Squadron Leader Caesar Barrand Hull DFC, RAF no. 37285
Caesar Hull was born on 23 February 1913 into a farming family in Shangani, Southern Rhodesia but was brought up in South Africa.
He was taught at home until 1926, when he was sent to the Transvaal to board at St John's College, Johannesburg. He then returned to the family farm at M'Babore, Swaziland, before going to work for a mining company. In 1934 he was in the Springbok boxing team for the Empire Games at Wembley, London. He sought to join the SAAF, but experienced initial difficulty in gaining acceptance, as he did not speak Africaans. He became a cadet in the Transvaal Training Squadron of the Reserve Training School, but was not permitted to transfer to the regular SAAF due to his language problem. He therefore obtained a Short Service Commission in the RAF, being granted this as an Acting Pilot Officer on probation with seniority from 16 September 1935 (gazetted on 8 October 1935).
On completion of training, he joined 43 Squadron at Tangmere in August 1936, flying Furies. On one occasion, he and Prosser Hanks took up a Hawker Hart and changed cockpits whilst in flight.
Hull was promoted to Flight Lieutenant on 16 April 1938 (gazetted on 10 May 1938).
43 Squadron subsequently re-equipped with Hurricanes, and it was with these that he saw early action over Scotland at the start of 1940.
On 30 January, two separate anti-shipping raids were engaged off the east coast. During the latter, one He 111 of 4./KG 26 was caught and shot down 10 miles east of Coquet Isle by Flight Lieutenant Hull (Hurricane L1849) and Sergeant F. R. Carey (L1728) at 09:45.
This was 43 Squadrons first victory during the Second World War.
At 10.30 on 3 February Red Section of 43 Squadron was off, led by Flight Lieutenant Hull with Flying Officer Carswell and Pilot Officer North. They patrolled in the Farne Island area where a II Gruppe He 111 was encountered. The German aircraft was chased into cloud, but only a “damaged” could be claimed on this occasion.
The bomber returned with 35% damage.
At 12:30 on 28 March, He 111 P4+BA of Korpsführungskette/Flgkps X was attacked by Hurricanes of 43 and 605 Squadrons and was shot down in flames between the Orkney and Shetland Islands, 8 miles off Wick. Five pilots shared the aircraft, four from 43 Squadron (Flight Lieutenant Hull, Sergeant F. R. Carey, Sergeant P. G. Ottewill and Sergeant T. A. H. Gough) and one from 605 Squadron (Flying Officer ‘Pat’ Leeson).
Germany invaded Norway and Denmark on 9 April in Operation Weserübung. The preparation of this and the execution resulted in large fleet movements including that the British Home Fleet sailed for the Norwegian coast and some contacts were made especially between the Luftwaffe and the British fleet.
Following the unwelcome but not unexpected appearance of the British Home Fleet, ten He 111s of KGr. 100 were sent out on the morning on 10 April on an armed reconnaissance east and south-east of the Orkneys and Shetlands, followed by and He 111P of 3(F)/ObdL flown by Oberleutnant Karl Heinz. Immediately after this reconnaissance screen came 35 He 111 of KG 26 to respond immediately to any target spotted. As the 3(F)/ObdL aircraft approached the Scottish coast, it was intercepted by seven Hurricanes of 43 Squadron led by Squadron Leader George Lott from Wick, Caithness, which was flying out to sea towards Ronaldsay. Five miles east of Ronaldsay Island, Oberleutnant Heinz’ aircraft was spotted and the fighters attacked in line astern. Squadron Leader Lott and his two flight commanders Peter Townsend and Flight Lieutenant Hull, all getting in shots, as did the four other pilots (one of them was George Christie in Hurricane L1608). Oberleutnant Heinz’s aircraft was shot down into the sea and broke in half. Three men were seen swimming, but were too far from land for there to be any chance of being picked up before they succumbed to exposure.
