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Sgt Peter Hillwood - swam for 2 miles after being shot down over Sheerness and baling out

Peter Hillwood was born on 7th January 1920 in London. He was awarded Aero Certificate 15853 at Cambridge Aero Club on 6th May 1938 and then joined the RAFVR about July 1938 as as Airman u/t Pilot.

Called up on 1st September 1939, he arrived at 11 Group Pool on the 2nd and after converting to Hurricanes he joined 56 Squadron.

On 16th May 1940 he went with 'B' Flight to France to support the hard-pressed squadrons there. The flight was withdrawn after four days of hard fighting. Hillwood claimed a Ju87 destroyed on 13th July and was himself shot down on 13th August in a head-on attack by a Me109 off Sheerness. He baled out, unhurt, swam two miles towards Sheppey and was near collapse when he was spotted by two anti-aircraft gunners, who waded out and helped him in.

Above: Hillwood, F/Lt. EJ Gracie and P/O FW Higginson of 56 Squadron

Commissioned in January 1942, Hillwood was awarded the DFC (gazetted 24th November 1944) as a Flight Commander with 127 Squadron. At some time he was attached to Vickers Supermarine for special test duties. He was released from the RAF in 1946 as a Flight Lieutenant.

Photos and text courtesy of Battle of Britain Monument website

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