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WWII RCAF Typhoon Pilot Passes

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Jack Hilton, WWII fighter pilot, dies at 99

Jack Hilton, a Typhoon fighter pilot in the Second World War, has died age 99.

Airdrie, Alta., resident was just 19 when he enlisted in the RCAF

Sarah Rieger · CBC News · Posted: Mar 09, 2019 4:39 PM MT | Last Updated: 11 hours ago
 
jack-henry-hilton.jpg
Jack Henry Hilton, pictured in 2016 with the book he wrote about his wartime experiences, has died. (Paul Karchut/CBC)

Jack Hilton, a Typhoon fighter pilot in the Second World War, has died at the age of 99. 

The Airdrie, Alta., resident died on March 7, according to the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Hilton was just 19 when he enlisted in the RCAF, first serving as a flight instructor in Canada and the U.S. before joining the front in Europe in 1943 to serve with the 438 Squadron.. 

Hilton wrote a book detailing his experiences: The Saga of a Canadian Typhoon Fighter Pilot. 

"It was a culture shock," Hilton told CBC in 2016 of his wartime experience. "I was a qualified pilot at 50 hours, if you can imagine."

He said he definitely wasn't prepared for the realities of war.

"You were just learning," he said.

His plane, the Hawker Typhoon, was a ground support aircraft that was plagued by design problems — but Typhoon pilots proved instrumental in turning the tide at several major battles in favour of the Allied forces.

"You were flying 100 feet, 200 feet, sometimes as low as 50 feet off the ground," he said. "We had to land the damn thing over 120 miles an hour at times. The Typhoon was a mean, vicious machine.

"We lost pilot after pilot … you'd look over and your wingman was on fire, and all you could say was 'Jump Charlie, jump.' You got to the point where you didn't make friends, you made acquaintances."

He flew in more than 100 missions, but the most memorable might have been D-Day, the Allied invasion of France's Normandy region that saw 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces land on heavily-fortified beaches.

Hilton described the day as an "organized confusion," but said there was no time in that — or any — mission to be afraid.

Once you're involved in combat, you don't worry about fear, because what good would it do you?- Jack Hilton, WWII pilot

"Once you're involved in combat, you don't worry about fear, because what good would it do you?"

Hilton described being shot down over Dunkirk in an interview with Historica Canada's Memory Project

"We got over Dunkirk too low and the anti-aircraft shot out one of our twin engine airplanes … so we crash landed and we went to work the next day, flying airplanes," Hilton said. "Get shot down one day and you go fly the next."

Hilton's son, Rick, said his dad was shot down four times. 

"When I was a little kid I asked him about being a hero, I was about 10 or so, and he said, 'don't call me a hero, they're all buried in France," Rick said. "And I said, how does a man know he's brave or courageous? And he said 'it's simple. You do the right thing.'"

28 men deployed, 8 came home

The frightening part for Hilton was returning back home after the war.

"I come back after fighting the war, doing my share, and the government gave me a pin and $100 … I came back to nothing."

Of the 28 men he was deployed with, just eight survived.

Hilton stayed in the military, and went on to become an early monitoring expert, monitoring Russian nuclear bombers, his son said.

In 2015, he spoke to a squadron in Cold Lake about his experiences.

Lt. Col. John Alexander was one of those in the mess hall for that address, and said there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

"It's pretty rowdy, even when the guest of honour is speaking, and listen the only time I've ever seen that where you could hear a pin drop. Everyone was glued on what this guy was saying … when he was finished it was a standing ovation and people were lining up to shake his hand," Alexander said.

Alexander said the loss of another veteran is a sad reminder of how important it is to pass on their stories year-round, not just at Remembrance Day.

Hilton was predeceased by his wife, Ethel. The couple was married for more than 70 years.

 

We meet 97-year-old Jack Hilton of Airdrie. He just finished a book about his experiences flying over Europe as a wartime pilot.

The Saga of A Canadian Typhoon Fighter Pilot

Book - 2015
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The Hawker Typhoon despite numerous technical flaws, was the finest ground support aircraft in Europe during World War II. At the same time the stories of the brave men who flew this difficult aircraft remain untold and unacknowledged. From his enlistment in Toronto through the final flights over Germany, this is the memoir of Jack Hilton, an RCAF fighter pilot, who successfully flew this challenging aircraft.

Link to story including a video:  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/jack-hilton-wwii-pilot-dies-1.5050293?cmp=rss

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I’ll have to find his book.  Looks like quite a story.  Our generation knows peace and security because of what Jack Hilton and all veterans were tasked to do.

RIP Jack.  Thank you.

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9 minutes ago, vanishing point said:

I’ll have to find his book.  Looks like quite a story.  Our generation knows peace and security because of what Jack Hilton and all veterans were tasked to do.

RIP Jack.  Thank you.

You are welcome, it is available in Alberta from local libraries and perhaps where you hang your hat also.

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For those not familiar with the aircraft, check it out...... a beast 

From the same designer that produced the Hurricane, this machine was ideal for ground attack....with cannon, bombs and rockets. The engine was a cantankerous 24 cylinder H pattern developing about 2400 hp. (There used to cutaway model of the Napier Sabre engine on display at the Ottawa airport a few years ago).

“It was during the Falaise action that Sir Sydney Camm’s Typhoon performed spectacularly as a close-support fighter-bomber second to none. The plane that had such a troubled development and almost never become operational proved itself as perhaps the deadliest fighter in the Allied arsenal. Typhoons were in action for the rest of the European war as the Allied armies crossed the River Rhine and pushed into Germany.  Soon, however, their season was over. Production was ended in 1944, with 3,205 Typhoons having been built. All but about 20 were produced by Gloster Aircraft Company.”

 

A great airplane that had an understated but critical role in the invasion of Europe.

https://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/scourge-of-falaise-the-hawker-typhoon/

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On ‎3‎/‎10‎/‎2019 at 3:58 PM, vanishing point said:

Thanks Malcolm.  I now have a quest.....👍

Just finished reading the book, words fail other than how lucky we are / were

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I believe that Jack Hilton was the Guest of Honour at last Novembers Remembrance Day ceremony at the Museum of Flight here in Calgary that my wife and I attended.

He gave a very moving address and braved the elements even though it was a snowy and blustery -10 that day.

Thank you, Sir, blue skies and tailwinds forever. 

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