The KGr. 100 aircraft subsequently reached the area and reported that two convoys had been seen off the Moray Firth, and heavy naval units south of the Orkneys. These reports referred to two cruiser flotillas and a French force, which were now retiring to Scapa Flow, and at once these became the prime targets. The first attack began when the KGr. 100 aircraft found shipping off Kinnaird Head, but their bombing caused little damage. Numerous interceptions by defending fighters followed, and some heavy fighting ensued. The first such engagement occurred during the afternoon when a Hurricane from 605 Squadron flown by Pilot Officer Ian Muirhead (Hurricane I L2059), also based at Wick, on convoy patrol spotted a German aircraft at 15:45 (according to some sources this claim was made 17:30). This claim was made 20-30 miles north-east of Kinnaird Head and was a Heinkel of 1./KGr. 100. Two attacks were made, but the bomber slipped away in cloud, returning with the flight engineer (Oberfeldwebel Richard Röder) dead, and a second crew-man (Unteroffizier Alfred Taupe) wounded, but with only minor damage to the aircraft.
Almost an hour later, Flying Officer ‘Pat’ Leeson from the same unit was leading Red Section out on a patrol when two He 111s were seen at 14,000 feet. The three Hurricanes climbed to attack and one of the bombers was shot down by Leeson, Pilot Officer Peter Carter (Hurricane I L2018) and Sergeant W. M. F. Moffat. Only two members of the crew were seen to bale out but in fact Oberleutnant Harald Vogel and all his crew of 4./KG 26 survived and were rescued by a Royal Navy Trawler.
The Sea Gladiators of 804 Squadron were also active in repelling these attacks. Lieutenant Donald Gibson remembered:
“In our Gladiators we had several alerts after German reconnaissance aeroplanes; there was an RAF Hurricane Squadron at Wick, which had success and our first blood was partly by courtesy of this squadron. I think we both intercepted more or less together and somehow we became involved and shot it down.”The successful pilots were Sub Lieutenant Michael Fell (N5510), Petty Officer (A) Geoff Peacock (N5538) and Petty Officer (A) Bert Sabey (N5509) of Yellow Section who opened the scoring for 804 Squadron when they shot down one of the Heinkels, as recorded by the unit’s diarist:
“A tremendous day for HMS Sparrowhawk [RNAS Hatston], the first and we hope by no means the last. 804 began their fun at 16:05 hours when Yellow Section flew off to Copinsay. There were a great many plots on the board, the weather fine with layers of cloud varying in density up to about 10,000 feet. About 16:40hrs Yellow 3 saw a Do 17 [sic] and the Section gave chase. Sub-Lt Fell got in a burst at about 500 yards as the Do 17 disappeared into the cloud: but followed him in. Yellow 2 went in above the cloud and as he came out so did the Do 17 some 400 yards away. Peacock got in a burst before the e/a dived away back into the clouds. We were later informed that Do 17 was crying SOS with a leaking petrol tank and did not reach his base.”There were no Do 17s involved in these actions, only He 111s and it seems probable that their victim was a Heinkel from 1./KG 26 that crashed into the sea off the island of Sylt on return, in which Oberleutnant Otto Houselle, Unteroffizier Franz Gruber and one other member of the crew were drowned.
At 16:45hrs Red Section were sent to patrol between Copinsay and Burray. As soon as they got there, Red 1 saw a He 111 about ten miles east going north-east. Hot pursuit was begun and as the Section followed, Hurricanes could be seen gathering on the cloud-dodging Heinkel’s tail. After a few minutes the e/a began climbing, twisting and diving. By the time Red Section arrived and got within range No.43 Squadron had done their job. The e/a motors were idling and he dived down to 20 feet over the sea. For two or three miles he held at 20 feet with a dark oil streak trailing behind him on the sea and finally flopped port wing first. Six Hurricanes and Red Section flew around the wreck as ‘Nifty’ got the position and saw the fuselage break in half, the port wing come off and the remainder sink as three of the crew swam for it.”This was the He 111P of 3(F)/ObdL flown by Oberleutnant Karl Heinz and claimed by 43 Squadron.
