Brigadier James Hill DSO MC

Stanley James Ledger Hill was born in Bath on 14th Mar 1911 and educated at Marlborough College and Sandhurst. He entered the Royal Fusiliers in 1931 which was commanded at that time by his father Walter Hill. He organised the athletics and boxing associations in the regiment. In 1936 he became a reservist so that he could marry Denys Gunter-Jones and work in the family ferry business. As soon as war was declared he was called back into service, and in September 1939 was put in charge of the advance party of the 2nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers to go to France. He found himself on the Maginot Line over the freezing Christmas of 1939-40.

He was promoted to Captain in 1940, and went to General HQ to work on the staff of Lord Gort, whom James Hill remembers as a great man. The blitzkrieg started on 10 May and he was soon ordered to help organise the refugee route out of Brussels. The refugees were slowly organised into overnight camps, but the Germans bombed many of these, causing such carnage that James Hill remembers this as the most horrifying memory, for him, of the whole war, despite his experience at Dunkirk. He was told to get a French petrol convoy there. This, after many trials and tribulations, he succeeded in doing. Once on La Panne beach, he was left to organise soldiers onto the boats and to keep order as the evacuation proceeded, before making his own way back to England, being one of those on the last destroyer to leave.

When the 1st Parachute Regiment was raised on 15th Aug 1941 he was their 2nd in command and went with them to North Africa to be dropped in Tunisia. In an attack on Italian tanks he was severely wounded in the chest and won the DSO. He also commanded the 3rd Parachute Brigade in Operation Tonga in Normandy where he was nearly killed on 6th June 1944. He was nearly killed again by a British glider near the Rhine in Operation Varsity.

After the war he was briefly military governor of Copenhagen and he also commanded the 4th Parachute Brigade (TA) before retiring in 1949. In civilian life he was on the board of several companies and indulged his serious hobby of bird-watching. He married his second wife, Joan Haywood, in 1986. A statue of him was unveiled by Prince Charles at the Le Mesnil crossroads in 2004 when he attended the 60th anniversary of the Normandy Landings. He died on16th mar 2006.

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by Stephen Luscombe