The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. C G Hilken
Clive Geoffrey Hilken was born on 14th September 1919 in Hull and was educated at Brigg Grammar School.
He was employed as a bank clerk in Lloyds Bank in Scunthorpe when he
joined the RAFVR about March 1939 as a pilot under training.
Hilken was called to full-time service on 1st September that year. Following training at 5 FTS and 6 OTU he was posted to 74 Squadron on 21st August 1940 as a Spitfire pilot.
In mid-October 1940 the squadron moved from Kirton-in-Lindsey to Biggin Hill and was soon in action. Hilken was shot down on 20th October over south London and he baled out, wounded, his aircraft P7426 coming down at Cowden, Kent.
He was admitted to Orpington Hospital for treatment. The next year, 1941, found him still with 74 Squadron and he had to bale out for a second time when his Spitfire P7614 was shot down by Me109s on 21st April 1941 over Ashford. He returned to duty, taking part in sweeps over Occupied France.
On 27th June 1941 he was shot down near St. Omer and taken prisoner. (The squadron commander, JC Mungo-Park, was also lost on this sortie, being killed when his aircraft came down in Belgium). He later described the event:
Having twice survived being shot down….I swore that no enemy would get on my tail again without my knowledge. This resolution held good until 27th June 1941 when I flew to France as top cover, escorting a bombing sortie to the Lille district. The chap who should have been behind me had not taken off because of engine trouble, leaving me as the back man of my section. At 2,500 feet over France our squadron became separated on a weaving turn from the other squadrons of the Wing. Our CO applied full throttle in an attempt to regain his place in the formation but in the process the rest of us found ourselves spread over the sky up to two miles behind the main formation. Now, to weave and watch your tail meant losing the formation. The only way to catch up was to do what our CO had done – go full bore. We did this – then cannon shells whipped into my Spitfire. No warning. Nothing seen. Wireless dead, glycol streaming out behind. Elevator stuck and a piece of metal in my ankle which was bleeding at full speed.
I bailed out only to find my parachute pack waving about by my side. I pulled it in and undid the snap fasteners, letting the chute out a yard or two before the wind caught it and it opened to let me down, cursing my fate yet again, to France, hospital and a POW camp.
He was one of the prisoners shackled in retaliation for the supposed shackling of German prisoners captured on the Dieppe raid in 1942 (below).
Liberated in May 1945, he was released from the RAF later that year holding the rank of Warrant Officer. After the war Hilken turned to teaching. He ultimately became head teacher of the school at RAF Geilenkirchen and then the junior school at Catterick Garrison. He married Nesta and had two daughters, Vanessa and Deborah.
Clive Hilken died on 30th June 2005.
In April 2005 this website was contacted from the USA by Harold (Hal) Gunn. His late father, also Harold, was a B-17 Flying Fortress co-pilot and one of only three of his crew that escaped when their aircraft was shot down. In Stalag Luft III he had become friendly with a British pilot called Clive Hilken. Harold Senior made a pencil sketch of Clive (below) and Harold Junior had found this in his effects. Could we assist in locating Clive Hilken so that a copy of the portrait could be passed to him ?
This was done shortly before Clive's death.
The artist Hal Gunn has signed the work and a dedication written by Clive Hilken reads:
May this ugly mug remind you of friends met here and days you’re making up for now, good luck pal, Clive