“At 21:10, Red Section dived down to 11,000 feet about four miles east of Burray (an island between Kirkwall and South Ronaldsay). Unfortunately Red 2 was left behind in the dive. As soon as they flattened out a bomber crossed 200 yards ahead from port to starboard, Red 1 and Red 3 turned and pursued and loosed off nearly all ammunition, gradually closing in from 300-200 yards. The enemy fired back narrowly and finally turned and dived away to the south-east with smoke coming from his starboard motor. During this party Blue Section [Lieutenant Richard Smeeton N2275, Petty Officer (A) W. E. J. Stockwell and Petty Officer (A) Theobald] were lurking further west and came galloping up on seeing the shooting. Plenty of e/a were coming in and so “Smee” chose a back one and stuffed himself under its tail. He and his section rattled away with such good effect that the e/a was last seen in a flat right hand spiral going down toward South Ronaldsay. Unfortunately no wreckage was found and so the very probable result could not be confirmed.”
By 21:50hrs the party was over and 11 Gladiators had returned. The 12th was Blue 3 [Petty Officer (A) Theobald] who shortly afterwards could be hearing calling “Where am I?” Nifty told him and led him back to Wick where he spent the night.”One Gladiator crashed on landing after the engagement; it may have been damaged during the fight.
"Blue leader was on patrol with his section of 3 a/c at 10,000 feet to the East of Burray. Weather was clear and good visibility with 5/10 cloud at 7,000 feet in a large bank. Blue leader was one mile off Burray when at 2120 hours, he was attracted by machine gun fire to the south and saw an E/A travelling west towards Scapa Flow at about 200 m.p.h. some 500 feet above him. The E/A appeared to be machine gunning searchlight positions from his from gun.Blue Sections victim was possibly a He 111 of 2./KG 26 (Leutnant de Res Hubert Schachtbeck), which had been very badly damaged by fighters and crash-landed at Marx and was a total loss.
There was a second aircraft in formation but as soon as Blue Leader climbed under the first E/A's tail to attack, the second E/A broke away and was not seen again.
Blue Leader closed rapidly and opened fire at from 350 to 250 yards closing to about 100 yards. This was repeated four times the attacks being delivered from either dead astern or over the port or starboard quarter. Each attack consisted of one burst of about 6 seconds. Tracer was observed to be entering the fuselage of E/A; tracer bullets were seen from both top and lower rear guns.
After Blue Leaders first attack lower gun was silenced but top gun continued to fire. Throughout the attacks E/A performed a series of violent turns necessitating deflection allowance by Blue leader. Towards the end of the fourth attack, E/A started to lose height.
Blue 2 now dived to attack and fired 1000 rounds from astern by which time E/A was in a flat right hand spiral dive. Having lost formation Blue 2 landed at Wick. Blue 3 did not get an opportunity to fire as Blue 1 and 2 were conducting their attack from astern. But he saw the starboard engine was disabled with clouds of smoke issuing from it and followed till the E/A's dive become too fast for him to follow any more.
Some slipstream was noticed when at close range and at some stage in the combat a bullet of rifle calibre passed through a spar of port main plane. In all Blue leader fired 2,600 rounds and experienced no stoppages. The R/T was not working very well either from the ground or between pilots owing to jamming interference.
No cine camera gun was carried and it was to dark to distinguish any marking or the type of plane, though it was thought to be a Heinkel IIIK.
Blue Leader landed at Hatston at 2204 hours."
“At 12:40, ten aircraft of KGr. 100 are sent out on an armed reconnaissance searching off the Shetlands and Orkneys. Between 16:17 and 16:40 east of the Orkneys in the Moray Firth two convoys are spotted consisting of 14 steamers, 10 destroyers, two cruisers and four individual steamers. The convoy and steamers are heading on a westerly heading, the warships on a northerly heading. At 17:10 off the southern tip of the Orkneys two battleships, three cruisers and six destroyers are spotted on a north-north-westerly heading. This fleet was attacked without recognizable success. Throughout the flight Spitfire [sic] and Hurricane fighters and shipborne flak harass the unit. In an air battle a Hurricane fighter was shot down.
At around 12:50, six aircraft of 1(F)/122 take off for a reconnaissance mission in the northern area of the North Sea. At 17:00, one battle-cruiser [HMS Hood?] with four cruisers as well as several destroyers are spotted on a course steering north-west off the Orkney Islands. Concerns raised that this may be the same fleet reported by KGr. 100. Aircraft have a short encounter with two Lockheed [Hudson] aircraft with no result.
At 11:00 an He 111 of 3/ObdL is sent on a reconnaissance mission to Scapa Flow. The aircraft is shot down with the loss of all crew.
