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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. P Hillwood

Peter Hillwood was born on 7th January 1920 in London.

He was awarded Aero Certificate 15853 at Cambridge Aero Club on 6th May 1938 and then joined the RAFVR about July 1938 as as Airman u/t Pilot.



Called up on 1st September 1939, he arrived at 11 Group Pool on the 2nd and after converting to Hurricanes he joined 56 Squadron.

On 16th May 1940 he went with 'B' Flight to France to support the hard-pressed squadrons there. The flight was withdrawn after four days of hard fighting. Hillwood claimed a Ju87 destroyed on 13th July and was himself shot down on 13th August in a head-on attack by a Me109 off Sheerness. He baled out, unhurt, swam two miles towards Sheppey and was near collapse when he was spotted by two anti-aircraft gunners, who waded out and helped him in.


Above: Hillwood, F/Lt. EJ Gracie and P/O FW Higginson of 56 Squadron.


Commissioned in January 1942, Hillwood was awarded the DFC (gazetted 24th November 1944) as a Flight Commander with 127 Squadron. At some time he was attached to Vickers Supermarine for special test duties. He was released from the RAF in 1946 as a Flight Lieutenant.

In 1948 Hillwood joined Vickers as a test pilot, later moving to English Electric. He flew as second pilot to RP Beamont on the record-breaking double-crossing of the Atlantic in a Canberra on 26th August 1952, which won the Royal Aero Club's Britannia Trophy for the best performance in the air for the year. On 16th February 1956 he piloted the Canberra on the record-breaking flight between London and Cairo.

In the late 1950s he became Deputy Chief Test Pilot for English Electric flying Lightnings amongst other aircraft. He left English Electric in 1965 and went on to fly a replica Avro Triplane for the film Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. He also flew as a stunt pilot in the 1966 war film The Blue Max.

On 9th November 1966 Hillwood was acting as a demonstration pilot for Britten-Norman. He was killed when the prototype Islander G-ATCT that he was flying crashed into Ringwiel Lake, southwest of Sneek in Northern Holland whilst en route back to the Britten-Norman works at Bembridge in the Isle of Wight.

The aircraft had attempted to climb above bad weather but encountered severe icing at 10,000 feet and broke up under the stress.

His passenger Albert Weerda, the prospective German representative for Islander sales in Germany, was also killed.

Hillwood was 46. He lies in St. Mary's Churchyard, Copythorne, Hampshire.




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