ARMSTRONG Hugo Throssell 406022

LEST WE FORGET

Squadron Leader Hugo Throssell ARMSTRONG DFC & Bar

Commanding Officer, No. 611 Squadron (RAF)

Squadron Leader Armstrong is an Australian Fighter Ace with 12 confirmed kills in the European Theatre.

Service No: 406022
Born: Perth WA, 9 June 1916
Enlisted in the RAAF: 25 May 1940
Unit:  No. 611 Squadron (RAF), RAF Biggin Hill, Kent
Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), 29 May 1942 (Citation Title: No. 72 Squadron RAF)
Awarded the Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross (Bar), 8 January 1943 (Citation Title: No. 611 Squadron RAF)
Died: Air Operations: (No. 611 Squadron Spitfire aircraft BS 435), English Channel, 5 February 1943, Aged 26 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Percival William and Grace Ethel Armstrong, of Travancore, Victoria, Australia.
Roll of Honour: Perth WA
Remembered: Panel 187, Runnymede Memorial, Surrey UK
Remembered: Panel 118, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA

DFC Citation: This officer has participated in 29 operational sorties over enemy territory and has destroyed at least five enemy aircraft and damaged a further two. He has displayed courage and initiative. His judgment and skill as a leader have contributed to the successes achieved by his flight.

Bar to DFC Citation: Since being awarded the DFC, Squadron Leader Armstrong has participated in many sorties over enemy occupied territory, during which he has destroyed a further four enemy fighters and probably destroyed others.  His great powers of leadership have contributed largely to the successes achieved by his Squadron. This officer’s keenness to engage the enemy at all times and his excellent escort work have set an inspiring example to all.  Note: He was the first Australian Empire Air Scheme trainee to command an RAF Squadron in the UK – No. 611 Squadron, the West Lancashire Auxiliary fighter squadron.

Squadron Leader Armstrong, Commanding Officer of No. 611 (West Lancashire) Squadron, took off from RAF Station Biggin Hill at 1130 hours on 5 February 1943 leading Blue section of 3 aircraft of 611 Squadron for local flying.  When airborne they heard a section of No. 340 Squadron being vectored on to a number of enemy aircraft off the French coast and followed them.  At about 1200 hours when flying at about 1,000 feet under cloud off the French coast, a number of enemy aircraft appeared from the clouds and attacked the Section which at that particular time were turning and rather spread out.  Blue 2 and 3 each engaged a FW190, and while in combat heard Squadron Leader Armstrong call over his radio that he had been hit and going to bale out.  Blue 2 immediately gave a Mayday fix.  Blue 2 and 3 on completion of their engagements made a search of the Channel, but found no trace of Blue 1. Between 1300 and 1400 hours a Squadron search proved fruitless.  At the time Blue 1 called on his radio he had a FW190 on his tail.  This was ultimately dispersed by a pilot of 340 Squadron who saw the Spitfire smoking badly from the engine and diving gently towards the sea near the French coast from a low altitude.  None of the accompanying pilots observed a parachute open in the combat area.

The following are extracts from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1954

Sqn Ldr H. T. Armstrong, DFC, 406022 . 257, 129 and 72 Sqns RAF; comd 611 Sqn RAF 1942-43. Car salesman; of Perth, WA, and Sydney; b. Perth, 9 Jun 1916.  Killed in action 5 Feb 1943. (Nephew of late Capt Hugo Throssell, VC, 10 Light Horse Regt, 1914-18) – Footnote Page 344

Outstanding among R.A.A.F. pilots was Armstrong, who served successively with Nos. 129, 72 and 611 Squadrons R.A.F. during 1942.  Armstrong’s keenness to engage the enemy brought him early prominence while flying with Tangmere Wing and he was quickly elevated to be a flight commander of No. 129 Squadron.  His judgment and skill as a leader brought further successes, and by May (1942) he was credited with the destruction of five enemy aircraft.  After similar service with No. 72 Squadron, he was posted to command No. 611 Squadron and by the end of the year had claimed another four enemy victims.  Perhaps his greatest attribute was his ability to control his flight or squadron to best advantage on escort work, so that he always had a tactical advantage over enemy fighters which tried to break through to the bombers; he never overlooked defensive responsibilities but, once battle was joined, he showed, in the highest form, the courage, initiative, judgment and skill which marks the truly-great fighter pilot. – Page 354

References:

Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records (RAAF Casualty Information compiled by Alan Storr (409804))
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 163/22/150

Bibliography:

Garrisson, A. D. (Arthur) Australian Fighter Aces 1914-1953, Air Power Studies Centre Fairbairn ACT 2600, 1999 – a biography for Squadron Leader Armstrong is at page 119.
Ilbery, P.L.T. (Peter Leslie Thomas) (422957) Hatching an Air Force: 2SFTS, 5SFTS, 1BFTS Uranquinty and Wagga Wagga, Banner Books Maryborough QLD 4650, 2002