Karoo Spitfire Ace

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.

Group Captain Petrus (Dutch or Khaki) Hugo, in a portrait sketch on display at the Victoria West Museum.

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 julie@karoospace.co.za and she will put you on this exclusive list of Karoo Lovers – and Karoo Space supporters.


3 thoughts on “Karoo Spitfire Ace

  1. Bruce Harrison says:

    Hey Chris, excellent article and pics on Group Captain “Dutch” Hugo. This year is the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, and Dutch Hugo’s name holds a place of honour in the Annals of the RAF, along with the 25 other South African pilots, including “Sailor” Malan who served in the Battle. Salute their memory!
    If I understand correctly, because he volunteered for service in the RAF, the “Khaki” nickname was a derisive allusion to the hated British “khakis ” of the Anglo-Boer War. Best Regards

  2. Eric Torr says:

    I was a member of the local Lions in Carnarvon where I met Oom Khaki Hugo for the first time in 1976 or 1977. A very quiet and well loved person in the area.

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