Defiant. By: Jay Ashurst, Signed by: Desmond Hughes
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Availability date: 07/22/2014
Defiant. By: Jay Ashurst, Signed by: F. Desmond Hughes
The Boulton Paul Defiant was a British interceptor aircraft that served with the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the Second World War. The Defiant was designed and built by Boulton Paul Aircraft as a "turret fighter", without any forward-firing guns. It was a contemporary of the Royal Navy's Blackburn Roc. The concept of a turret fighter related directly to the successful First World War-era Bristol F.2 Fighter.
In practice, the Defiant was found to be reasonably effective as a bomber–destroyer, but vulnerable to the Luftwaffe's more agile, single-seat Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters. Lack of forward armament proved to be a major weakness in daylight combat and its potential was only realized when it switched to night combat. It was supplanted in the night fighter role by the Bristol Beaufighter and de Havilland Mosquito. The Defiant found use in gunnery training, target towing, electronic countermeasures (ECM) and air-sea rescue. Among RAF pilots it had the nickname "Daffy".
Night fighter ace and air combat leader, Pilot Officer Desmond Hughes entered the Royal Air Force at the outbreak of war in September 1939, after being a member of the Cambridge University Air Squadron. He completed flying training at the RAF College at Cranwell in May 1940 and fought in the Battle of Britain with 264 Squadron, equipped with the Defiant. Though the Defiant proved to be an effective bomber-destroyer, the Messerschmitt 109 outclassed it. Even so, Hughes and his gunner, Sergeant Fred Gash, shot down two Dornier 17s on 26 August and a Junkers 88 on 16 October.
During the night blitz, 264 Squadron flew night intercept missions. Despite having no radar in the Defiant , Hughes destroyed three enemy night bombers and damaged two more. In January 1942, he was posted to 125 Squadron in South Wales, eventually flying radar-equipped Beaufighters. He flew many long-range patrols in daylight south of Ireland and off Norway and achieved the squadron's first aerial victory. Assigned to 600 Squadron in January 1943, Hughes flew Beaufighters over North Africa, Malta, and Italy. During this tour, Squadron Leader Hughes shot down 10 enemy aircraft including three Ju 88s on a single patrol. He returned to Britain in December 1943 as a staff officer in 85 Group.
In July 1944, Hughes became Commander of 604 Squadron, flying the Mosquito . His squadron provided night fighter cover over the American sector during the invasion of Normandy and was the first Allied night fighter unit to operate from France. By January 1945, he accounted for 2 more enemy aircraft, bringing his total to 18 1/2 victories.
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