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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. A J B Hithersay


Arthur James Beaumont Hithersay was born on 14th December 1920 and left school at age 14 to work as a butcher with the Cooperative Society.

He joined the RAFVR in December 1938 as an Airman u/t WOp/AG.



He was called to full-time service at the outbreak of war and posted to the newly-formed 141 Squadron at Grangemouth in October 1939. He served with the squadron throughout the Battle of Britain.

On the night of 5th May 1941, flying with F/Sgt. G Laurence, Hithersay shot down a He111 at night south of Greenock.


Above: with Sgt. F Usmar (left) 141 Squadron.


When the squadron converted to Beaufighters in September 1941, he transferred to 4 Group, Bomber Command and went into Flying Control.

He was stationed at Linton-on-Ouse, responsible for airfield control for 76 and 78 Squadrons, both operating with Halifaxes. Hithersay later operated a satellite station at Breighton. He was released from the RAF in 1946 as a Warrant Officer.

Postwar he lived in Gloucestershire with his first wife, a WAAF he met during the war, they had two daughters.

He worked as a salesman in the Gloucestershire area, selling small items to local shops before starting a balloon manufacturing business in 1949 on Ashbourne Road in Derby. The company, Midland Latex Ltd. was started with a loan from his aunt of £500, a substantial amount in those days.

Hithersay designed and implemented all the machinery, upgrading to fully automatic pneumatic plant from the mid-60s, this increased production ten-fold.

The brand name, Fantasia Balloons, went on to be the premium balloon brand in the UK for over 50 years.

In 1962 he met his second wife, they went on to have a son and a daughter. He was huge sports fan, especially of boxing, and was a member of British Boxing Board of Control for a period. He was also the Chairman of the Derbyshire Sporting Club, promoting local amateur boxers and raising considerable funds for various local charities.

He was still Managing Director of the company when he had a stroke in 1989 at the age of 69, his wife cared for him at home thereafter.

Unfortunately the company had to close in 2006, cheap imports from Asia making it uneconomical.

Hithersay died on 20th July 1997.


Additional research and all images courtesy of Philip Hithersay (son).



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