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The Airmen's Stories - S/Ldr. J H Hill


John Hamar Hill was born on 28th December 1912 and educated at Dover College. He joined the RAF on a short service commission on 1st April 1932.

He did his flying training at 3 FTS Grantham and after completing his training joined 19 Squadron at Duxford on 21st August 1933. He was posted to 800 (Fleet Fighter) Squadron at Upavon on 26th September 1934.

Hill joined the Air Staff at 21 Group Sleaford on 1st December 1938. He was serving with 85 Squadron for Ops Room duties at the outbreak of war.

He married Frances Norah Weldon on 17th June 1939 at All Saints, Brighton, Sussex.

Shortly before the out-break of war Hill was sent to France with orders to prepare Boos, an airfield near Rouen, to receive 85 and 87 Hurricane squadrons.

At Boos Hill was confronted by an uncooperative French general who could not see the point of readying the base since the country was not yet at war.



Hill joined 87 Squadron on 17th November 1939 as CO. On 26th February 1940 Hill was posted away to take command of 81 Squadron at Amiens-Mountjoie, where it was flying Tiger Moths on communications duties. He joined the squadron on 5th March, remaining with it only until 16th May 1940 when he took command of 504 Squadron at Lille-Marcq.

On the 19th he was shot down by a Me110 in Hurricane I P3351 and baled out. Within a few hundred feet of the ground he was fired on by French peasants with shotguns. After landing he was able to convince them that he was not German. As he was about to be driven away in a French Air Force car, a British Army patrol arrived and he was arrested as a fifth columnist.

Reaching for his identity card Hill was fired on by one of the British soldiers. When he ducked below the windscreen, all the others fired. Hill rolled out of the car into a ditch and when firing had ceased he convinced the officer-in-charge of his identity. Having seen all this the French peasants were sure that Hill was a German. They beat him savagely, rendering him unconscious while the soldiers stood by and watched.

He came to with his head in the lap of a French Air Force officer, a man he had known in Rouen. The shamefaced peasants tried to make amends, the Army then re-appeared and again tried to arrest him, unsuccessfully.

Hill was evacuated from Lille by ambulance train. En route, between Le Touquet and Boulogne, Ju87s dive-bombed it and the driver and fireman fled. Hill and another officer finally mastered the engine's controls and drove the train to Boulogne.

Evacuated from Dunkirk, Hill landed at Dover and was put on to an ambulance train. When he asked the engine driver to change some French francs, so that he could telephone his wife, he was again arrested as a fifth columnist. Fortunately a Wing Commander that he knew came along and he was released.

Hill was at No. 1 RAF Depot Uxbridge in July, to await a posting. He was given command of 222 Squadron at Kirton-in-Lindsey on 31st July 1940 and he joined the squadron on 5th August.

He damaged a Me109 on 30th August, claimed a Me109 destroyed on 1st September and probably destroyed a Me110 on the 3rd.

In January 1941 he was posted to 57 OTU Hawarden to be CFI.

Hill went to New Zealand in July 1942 for Air Staff duties and did not return to the UK until 1945. Hill joined SHAEF and in 1948 he went to Paris, on the staff of the British Air Attache. He was made a CBE (gazetted 1st January 1946).

He held a series of appointments prior to his retirement from the RAF on 1st February 1960 as a Group Captain.

Hill was later a successful executive of the Society of British Aerospace Companies, specialising in export sales. He was valued as a co-ordinator at the Farnborough Air Show.

Hill died in August 1998.

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