Between 12:38 and 12:39 II./KG 26 take-off for operations over North Sea. On basis of information supplied the Gruppe heads towards the Orkneys. Due to bad weather attacks are limited. At 18:40 from 700 metres, coming out of cloud, a surprise attack was launched on a destroyer with two SC500 bombs. At 18:30 an attack on a cruiser was unsuccessful. The attack had to be called off due to worsening weather [cloud base had dropped from 700 to 500 metres and visibility was less than a kilometre]. Two aircraft were lost, while one other crash landed at Stavanger.
Nineteen aircraft of I./KG 26 – taking off about 18:20 – head out to attack the reported naval forces east of the Orkney Islands. Due to worsening weather and the approach of nightfall many crews did not find their target. Of thos that did some were unable to attack due to being blinded by floodlights carried by the ships. Those aircraft that did bomb could not observe their result because of the blinding effect, though a large warship was probably hit with one SC250 bomb. During the attack three floodlights and some flak was knocked out. The defence of the ships was an unknown quantity of flak and about 200 floodlights. In addition Gladiator fighters also tried to intercept the bombers. One of these was shot down.
Nineteen aircraft of KG 30 take off at 18:37 to attack naval forces in Scapa Flow. Seventeen aircraft were able to attack. Several near misses on the tidal walls and one SD500 hit on a cruiser were observed. Within the area 2 cruisers and several destroyers and steamers were also spotted. Defence of Scapa Flow was provided by floodlights and ground and ship based flak. One aircraft was lost in the attack.”
Early in May he was posted to 263 Squadron as a flight commander as the unit prepared for its second sojourn in Norway, the unit's Gladiator IIs being flown off HMS Furious to Bardufoss in the far north.
During the afternoon of 24 May 1940 a He 111 of Stabsstaffel/KG 26 strayed over Bardufoss while it was operating with four other He 111s from I Gruppe over Narvik. Here it was intercepted at an altitude of 500 feet by Flying Officer H. F. Grant Ede and Flight Lieutenant William Riley. Grant Ede attacked first from the beam, then half-rolled into a stern attack and silenced the upper gunner. Riley followed with a stern quarter attack, which put the starboard engine out of action. At that moment Flight Lieutenant Hull arrived, at the end of his own patrol, and got in a burst, which stopped the other engine.
This was He 111H-3 ‘1H+KA’ (WNr. 2411) of Stabsstaffel/KG 26, which was shot down at Fjordbotneidet, Gratangen. The pilot Oberleutnant Hartmut Paul was wounded and taken POW, Oberfeldwebel Eduard Strüber (observer) was killed, Unteroffizier Gunther Eichmann (flight engineer) was taken POW, Unteroffizier Hans Blunk (air gunner) was taken POW and Feldwebel Alfred Stock (wireless operator) was killed.
During this combat was Grant Ede's Gladiator slightly damaged by return fire.
At 13:00 on 26 May three Gladiators flown by Flight Lieutenant Hull, Pilot Officer Jack Falkson and Lieutenant Tony Lydekker were detached to Bodø to provide cover for troops retreating northwards in the face of the German advance. En route they were engaged in an inconclusive combat with one of the KGr 100 Heinkels on its way to Bardufoss. When they landed on their new airfield their aircraft all stuck fast in the mud. They managed to get the Gladiators to drier ground, where they began refuelling from four-gallon tins. This arduous task was by no means complete when a He 111 of 1(F)/122 was seen overhead, and all three leapt into their cockpits to take off.
Lydekker got off safely, but the mud clung to the wheels of the two following Gladiators, and while Hull just managed to get into the air, Falkson crashed in N5705. Lydekker’s aircraft had not yet been refuelled however, and he had little petrol left so Hull ordered him to land again and went after the Heinkel single-handed, finding it at only 600 feet and delivering three attacks. The bomber turned south, streaming smoke from the fuselage and engines. The Heinkel had been critically hit, and Leutnant Ulrich Meyer crash-landed the burning aircraft south of Mo. Here he and his crew were rescued by German troops.
