b. 02/05/1917 Dundee, Scotland. d. 04/12/1942 Chougui, Tunisia.
Hugh Gordon Malcolm (1917-1942) was born at Newstead, Albany Road, Broughton Ferry, Dundee, Scotland on 2nd May 1917, and received his early education at Craigflower Preparatory School, Dunfermline and then entered Trinity College, Glenalmond in Perthshire. He was the son of Kenneth Sinclair Malcolm Marjorie Evelyn (nee Smith). He had two younger sisters, Barbara and Moira. Deciding to make the RAF his future career, Malcolm entered RAF Cranwell as a cadet on 9th January 1936, and eventually graduated as a commissioned pilot in December 1937. On 18th December he joined his first unit, 26 Squadron at RAF Catterick, and was immediately detached to the School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum, Wiltshire for a short course of instruction on his future of flying the unit’s Westland Lysander aircraft on a variety of air exercises and general training in liaison with nearby army formations.
On 20th May 1939, however, his promising career was almost abruptly ended when, while piloting a Lysander in practice for a forthcoming Empire Air Day display at Manchester, he crashed, receiving severe injuries including a fractured skull. For nearly four months Malcolm was a patient in the Princess Mary Hospital, Halton, where one of his nurses later became his wife Helen. Declared fit for flying again, he returned to 26 Squadron on 26th September 1939.
On 12th July 1940, he was posted to another Lysander unit, 4 Squadron, based at Linton-on-Ouse; and on 21st September the same year, with promotion to Flight Lieutenant, he moved to Scotland to join 241 Squadron at Inverness, still piloting Lysanders. On 4th December 1940 in Cuckfield, Sussex, he married his nurse, Helen Catherine Don-Swan. Yet another posting came on 3rd March 1941 when he was sent to join 215 Squadron at Tilshead (later in the year Thruxton) a B Flight Commander and continued to fly Lysanders.
In December 1941 Malcolm was further promoted to Squadron Leader, and in the following month was posted to 17 OTU, but quickly returned to more active service when he joined 18 Squadron at Wattisham as a Flight Commander on 13th April. Equipped with Blenheim IV Bombers, 18 Squadron was a veteran unit of No 2 Group, RAF, employed in constant daylight operations over occupied Europe. Soon after he joined, night time bombing sorties began, and an example of which was the night of 30/31st May 1942 when the first 1,000 bomber raid, against Cologne, was mounted by Bomber Command.
The squadron was stood down from operations in August 1942 to re-equip and prepare for overseas service, being ear marked for aerial support for the Allied invasion of North Africa – Operation Torch. Moving from Wattisham to West Raynham on 24th August, 18 Squadron began to receive its “new” designs, Blenheim V’s. They also gained a new commander, when Malcolm was promoted to Wing Commander in September. Leaving No 2 Group in October, 18 Squadron then joined three other Blenheim V-equipped units, 13, 114 and 614 Squadrons, in forming 326 Wing, and in early November moved to North Africa, being based initially at Blida airfield in Algeria.
The Blenheim V’s unsuitability was soon demonstrated on 18 Squadon’s first sortie on 17th November. They attacked Bizerta airfield at low-level, in clear daylight and without fighter escort. After bombing the target, they ran into bad weather and Luftwaffe fighters, they lost two bombers in an air collision and two others to German fighters.
On 4th December 1942, he led an thirteen-strong attack on an enemy fighter airfield near Chougui, Tunisia. On reaching the target, however, and starting the attack, the squadron was intercepted by an overwhelming force of enemy fighters from I and II. gruppen JG 53, and 11 Staffel, JG 2. One by one all his bombers were shot down, until he himself was shot down in flames.
Malcolm’s body was recovered and he was laid to rest in Beja War Cemetery, Tunisia. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross on 27th April 1943, and the medal was presented to his widow Helen. His medals were held privately until a 2010 auction at Spink’s, London, when they were purchased by Michael Ashcroft and are now displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: BEJA WAR CEMETERY, TUNISIA.
Hugh Malcolm's medals including VC on display at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
PLOT II, ROW E, GRAVE 6
St Clements Danes Church, Aldwych
National Memorial Arboretum (Andy Wright)