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Did you know Vincent Gough? The 99-year-old veteran from Pontnewydd carried out unarmed reconnaissance missions in World War II

a camera being loaded onto a Spitfire
A photo reconnaissance Spitfire is loaded with a vertical camera prior to a mission over occupied territory (Photo: Spitfire AA810 Project)

A campaign to commemorate Second World War heroes, including one who was born in Pontnewydd, has been backed by Torfaen MP Nick Thomas-Symonds.

He has joined the campaign to commemorate the brave pilots and navigators of the Photographic Reconnaissance Units (PRU) during the Second World War.

The PRU was formed on 24 September 1939 and throughout the Second World War it operated highly dangerous, clandestine photographic reconnaissance operations and captured more than 26 million images.

The purpose of the PRU was to provide up-to-date intelligence to strategically plan the Allied actions in the war. Flying Spitfires and Mosquitos, the intelligence it gathered was used by all the armed forces, giving same day intelligence.

A Spitfire AA810
Robert Tomlinson taxies Spitfire AA810 at RAF Wick on 29 January 1942, Five weeks later this very aircraft would be shot down with Sandy Gunn at the controls. (Photo: Tomlinson family)

The intelligence provided by the PRU was used in the Cabinet War Rooms – now the ‘Churchill War Rooms’ located underneath the Treasury – and was instrumental in the planning of major operations including D-Day and the Dambusters Raid.

Due to the clandestine nature of their operations – they flew solo operations, unarmed and unarmoured – the death rate was nearly fifty percent. However, despite having one of the lowest survival rates of the war – life expectancy in the PRU was around two and a half months – there is no national memorial to the unit.

The ‘Spitfire AA810 Project’ is leading a campaign to establish a memorial in central London.

Vincent Aneurin Gough

Among those who served in the PRU was Vincent Aneurin Gough who was born in Pontnewydd on 14 December 1921 and flew unarmed reconnaissance missions during the war. He survived the conflict passing away in Hereford on 25 September 2021.

Sadly, little else is currently known of his wartime service and the Spitfire AA810 Project would really like to hear from anyone who can give more details of his life and service.

Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “I am delighted to support this fantastic campaign to commemorate those who served in the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit. This includes Vincent Gough, who served admirably under exceptionally difficult conditions in service of our country.

“I look forward to working with the Spitfire AA810 Project to establish this memorial and I look forward to being able to pay my respects there once it is completed.”

Tony Hoskins, Project Leader of  Spitfire AA810 Project, said: “For nearly four years I have been trying to collate the names of all those who flew these daring unarmed intelligence gathering raids across all theatres of war so that at last their endeavours and sacrifices can be recognised properly. Sadly as time marches on, more and more of the information we seek becomes harder to find as families move on and members of that wonderful generation leave us.

“As with Vincent we know that he thankfully survived the conflict, but the reasons for him being awarded the Air Force Cross – an award for exemplary gallantry – is lost to us now. We would love to learn more of Vincent’s life, his service flying unarmed reconnaissance, and indeed if anyone is related to him or knows his relatives, we would very much like to hear from you.”

Do you know Vincent Gough?

If there is anyone related to Vincent Gough, or if anyone knows someone who served in the PRU during the war, please visit the Spitfire AA810 Project website or email Tony on Tony@spitfireaa810.co.uk

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Did you know Vincent Gough? The 99-year-old veteran from Pontnewydd carried out unarmed reconnaissance missions in World War II