Service Number: NZ424328
RNZAF Trade: Firecrew
Date of Enlistment:13th of June 1942
Rank Achieved:Leading Aircraftsman
Flying Hours: nil known
Operational Sorties: nil known
Date of Birth: 10th of May 1909, at Ohaupo
Personal Details: Hugh had previously farmed at Pukeroro, Cambridge , for several years before joining up. His wartime residence was however recorded as Wellington
Service Details: At approximately 23:15hrs on the night of 12th /13th of April 1944, enemy shells were fired into the Torokina area, resulting in the setting fire to several fuel dumps. About 30 minutes later the American commander requested RNZAF assistance.
One of the fuel dumps containing 900 drums of fuel and the other of 600 drums were burning fiercely, and drums were exploding with the heat. The RNZAF firemen and one other RNZAF volunteer fought the fire bravely without any concern for their own safety, acting with coolness and tenacity that was said to have inspired the other fire-fighters present.
Under the command of RNZAF fireman Sgt Lawrence Hughes, the RNZAF team acted to extinguish the fires and prevent the blaze spreading any further. Sgt Hughes was to receive the British Empire Medal and a United States Commendation for his part in the effort. The other RNZAF personnel were also commended.
On the 9th of August 1944 , Hugh Marshall was one of 14 men who were presented Certificates of Commendation for outstanding services by Wing Commander H.L. Tancred , CO of RNZAF at Bougainville , on behalf of Major General O.W. Griswold of the US Army. The 14 had attacked and subdued a fire in a petrol dump at Bougainville .
The certificates, which bore the insignia of Headquarters, 14th Corps, South Pacific Area, plus the signature of Major General Griswold, read:
“For outstanding service in fighting a fire at Torokina Airfield, Bougainville, on the night of 12 April 1944 , while exposed to enemy shelling and danger from exploding fuel drums. With disregard for his personal safety he assisted in bringing under control a dangerous fire and thereby saved large quantities of much needed gasoline.”
The Waikato Independent reported a slightly different citation, which may be incorrect but bears a little more of the story out:
“On the night of April 12, 1944, when enemy shelling of the Bougainville perimeter set fire to a section of a large gasoline dump, you immediately responded to a call for volunteers to fight the spreading fire. Exposed to continued shelling by the enemy of the brilliantly-lighted, burning target, and the danger from exploding gasoline drums, you assisted other volunteers in playing streams of water on the drums surrounding the burning area. In doing so, you did, with disregard for your personal safety, bring under control a dangerous fire, thereby saving large quantities of needed gasoline.”
Details of Death: Died on the 31 st of May 1967, aged 57, at Wellington
Connection with Cambridge: Hugh lived in Cambridge before WWII
Waikato Independent newspaper reports mentioning Hugh Marshall
Bravery Commended 25 August 1944