Meanwhile Hull had broken away to attack a Ju 52/3m, which he just had spotted. He rapidly disposed of this second opponent, an aircraft of 1/KGzbV 106. The crew managed to bale out of the blazing aircraft (Ju 52/3m WNr. 5636), which crashed at Storfjellet, Saltdal, at 16:15.
Still with ammunition left, he chased a second He 111 without success, and then attacked two more Ju 52/3ms from 1/KGzbV 106. One escaped in cloud, but the other went flaming down after six men had baled out. Eight more paratroops of I/FJR1 were killed in the crash. While he thought the other transport had got away, it was in fact also hard hit, and was already on fire. The pilot managed to reach German-held territory, where he force-landed. Crew and paratroops aboard all got out safely, but the aircraft burnt out completely. One Ju 52/3m was ‘BA+KH’ of 1/KGbzV 106, which crashed at Ekornes, Evensdal, at 16:30 while the second was “White 2” (WNr. 6713) from the same unit, which crashed at Kvassteinheia, Saltdal, between 16:30-16:40.
Meantime Hull had engaged yet another He 111, and drove this off, like the first with smoke pouring from it. Down now to only one nose gun still operating, he returned to Bodø where he found that during his absence wooden snow-boards had been laid over the worst of the soft patches. Although he claimed only two definite and one probable victories, he had in fact shot down no less than four aircraft in one combat.
At 08:00 in the morning on 27 May things started to heating up when 11 Ju 87Rs from I/STG 1, escorted by three Bf 110s from I/ZG 76, appeared over Bodø and began dive-bombing radio masts at Bodøsjøen, only 800 yards from the landing ground. Lieutenant Tony Lydekker took off at once, but Hull and a fitter were forced to leave his Gladiator (N5635) for a few minutes and shelter from the bombing. With the initial attack over they managed to get the fighter started and Hull took off, at once catching Feldwebel Kurt Zube's Stuka at the bottom of its dive. He caused it to fall in a gentle dive into the sea, where two Bf 110s circled the wreckage. Zube and his gunner were picked up safely by German troops.
As Hull completed his attack, another Ju 87 went past and shot up his aircraft, smashing the windscreen. At the same moment he was attacked from behind by one of the escorts, flown by Leutnant Helmut Lent, and the Gladiator was hard hit. Hull managed to get back to the airfield at 200 feet, but was then attacked again by the Bf 110 and crashed at Bodøhalvøya, wounded in the head and knee. N5635 has been identified by serial number found on the wreckage. Lent logged his victory at 08:20 (Helmut Lent shot down another 263 Squadron Gladiator on 2 June when Pilot Officer J. L. Wilkie in N5914 was killed east of Rombaksfjorden).
Lydekker meanwhile was being attacked by most of the remaining Luftwaffe aircraft, his aircraft being badly shot up and himself wounded in the neck and shoulders. Unable to land at Bodø as three Stukas were circling overhead, he set course for Bardufoss at low level, where he eventually landed with his Gladiator a complete write-off. A second claim for a Gladiator was put in by Oberleutnant Jäger, shared with his gunner Stabsing. Thönes, and timed at 08:25, but this was not confirmed. Watchers on the ground at Bodø reported that the Gladiators had shot down at least three aircraft, Hull and Lydekker each having got at least one apiece. This was not in fact the case, for only one Ju 87 had been lost.
To see a copy of his combat report from 26 and 27 May follow this link: C. B. Hull Combat report (kindly provided by Ernie Burton).
He was evacuated back to the UK in a Sunderland flying boat, and on 21 June was awarded a DFC, which credited him with five victories over Norway.
On 31 August he was posted back to 43 Squadron as commanding officer. The unit was at the time based at Tangmere.
In the afternoon on 7 September he scrambled with nine Hurricanes. They attacked German bombers as they ran up to bomb Dockland. He was last heard speaking to the leader of his rear section, Flight Lieutenant John Kilmartin, before diving to attack the bombers. It was believed that the 27-year-old Rhodesian flying in Hurricane V6641had been shot down by Bf 109s (probably from JG54). Squadron Leader Hull’s aircraft crashed in Purley, Surrey at 16.45.
