Flight Lt Richard Hope Hillary (20 April 1919 – 8 January 1943)
Hillary was called up to the Royal Air Force in October 1939 and in July 1940, having completed his training, he was posted to B Flight No 603 Squadron flying Spitfires. The Squadron moved south to RAF Hornchurch on 27 August 1940 and immediately saw combat. In one week of combat Hillary personally claimed five Bf 109s shot down, claimed two more probably destroyed and one damaged.
On the 3rd of September and just after his 5th kill he was hit and his Spitfire set on fire. Unable to bail out of the flaming aircraft immediately, Hillary sustained extensive burns to his face and hands. Just before impact crashed Hillary fell from the stricken Spitfire, unconscious but coming to his senses he deployed his chute and landed in the North sea. Rescued by the Margate lifeboat his injuries were such that he became one of the ‘guinea pigs’ under the surgeon Archibald McIndoe.
Enduring months of repeated surgery in an attempt to repair the damage to his hands and face and he wrote an account of his experiences, published in 1942 under the title The Last Enemy.
Although colleagues said he could barely hold a knife and fork Hillary talked authorities into letting him fly again. Joining No 54 Operational Training Unit he was killed in a Blenheim on the 25th January 1943 in a night training flight.
In the picture Hillary – 3rd from the right – is seen with such notables as Sailor Malan, Brian Kingcome, Alan Deere and Johnny Kent.
We at the Spitfire Manor Experience would like to invite all those like-minded Spitfire lovers to enjoy our hospitality and see Normandy from our Spitfire, flights with us can be arranged by clicking on the ‘Booking’ button – and we believe will lead you to the experience of a lifetime.