By Chris Marais
Petrus Hendrik Hugo was known as ‘Khaki’ in his home town of Victoria West, Northern Cape, because his face reddened in the Karoo sun – just like your average Englishman’s would.
But once he had made a name for himself during the Battle of Britain as one of the Royal Air Force flying aces, he was known in London as ‘Dutch’ Hugo – because of his marked South African accent.
The amazing young man, who honed his shooting skills hunting springbok in the Karoo, joined the Royal Air Force at the start of World War II and won himself the Distinguished Flying Order, Distinguished Flying Cross (UK), Distinguished Flying Cross (USA) and the French Croix de Guerre.
He was credited with 22 aerial kills and involved in the sinking of 20 enemy ships in his time.
Now here’s the thing. The good people of Victoria West raised no less than 4 000 pounds under the Petrus Hugo Spitfire Fund and bought their local hero his own aircraft, appropriately dubbed ‘Karroo’.
Unfortunately, Hugo was later shot down over the English Channel. He was rescued and soon back in the thick of things. However, there is a Spitfire called ‘Karroo’ lying somewhere on the seabed off Dover.
He spent his final days back on Pampoenpoort, the family farm where he grew up. On Hugo’s gravestone is a crafted wire airplane, and his epitaph simply reads:
“Here lies a hero.”
This is a short extract from Karoo Roads – Tales from South Africa’s Heartland by Chris Marais & Julienne du Toit. It will be available as a First Edition Author-signed Print Book from November 2020 at R350 including taxes and counter-to-counter Postnet service.
To order, contact Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will put you on this exclusive list of Karoo Lovers – and Karoo Space supporters.