The Airmen's Stories - P/O C H Hight
Cecil Henry Hight was born in Stratford, New Zealand on 6th December 1917 and was educated at the Technical High School there. After leaving he worked as a car salesman.
Hight obtained his 'A' License at the Western Federated Aero Club in August 1937. Early in 1938 he worked his passage to England to join the RAF. Unable to reach the educational requirements, he took a cramming course in mathematics, applied again and was accepted for a short service commission.
On 16th January 1939 Hight began his flying training at 9 E&RFTS Ansty. He went to 6 FTS Little Rissington on 29th April, completed the course and joined 234 Squadron on 6th November 1939 at Leconfield with Blenheims.
In March 1940 the squadron began to re-equip with Spitfires.
On 15th August 1940 the Luftwaffe made an early evening raid on Boumemouth. The enemy aircraft were engaged by 234 Squadron, then based at Middle Wallop. In the action, Hight was shot down, in Spitfire R6988. Witnesses saw Hight's aircraft go into a dive from about 5,000 feet. He baled out but his parachute did not open and he fell into the garden of 'Hambledon", a house owned by a Mr and Mrs Hoare in Leven Avenue.
Canon Hedley Burrows, Vicar of St Peter's, arrived just before Hight's body was found and he said a prayer for the dead pilot where he lay in the garden. The Spitfire crashed nearby, at the comer of Leven Avenue and Walsford Road.
Hight is believed to have been badly wounded and may have been unable to pull his ripcord. He was buried with full military honours in Boscombe Cemetery on 19th August.
A memorial service was held at St Peters, Bournemouth on 7th April 1943 and a plaque to Hight's memory was unveiled by the High Commissioner for New Zealand. This memorial took the form of RAF wings, carved from Kauri wood by the pupils of Hight's old school in New Zealand. Mr and Mrs Hoare planted a Garden of Remembrance on the spot where Hight's body was found.
On 14th November 1940 Mr Hoare was killed when the house was bombed and Mrs Hoare was buried in the debris. The Garden of Remembrance was for some time tended by local people. Hight was the only Allied airman to die in action over Bournemouth during the war. At some time later a road in Kinson, North Bournemouth was named, in his honour, Pilot Hight Road (below).
In August 2015 a memorial stone was placed close to the crash site (below).
On 15th August 2020, the 80th anniversary of Cecil Hight's death, a short service of remembrance was held at his grave. The Poole Branch and Christchurch Branch of the Royal Air Forces Association were joined by the Bournemouth, Poole & District Branch, Royal Tank Regiment Association. Both organisations laid a wreath and paraded their standards which were lowered in salute as 'Last Post' was played.
Above: the RAFA wreath-layer (right) when a child witnessed Cecil Hight's fall from the sky.
Above images courtesy of Antony Hart.