Dambuster of the Day No. 34: Victor Hill

Hill CNV00001 lores

[Pic: Valerie Ashton]

Sgt V Hill
Front gunner

Lancaster serial number: ED906/G
Call sign: AJ-J
First wave. Fifth aircraft to attack Möhne Dam. Mine dropped accurately, causing large breach. Aircraft returned safely.

Early in May 1943, not much more than a week before the Dams Raid was due to take place, a decision was taken to replace David Maltby’s front gunner, probably for unknown disciplinary reasons. With the operation so close, an experienced gunner was needed to step into the breach, and Victor Hill was hurriedly summoned from 9 Squadron at RAF Bardney.
Unlike the rest of David Maltby’s crew, Victor Hill had plenty of operational experience. He had flown 22 operations on Lancasters between October 1942 and March 1943, and had taken part in some of the war’s most famous raids, including the daylight raid on the Schneider works at Le Creusot in France.
Victor Hill had been born in Gloucestershire in 1921. He was an only child, the son of Harry and Catherine Hill, who both worked at Berkeley Castle. He was brought up on the castle estate and went to the local school. After leaving school, he also worked at the castle, as a gardener.
Hill joined up as groundcrew, but volunteered for aircrew and trained as a gunner when the heavy bombers began to arrive and there were many more chances to fly. His first posting was to 9 Squadron in August 1942, round about the time it was posted to Waddington and converted to Lancasters from Wellingtons. He joined a crew piloted by Sgt Charles McDonald, a Canadian, and flew most of his operations with them.
In mid February 1943, most of this crew moved on to 83 Squadron, but Hill was left behind as a spare gunner and flew on his last operation in 9 Squadron on 8 March, with Sgt Doolan as the pilot.
On the Dams Raid, Hill flew in the front turret. Some sources say that as he had worked on a country estate round horses, he might have ben the one to suggest stirrups to keep the front gunner’s feet out of the way of the bomb aimer.  But as he wasn’t posted into 617 Squadron until May, that problem may have already been dealt with by then. Fellow front gunner Fred Sutherland is of the view that it was probably a bomb aimer who thought this up as they were the ones who were always complaining.
After the Dams Raid, Hill carried on flying with the rest of David Maltby’s crew until they all took off from RAF Coningsby on 617 Squadron’s first major operation since the Dams Raid. When their aircraft suffered its final crash it sank with the bodies of all the crew except the pilot, so he has no known grave.
In common with his pilot, he was also a young father, leaving a two year old daughter.
Victor Hill is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

More about Hill online:
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Breaking the Dams website

KIA 15 September 1943.

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources: Charles Foster, Breaking the Dams, Pen and Sword 2008
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002

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