WW2 Gladiator pilot John "Gugu" Hewitson

John "Gugu" Hewitson tribute web site

I met John and started to visit him at his house in Cape Town since October 2011 (Thanks to Steven McLean who gave me the contact info). John is 95 years old and in good health with a fantastic memory. He is the last remaining ww2 SAAF fighter pilot ace still to be with us.

Thanks to John and Marjorie for your time, kindness and help during my visits to your home and John for allowing me to copy and present all your war documents here (the film too!). 

John Loch Hewitson joined the SAAF in 1938 and obtained his wings in 1939. As a member of No. 1 squadron he participated in the East African campaign 1940-1941, flying Gladiators and Hurricanes. On his return to the Union he became one of the initial No. 5 squadron pilots under the leadership of the top SA ace Jack Frost. 5 Squadron was sent to North Africa in 1942 equipped with Curtiss Tomahawk aircraft  and John as one of the flight leaders. At that stage German aircraft enjoyed superiority in the air. The SAAF squadrons still caused substantial losses to the enemy but at considerable cost. In June 1942 John was promoted to squadron leader and took command of No.4 squadron. He was shot down in flames in July 1942, got wounded but bailed to safety. He then was captured and spent 3 years in Italian and German  POW camps. John was a participant of the famous but tragic  "Great Escape" effort of 1944 at Luft Stalag III as a "penguin" or soil disperse worker. Luckily he was not drawn by the lots system to take part in the actual escape.

After the war John studied quantity surveying and followed a successful career in that field until he retired in 1990.


This is a living web site. Any input and/or participation will be much appreciated regarding additional information, correctness, information from relatives of members who served with John in his squadron, photographs, stories etc. Please e-mail me. Most welcome will be any photographs of No. 1, 4 or No. 5 squadrons while John was with them.

If you have a family member who served as a SAAF fighter pilot during ww2 and you want to find out more about his war service please contact me and maybe I can be of assistance.

Tinus le Roux

May 2012

Military Career

01/07/1938       Pretoria Flying School

11/09/1939        2. Air School

23/10/1939        Obtain wings

16/01/1940        C.A.F.T.D.

01/05/1940        No. 1 Squadron

18/09/1940        Shared destroyed a Fiat CR-42

01/10/1940        Promoted to 1st Lieutenant

06/11/1940        Shot down a Caproni  Ca-133 and 

                          damage one on the ground

22/01/1940        Shared destroyed and damaged 2 

                          Caproni Ca-133's on the ground

24/01/1941        Destroyed a Ca-133 on the ground

28/01/1941        Damaged on the ground a SM-79, SM-81

                          and two CA-133's

08/03/1941         C.F.S Bloemfontein

13/06/1941         Promoted to Captain

22/06/1941          No. 5 Squadron

24/09/1941          Mention in Dispatches awarded

11/03/1942          Shot down a  Junkers Ju-88

27/05/1942          Shot down a Messerschmitt Bf-109 F

01/06/1942          No. 4 Squadron (OC)

01/06/1942          Promoted to Major

04/06/1942          Shot down a Stuka Ju-87

13/06/1942          Shot down a Messerschmitt Bf-109

26/06/1942          Shot down in flames, wounded, bailed

26/06/1942           POW  Italy, Germany

16/03/1943           DFC awarded

20/08/1945           24 Air School Nigel

06/09/1945           43 Air School Grahamstown

17/10/1945           W.A.S.

31/12/1945           Demobilized





John during the East African campaign 1940-1941, screen shots from John's 8mm film.

John and Marjorie at their house in Cape Town, December 2011.


John had a 8mm movie camera with him during his war service. He kindly made available to me his war film reels to be digitized.  Screen shots of these films are presented on this site together with other memorabilia and related photographs.


John's DFC with the oak leaf indicating a recipient of  a Mention in Dispatches.



Medal set, SAAF wings and a crown shoulder insignia for the rank of major. Also the caterpillar club card issued by the Irvin parachute company for pilots who were  saved by their parachutes. In John's  case the caterpillar brooch will have red ruby  eyes indicating that the jump was made from a flamed aircraft.

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