Veteran Stories:
Henry Hill

Army

  • Henry Hill was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1935. Collection courtesy of Mr. Hill's son, Gerald Hill.

    Henry Hill was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1935. Collection courtesy of Mr. Hill's son, Gerald Hill.
  • Henry Hill's spurs the he wore while serving with the Royal Field Artillery during World War I.

    Henry Hill's spurs the he wore while serving with the Royal Field Artillery during World War I.
  • Knife and spoon made out of bullets as makeshift utensils.

    Knife and spoon made out of bullets as makeshift utensils.
  • Six-pounder anti-tank shell case that rings like a bell. Henry Hill's unit used it during the Battle of Ypres as an alarm to warn soldiers to wear gas masks. 1917.

    Six-pounder anti-tank shell case that rings like a bell. Henry Hill's unit used it during the Battle of Ypres as an alarm to warn soldiers to wear gas masks. 1917.
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Transcript

My name is Gerald Hill. I was born in Bristol, and my parents were Henry and Mabel Hill. My father and his three brothers were all born in the late 1890s, and they were all volunteers into the British Armed Forces in 1914.

My father went into the artillery, as well as his one other brother. His elder brother was in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and his younger brother was in the Grenadier Guards. Believe it or not, all four of them went from 1914 to 1918 without a scratch, which was quite remarkable for those days, when my mother used to say they dreaded to have the newspaper, where there were rows and rows of casualties.

My father, to his dying day in 1976, never stopped talking about the war. Another interesting point was that my father, with his battery of artillery, was sent to Italy after the Passchendaele front in Belgium. They went out to fight with the Italians against the Austrians, which, on the surface, they thought they were going for a picnic, but it didn't work out that way. It gave him a hell of a lot more to talk about than his days in the trenches.

Another very sad point was that he had two horses to look after as a driver of artillery, and the artillery used to have a (?) of ammunition and the gun attached to it, and it was pulled, in those days, by four horses. He went on leave from the Passchendaele front, and came back and his horses were dead.

In the 1940s – early '41, '42 – when the Blitzkrieg was so bad and the city was damaged so badly, my father was an air raid warden, and they used to stand outside during the Blitz, because they said, "Well, they can't hurt us. They didn't hurt us in the First World War, so they can't hurt us now." So he and his brother used to stand outside and help people when they had received damage from bombs. The city was surrounded by dozens and dozens of 'barrage balloons'. The idea was that these balloons – dozens of them – provided a fence for low-flying aircraft and their ability to aim their bombs. But one day my father was tilling in the garden or something, and he said, "Come see this!" And there was a Heinkel 111 coming down the street. We all dashed out, which we shouldn't have done, and walked back in again, but this plane flew not more than two hundred feet off the ground, with its nose gunner blasting at anyone he could find on the street below. The airplane miraculously never hit any of the wires from these barrage balloons, and I can never imagine to this day how he escaped. That was a little story that was quite exciting. It only lasted a couple of minutes and went by pretty fast.

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