Interview with Roy Hill


Interview with Roy Hill


Roy Hill joined the RAF wanting to be a pilot but became a wireless operator air gunner. On his eighteenth operation in a Lancaster flying over the Ruhr he was shot down by a German night fighter. He was captured and incarcerated in Stalag Luft 1 for about six months. He wrote poetry whilst he was a prisoner of war. He was repatriated by Americans and flown home in a Flying Fortress. At the end of the war he served as a photographic officer and was in charge of NCOs waiting to be demobbed.




Temporal Coverage




00:19:28 audio recording


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RH: My name is Roy Hill and I was, erm, I’m aged 92, rather ancient for air crew [laughs] but, oh dear, I’ve lost it.
Other: In 1941, when was it?
RH: 1941 I joined up yeah [laughs] and, er, and oh crikey [pause] I was a wireless operator, air gunner on Lancasters and we were shot down over the Ruhr by a German night fighter. It’s rather unusual in as much as I know the name of the chap who shot us down. It was Karl Friedrich Mueller, that was the name of the chap who shot us down flying an ME 109 G, that was the type of aircraft he flew in and but unfortunately I never had the pleasure of meeting him because he died in in 1989 I think, yeah [pause].
MJ: Roy can you tell us who you are.
RH: My name is Roy Hill.
MJ: Yeah.
RH: And, er, I was in the RAF throughout the war.
MJ: Right.
RH: And er, I, I joined up when I was eighteen years old and I was in the RAF right through the war and, er, when we were shot down by Germans and incarcerated in Stalag Luft 1 in Germany. But at the end of the war I was very, very lucky in that so much as I was repatriated to England.
MJ: So Roy you got caught up in a prisoner of war camp, what was that like?
RH: [pause] [laughs] well it’s not a very good subject for conversation is it, because it was, I mean your, your freedom is taken from you and, er, you have to make the best of things while you’re there, but I was lucky because I was only there about six months and then we were, actually we were flown home by the Americans in their Flying Fortresses that’s what the chaps who flew us back and, er, that was of course the beginnings of a new life for me after the war.
MJ: Roy, you were, which squadron were you put into and how did it work through to when you got shot down, did you do long sorties, short ones or
RH: Mostly long.
MJ: And er, did you get to fly with the same crew or?
RJ: Always, yeah.
MJ: So, erm, how did that work, I mean I don’t know anything about this?
RH: No.
MJ: So if you could explain how.
RH: Well we were so very, very fortunate, we had, we got on very well as a crew. I’ll show you pictures. We were a band of brothers really, we er, some of us very young, two, two of the crew were only aged eighteen and I was only nineteen and at the time, of course and we had three of the chaps were in their thirties so we had a quite a wide [pause]
Other: Age range.
RH: age range [laughs].
Other: Then you’ve got Australians as part of the crew?
RH: Yeah we had three Australians in the crew and er I took them all home to see my folks and it was a great, a great occasion.
MJ: So you did everything, dancing, fire-fighting?
RH: Yeah, yeah we did yeah, we lived together, we were
Other: A crew.
RH: A crew, yeah [long pause]
MJ: Roy could you tell me who you are please.
RH: My name is Roy Hill [laughs]
MJ: Yeah
RH: I’m 86 [laughs] get it right. I was a flight lieutenant in the RAF during the war where I was a wireless operator air gunner and we flew in Lancaster’s and we were shot down on our eighteenth mission.
MJ: So how did you get into the RAF in the first place, did you -
RH: Volunteered, yes. When war, when war came I had the option of going flying in the air force so I applied to go in the air force and I was one of a group of four we all tried together to get into the air force and I’m the only survivor of those four. The other three were all killed subsequently.
MJ: Right, erm, did you plan to be a wireless operator or did you want -
RH: No, I, you see this was, this was all in 1941, the year after the Battle of Britain. Of course I wanted to be a pilot, everyone did, but in my case when I volunteered for air crew the only thing I was, I could qualify for was wireless operator air gunner and er that’s what I eventually became.
MJ: Did you erm meet your crew at the squadron or did you….
RH: No, no we got together at a place called Silverstone, that’s where they have the car racing now. It was when we all got together as a crew. It was wonderful really because the RAF they used to put you in an enormous hangar, hundreds of you, hundreds of you, all mixed up and they used they said ‘here we are form yourselves into crews of seven’ and er it’s amazing really it worked, it really worked, we were volunteers all of us and we got together as a team and it was one of those magic moments really.
MJ: So, erm, how many missions did you say you flew together?
RH: Oh well [unclear] we were shot down on our eighteenth mission, yeah.