Hull was credited with 5 biplane victories and a total of 6 victories at the time of his death.
|Kill no.||Date||Time||Number||Type||Result||Plane type||Serial no.||Locality||Unit|
|30/01/40||09:45||1/2||He 111 (a)||Shared destroyed||Hurricane I||L1849||10m E Coquet Isle||43 Squadron|
|03/02/40||1/3||He 111 (b)||Shared damaged||Hurricane I||Farne Island||43 Squadron|
|28/03/40||12:30-||1/4||He 111 (c)||Shared destroyed||Hurricane I||L1728||8m E Wick||43 Squadron|
|10/04/40||11:00-||1/7||He 111 (d)||Shared destroyed||Hurricane I||E Ronaldsay Island||43 Squadron|
|24/05/40||1/3||He 111 (e)||Shared destroyed||Gladiator II||Fjordbotneidet||263 Squadron|
|1||26/05/40||1||He 111 (f)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||Salte Valley||263 Squadron|
|2||26/05/40||1||Ju 52/3m (g)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||Storfjellet, Saltdal||263 Squadron|
|3||26/05/40||1||Ju 52/3m (h)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||Ekornes, Evenesdal||263 Squadron|
|4||26/05/40||1||Ju 52/3m (i)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||Kvassteinheia, Saltdal||263 Squadron|
|5||27/05/40||1||Ju 87 (j)||Destroyed||Gladiator II||N5635||Saltfjorden||263 Squadron|
|04/09/40||1||Bf 110||Probable||Hurricane I||V6641||Midhurst-Petworth||43 Squadron|
|04/09/40||1||Bf 110||Probable||Hurricane I||V6641||Midhurst-Petworth||43 Squadron|
|6||06/09/40||1||Bf 109E||Destroyed||Hurricane I||V6641||Tenterden||43 Squadron|
|06/09/40||½||Ju 88||Shared probable||Hurricane I||V6641||Tenterden||43 Squadron|
Biplane victories: 5 and 1 shared destroyed, 1 damaged.
TOTAL: 6 and 4 shared destroyed, 2 and 1 shared probable, 1 and 1 shared damaged.
(a) He 111H-2 1H+KM of 4./KG 26.
(b) He 111 of II Gruppe 35% damaged.
(c) He 111 P4+BA of Korpsführungskette/Flgkps X.
(d) He 111P of 3(F)/ObdL flown by Oberleutnant Karl Heinz shot down and crew KIA.
(e) Heinkel He 111H-3 ‘1H+KA’ (WNr. 2411) of Stab/KG 26 shot down. The pilot Oberleutnant Hartmut Paul was wounded and taken POW, Oberfeldwebel Eduard Strüber (observer) was killed, Unteroffizier Gunther Eichmann (flight engineer) was taken POW, Unteroffizier Hans Blunk (air gunner) was taken POW and Feldwebel Alfred Stock (wireless operator) was killed.
(f) He 111 of 1(F)/122 which crash-landed at Mo.
(g) Ju 52/3m (WNr. 5636) of KGrzV 106 shot down at 16:15.
(h) Ju 52/3m ‘BA+KH’ of KGrzV 106 shot down at 16:30.
(i) Ju 52/3m “White 2” (WNr. 6713) of KGrzV 106 shot down between 16:30-16:40.
(j) Ju 87 of 1/StG 1 crashed in sea.
Aces High - Christopher Shores and Clive Williams, 1994 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-00-0
Aces High Volume 2 - Christopher Shores, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-03-9
Duel of Eagles - Peter Townsend, 1970 Cassel Publisher Limited, London, ISBN-0-304-34032-4
Fighter Command War Diaries - September 1939 to September 1940 - John Foreman, 1997 Air Research Publications, Walton-on-Thames, ISBN 1-871187-34-6
Fledgling Eagles - Christopher Shores with John Foreman, Christian-Jaques Ehrengardt, Heinrich Weiss and Bjørn Olsen, 1991 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-42-9
Flying Sailors at War: Volume 1 – Brian Cull with Bruce Lander and Mark Horan, 2011 Dalrymple & Verdun Publishing, Stamford, ISBN 978-1-905414-14-7
RAF Fighter Command Victory Claims Of World War Two: Part One 1939-1940 - John Foreman, 2003 Red Kite, ISBN 0-9538061-8-9
The London Gazette
Additional information kindly provided by Ernie Burton and Birger Larsen.