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BOAC Flight 777

Discussion in 'Air War in Western Europe 1939 - 1945' started by trevor999, Mar 1, 2015.

  1. trevor999

    trevor999 recruit

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    Greetings all

    I have a family mystery I'm trying to solve.

    The wife and two daughters of one of my ancestors was on BOAC flight 777 that was shot down over the Bay of Biscay on 1 June 1943. Her name was Rotha Hutcheon, and the two daughters were Petra (11) and Caroline (18 mos). Her husband was Allen Grant Hutcheon, who would have been my first cousin twice removed. He passed away in 1952, fourteen years before I was born. I understand he was serving as a staff officer (Captain I believe) in the Imperial General Staff. He was Canadian, and had served in the First World war as well, being seconded to the Royal Garrison Artillery Corps. This is also the same flight that Leslie Howard was on.

    The mystery is: How was it that a married woman was travelling alone with a child and an infant from England to Portugal and back, in an active war zone, in the summer of 1943? I mean, it's not like you could just hop on a plane and take a vacation then. In my mind, the idea is preposterous. I also know that Portugal was a hotbed of intelligence activity during the war, since it was a neutral.

    So the questions remain. Why were they there? Why were they travelling? To what purpose? Could Rotha have been given some sort of mission, using her children as a cover?

    I am attempting to get his military file from Library and Archives Canada, and his medal card from the British Archives, hoping for some clue as his duties.

    Any ideas or suggestions would be most helpful.

    Thanks very much
     
  2. green slime

    green slime Member Patron  

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    Why not? If you had the money, you could. BOAC sold seats to those that paid.

    17 people were on board. They can't all have been spies, agents and escaped PoWs. How frequent were the flights?

    Most of the aircraft flying the Lisbon–Whitchurch route were left unmolested after the beginning of the war. Both Allied and Axis powers respected the neutrality of countries such as Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland and refrained from attacking flights into and out of those nations. In 1943, fighting over the area intensified and the RAF and Luftwaffe saw increased losses. This meant increased danger for BOAC aircraft running Lisbon–Whitchurch.

    How well off was the family? Where were they living in the UK? Did they have any family or friends living in Portugal? Who were they visiting, why and for how long? Was there any infidelity involved?
     
  3. Takao

    Takao Ace

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  4. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr Patron  

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    That info also appears in the book 'Flight 777' by Ian Colvin, viz p.24-25 : -

    '...Mrs Rotha Violet Hutcheon,British born, and her daughters Carola and Petra, were on their way back from America to join Lieutenant-Colonel Hutcheon R.A., who was with the Canadian forces in the United Kingdom...'
     
  5. Phil C from Denmark

    Phil C from Denmark New Member

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    Hi Trevor

    Rotha was my grandfather's sister.

    She initially sent her two oldest daughters to Canada in 1938 accompanied by their Danish nanny, to live with their Canadian grandparents, as she could see that war was coming. Both grandparents, as well as the younger daughter Penelope, all died in 1940.

    Rotha therefore went to Canada in 1941, to be with her surviving daughter Petra. She was pregnant with her third daughter Caroline.

    That meant she was absent from her husband and her own parents for two years.

    So she traveled back to the UK be re-united with them again.

    This meant sailing across the Atlantic to Portugal, and then taking the flight across the Bay of Biscay to get to the UK. It sounds risky, but was probably a lot less risky than going by sea where there was a huge risk of getting torpedoed.



    Phil
     
  6. Phil C from Denmark

    Phil C from Denmark New Member

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    Slight update. The girls were sent to Canada in 1940, not 1938.
     

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