Association member Clive Hilken, who died on June 30th 2005 aged 85, was shot down three times during the course of the war. He had joined 74 in August 1940 at Kirton in Lindsey when the squadron had been pulled back from the heat of the battle for some R&R. When they returned to Biggin Hill Clive was shot down during his first dogfight over Tonbridge in Kent. He crashed into an orchard where he was confronted by a farmer armed with a shotgun who thought he was a German. He returned to 74 in 1941 having spent time in hospital recovering from shrapnel wounds. He was again shot down over Maidstone by an Me 109 whilst on patrol but this time he was not seriously injured and was soon back flying. However, having then completed six sorties over mainland Europe, he was shot down for a third time (in Spitfire V W3254) whilst on a fighter sweep over St Omer, a sortie on which the Tigers also lost their CO John Mungo Park (see the article elsewhere in this Tiger News) and the New Zealander, Pl Off Sandeman. Clive was badly wounded again. He bailed out and came down in a field where imminent rescue by French villagers was thwarted by the sudden arrival of enemy soldiers. He and Sandeman spent the remainder of the war as a POWs. Mungo Park was killed.
Clive later described what happened.
Having twice survived being shot down….I swore that no enemy would get on my tail again without my knowledge. This resolution held good until June 27th 1941 when I flew to France as top cover, escorting a bombing sortie to the Lille district. The chap who should have been behind me had not taken off because of engine trouble, leaving me as the back man of my section. At 2,500 feet over France our squadron became separated on a weaving turn from the other squadrons of the Wing. Our CO applied full throttle in an attempt to regain his place in the formation but in the process the rest of us found ourselves spread over the sky up to two miles behind the main formation. Now, to weave and watch your tail meant losing the formation. The only way to catch up was to do what our CO had done – go full bore. We did this – then cannon shells whipped into my Spitfire. No warning. Nothing seen. Wireless dead, glycol streaming out behind. Elevator stuck and a piece of metal in my ankle which was bleeding at full speed.
I bailed out only to find my parachute pack waving about by my side. I pulled it in and undid the snap fasteners, letting the chute out a yard or two before the wind caught it and it opened to let me down, cursing my fate yet again, to France, hospital and a POW camp.
After the war Clive returned to teaching. He ultimately became head teacher of the school at RAF Geilenkirchen and then the junior school at Catterick Garrison.
Our thoughts and condolences go to Clive’s wife Nesta and daughters Vanessa and Deborah.
With thanks to Jim Twitty who forwarded an obituary printed in The Northern Echo on which this tribute is based.