Pilot Officer Howard Perry Hill recovery.

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On the 20th September 1940 P/O Howard Hill of 92 Squadron was shot down and killed in Spitfire X4417 by Werner Molders and his Spitfire made a controlled forced landing in high tree tops at West Hougham in Kent where it stayed undiscovered for a month. This has always intrigued me and i wonder if any members on here have any other examples of missing pilots from the Battle being discovered in similar circumstances?.

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Profile picture for user Moggy C

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If there are any such cases it would be interesting, but Howard Hill certainly isn't one of them.

He was shot down in Spitfire X4417 and crashed into a field behind the 'Black Swan' pub at West Hougham on 20 September from where his body recovered by the local Observer Corps. There is no truth in the story of his body not being found for over a month in his Spitfire, stuck in some tree tops.

This account was originally found in Wallace's book on Biggin Hill but is pure fantasy.

Moggy

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Something similar was mentioned in a book; I cannot remember if it was 'Fly for Your Life' or The Big Show', I think the latter;the Spitfire was said to have been hit over France, but made it back to the UK before crashing in treetops. That said, both books seem to be regarded as akin to works of fiction these days.

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That incident immediately sprang to my mind. Even with an aircraft as light as a Cub the wreckage fell to the ground, that is why it was not spotted by air searches. I find it difficult to visualise a Spitfire, with a Merlin engine weighing the best part of a tonne, resting in the treetops. I would say, not completely impossible but very unlikely.......

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The Howard Hill incident is also described in Tony Bartley's book "Smoke Trails in the Sky" on page 39. Bartley flew with 92 Sqn during the battle. He tells the same story about him being found "lodged in the top of a tall tree" 3 weeks later.

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That is where i had read about the incident, in both Tucks and Tony Bartleys books, and as they both flew with 92 in 1940 i would assume that their information would be correct, especially as they both insist that the Spitfire became lodged in tree tops. Moggy where does your conflicting account of his recovery come from as that is the first time i have heard it. A Spitfire could quite easily get lodged in the tops of some very sturdy trees in my opinion, especially if it came in at a flat/shallow angle and got stuck in between thick branches and trunks.

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The conflicting account was passed to me by well known BoB aviation historian, A Saunders.

Can I also suggest that the fact that on the 29 September 1940 P/O Hill's funeral was held at Hawkinge might lead one to suspect he wasn't hanging around in the tree tops two or three weeks later?

For reference*: http://www.doverwarmemorialproject.org.uk/Information/Jottings/Miscellany/Dovers%20Few.htm

The full (official) story will be available in the next month or so from TNA, Kew, when his casualty file will be in the next batch released

Moggy

* If you follow the link from that Dover Memorial Project you'll find the 'tree-tops' account retold again. So on balance we'd best wait for Kew.

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Not wartime - but the aircraft carrying the son of ex-Goon Michael Bentine ended up in a tree, back in 1971

Piper L-18 (G-AYPN) crash, Petersfield, August 1971

G-AYPN, listed as a Piper L-18, took off with two occupants on board from Lasham Airfield on 28th August 1971, and then vanished without a trace. Two months later, on Sunday 31st October, a walker discovered the wreckage by chance in Queen Elizabeth and Ditcham Wood, around 4 miles from Petersfield. The aircraft had crashed in an almost vertical attitude in a dense beech wood on a sloping hillside and had remained substantially intact from the back of the cabin to the tail. There had been no fire, and the badly decomposed bodies of the occupants were still strapped in to their seats.

See http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?action=printpage;topic=5533.0 - just one of many links that you can find about the incident.

Allan

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It may be of interest, but In David J Smiths High Gorund wrecks it states that Spitfire X4913 was the longest missing aircraft on uk soil ( On the hils anyway ) Crashed 3/11/41 found by a sheppard 10/07/42. Just an interesting fact.

Profile picture for user One of the Few

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The conflicting account was passed to me by well known BoB aviation historian, A Saunders.

Can I also suggest that the fact that on the 29 September 1940 P/O Hill's funeral was held at Hawkinge might lead one to suspect he wasn't hanging around in the tree tops two or three weeks later?

For reference*: http://www.doverwarmemorialproject.org.uk/Information/Jottings/Miscellany/Dovers%20Few.htm

The full (official) story will be available in the next month or so from TNA, Kew, when his casualty file will be in the next batch released

Moggy

* If you follow the link from that Dover Memorial Project you'll find the 'tree-tops' account retold again. So on balance we'd best wait for Kew.


If his funeral was held on that date then it would appear that another myth about the Battle has been perpetuated for many years Moggy. It beggars belief to me how people can just make these kind of stories up, and just goes to show that if you say something often enough it soon becomes "Fact" and taken for granted as happening!.