MJ: So can you remember your first one?
RH: Very well, yeah.
MJ: Could you tell me a little bit about it?
RH: [laughs]
MJ: Because this was your first flight with your own crew I just wondered if you could sort of tell us what it was like please.
RH: It was a very hair-raising, hair-raising experience to be flying towards Germany with a full load of bombs for the first time and er, it was quite something, [laughs] but er, we were. We flew to, the target was Brest in France for that particular mission, and were bombing two battle ships which were there at the time in dock and I mean we obviously we survived much to our own relief [laughs] and er we took it from there. That was our first trip, mmm [pause]. At the end of the war I was a photographer and I was stationed at Farnborough where they have a school of photography. While I was there I had the job of giving orders to no less than a hundred and fifty chaps who were all NCO crew members, who’d, who’d, they’d all ended the war in on the squadrons and they were, all they wanted to do was go home, I’m talking about a hundred and fifty NCO’s and I was the chap in charge of them.
MJ: Yeah.
RH: And er all they wanted to do was, it was demob, they wanted to go home and I had to make it easy for them, which was a heck of a job [laughs]
MJ: So how did you do that?
RH: [laughs] Well, I had to organise games and things, anything that would, to keep them occupied and er it’s not a, it sounds easy but it wasn’t [laughs] when you’ve got a hundred and fifty blokes to please and all they had on their minds was they wanted to go home because their war was all finished and they were ready to, they had been repatriated.
MJ: Why did you have to send them back in sections?
RH: No I had to send them home to their various homes [sighs] not a nice job [laughs] [pause] Home! They wanted to go home, they were, the war was finished and all they wanted to do was go home and that applied to all a hundred and fifty blokes, they were all NCO’s, they had all completed a tour of operations and all wanted, for them the war was over.
MJ: So what did you have to sort out for them so they could go home?
RH: That’s right.
MJ: So what, what sort of things did you have to sort out apart from keeping them happy?
RH: No that was it.
MJ: That was your job, to make sure they -
RH: To keep them occupied until they could go home virtually, yeah, so I did that for some time and er course eventually I finished up at the school of geography and er that was it. My home was Leat [?] so I was able to live at home and er go to work at Farnborough, it was wonderful [laughs] There you go. [pause]
MJ: So you’ve been a prisoner of war?
RH: Yeah, in Germany, Stalag Luft 1, mmm.
MJ: Did you get caught straight away or did you have a bit of a run around first?
RH: No I was, I was free for a couple of days that’s all, then they caught up with me [pause]
MJ: How did they catch up with you, just in the wrong place at the right time or
RH: Me I was sitting in the forest going along and then all of a sudden a chap said halt, halt as the Germans do [laughs] and that was when my war ended virtually. [pause] mmm.
MJ: Were any of your other crew caught with you or?
RH: Yeah they were, no they were, we were all separated, we all went out various ways, I did, I did meet the pilot and the bomb aimer and the navigator in the Stalag, they finished up there in, in in the Stalag and others who were killed.
MJ: Oh.
RH: Mmm.
MJ: When you were incarcerated how did you keep yourself busy, like you said when the crews were demobbed you had to keep them busy, how did you keep yourself busy while you were incarcerated?
Other: Writing poetry.
RH: Ah, you see in those days I could write, I used to love to write, wrote all sorts of stuff but it’s all gone I can no longer write.
Other: It’s only because of his hand, I’ve just thought, in the book isn’t there some of your poems in it?
RH: No, that’s
Other: Towards the end [pause] everything’s in here really what you want to know about Roy, there he is prisoner of war with his number on him and everything. Would you like your cup of tea now? [pause]
RH: Hello my name is Roy Hill, I was a flight lieutenant in the RAF during the war and er I joined up in 1941. I had hoped to fly in the Battle of Britain but that was all over then. It, the Battle of Britain was fought in 1940 and I was, I just missed out on that one, and I joined up in 1941 the year after and er, of course I had subsequently had quite a long time in the Air Force right through the war until the end of the war when I was a photographic officer in the at the school of photography in Farnborough in Hampshire and it was, there, it was, sorry.
Other: That’s alright.
MJ: On behalf of International Bomber Command Digital Archive Unit, I would like to thank Roy Hill at his home at Woodpecker Cottage, for his recording on the 7th July 2015. Many thanks.



Mick Jeffery, “Interview with Roy Hill,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 27, 2024,

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