Force
Service Number: 37150
Date of Death: 7th September 1940
Age when killed: 24
Cemetery: Brookwood Military Cemetery (24 d. 14)
Born: Ampthill Bedfordshire 1915
Parents: Rev Hans & Dorothy Beresford of The Rectory Hoby
Hugh Richard Aden Beresford was born in 1915 and was the son of Revd Hans Aden Beresford, the Rector of Hoby cum Rotherby and his wife Dorothy. Hugh joined the RAF on a short service commission in 1935. In 1940 Hugh was the ‘A’ Flight commander of 257 Squadron which was in action almost daily during the Battle of Britain. Hugh was a popular well respected Flight Commander, affectionately known as “Blue blood Beresford” a reference apparently to his aristocratic looks and bearing. On 7th September 1940 Hugh had already been up with his squadron three times when at 16.35 the call came to scramble again. Hugh was shot down in Hurricane P3049 whilst in combat over the Thames Estuary and was reported missing. He was 24 years old and one year after his disappearance he was presumed dead for official purposes. He left a widow Pat who later married one of his best friends Wing Commander Hughie Edwards VC, DSO, DFC. Pat died in 1966 in Australia. On the day Hugh was shot down an aircraft was seen by a local farmer to crash at Elmley Spitend Point Sheppey. The site was visited shortly afterwards by a salvage team but its location coupled with the fact that it was deeply buried resulted in no further action being taken to recover it. Thirty nine years later in August 1979 the plane was excavated from a depth of 25 feet by a group of aviation enthusiasts and Hugh’s remains were found in the cockpit. The pilot identification number and the aircraft number recovered from the wreck provided conclusive proof of identity. The excavation was filmed for a BBC documentary called Missing, part of its Inside Storey series. Post war, Hugh was commemorated on Panel 4 of the RAF’s Runneymede memorial to missing aircrew but on 16th November 1979 he was buried with full military honours in Brookwood Military Cemetery Surrey. The Band of the RAF played and an escort of the Queens Colour Squadron fired a salute. Hugh’s sister Pamela was still alive at the time and she attended the funeral accompanied by several friends from Hoby. Hugh is also commemorated on the North Chancel wall of All Saints Church Hoby, along with his mother and father Hans and Dorothy.
Although it was apparently unusual to find human remains in aircraft wrecks, the BBC documentary caused public unease over unchecked wreck digging and in 1986 the Ministry of Defence took advantage of a Private Member’s Bill to extend the protection of Royal Navy wrecks as war graves to aircraft wrecks where the pilot was known to have stayed with his aircraft.
Norman and Basil Royston, Hugh’s uncles and his mother’s brothers, are on the Maulden war memorial.