Battle of Britain London Monument – F/O R H Hillary

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Privacy Statement The Airmen’s Stories – F/O R H Hillary

 

Richard Hope Hillary was born on 20th April 1919 in Sydney, Australia, the son of a Government official. He went to London at the age of 3, when his father was appointed to a post at Australia House there. He was at Shrewsbury School from 1931 to 1937 and then went to Trinity College, Oxford, where he read Modern Greats and History.

Whilst there he learned to fly with the University Air Squadron. He was sometime President of the Rugby Club and Secretary of the Boat Club.

Called to full-time service on 3rd October 1939, Hillary was posted to 3 ITW Hastings and after completing his flying training at 15 FTS Lossiemouth, he went to No.1 School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum. On 23rd June 1940 he moved to 5 OTU, Aston Down and after converting to Spitfires he joined 603 Squadron at Dyce.

 

 

The squadron moved south to Hornhurch on 27th August. Hillary claimed a Me109 destroyed and another probably destroyed on the 29th and was himself shot down, crash-landing near Lympne, unhurt.

He claimed a Me109 on the 31st, two Me109’s destroyed, one probably destroyed and another damaged on 2nd September and another destroyed on the 3rd. On this day Hillary was shot down in flames into the Channel off Margate by Hauptmann Bode of II/JG26. He baled out, grievously burned, and was rescued by the Margate lifeboat.

Hillary spent three months in the Royal Masonic Hospital and then went to the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead where he underwent plastic surgery by Archibald Mclndoe and became a Guinea Pig.

After leaving hospital in late 1941, Hillary went to the RAF Staff College at Gerrards Cross in January 1942 for a three-month course. He regained his flying category and went to 54 OTU Charter Hall to convert to night fighters.

 

(For an account of the life and work of Archibald McIndoe please click here)

 

(Above: Hillary is shown, post-burn treatment, third from right at an awards ceremony)

 

On 18th January 1943, circling a beacon at night, his Blenheim V BA194 spun into the ground at Crunklaw Farm and he and his navigator, F/Sgt. KWY Fison, were killed. The weather was bad and the aircraft may have been subject to icing. There is a memorial at the site (below).

 

 

Hillary was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, London and his ashes were scattered from a Boston over the English Channel by his old 603 Squadron CO, W/Cdr. GL Denholm.

 

 

Hillary is remembered for his classic book ‘The Last Enemy‘, published in June 1942.

His portrait was made after his operations by Eric Kennington (above).

 

 

(An immensely detailed biography ‘RICHARD HILLARY’  by David Ross is available ISBN: 1902304454)

 

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