Flt. Lt. William Devaux Woodruff Hilton (RCAF) – Berwickshire.

In the graveyard at Duns, in Berwickshire, not far from the village and former airfield RAF Charterhall (Trail 41), are two graves of nationals a long way from home.

Both airmen died in service whilst flying from RAF Charterhall, an Operational Training Unit airfield that prepared night fighter crews before posting to relevant night fighter squadrons.

The first grave is that of Flt. Lt. William Devaux Woodruff Hilton (RCAF)  who died on 23rd July 1942.

Flt. Lt. Hilton (Duns Cemetery)

Flt. Lt. William Devaux Woodruff Hilton

Flt. Lt. William Hilton (s/n: C/1626) was born on May 17th 1916, to D’Arcy Hilton (himself an ex pilot of the US Army Flying Corps in the First World War) and Gladys Woodruff, in Chicago, Illinois. He signed up for a flying career joining the RCAF as the United States were not at that time at war and therefore he was unable to train with the US forces.

Flt. Lt. Hilton reached the rank of Pilot Officer on 29th January 1940 after completing further training at RAF Twinwood Farm in Bedfordshire and RAF Acklington in Northumberland. On completion of this training, he was posted to RAF Charterhall and 54 Operational Training Unit (OTU), where he would fly Beaufighters.

The summer of 1942 suffered from poor weather, so poor in fact, that there were many restrictions on flying time, July only having 2,104 hours in total. This bad weather was to be responsible for many flying accidents and deaths that year, of which Flt. Lt. Hilton would be one.

On July 23rd 1942, he was tasked with flying a model new to him, the Bristol Beaufighter, and was taken by an instructor on several circuits to better acquaint himself with the various controls and idiosyncrasies of the aircraft. After several successful landings and take offs, the instructor passed Flt. Lt. Hilton to fly solo, and handed the controls of  Beaufighter #R2440 over to him. His instruction to Hilton was to stay within the circuit of the airfield, sound advice as one of Scotland’s summer storms was rapidly approaching.

Hilton duly carried out the order and took off to perform various solo flight tasks. An experienced pilot, Flt. Lt. Hilton found no problem landing or taking off himself and completed one full circuit before things went wrong.

On the second  circuit of the airfield, Flt. Lt. Hilton somehow got lost, whether through an aircraft malfunction or pilot error, it is not known, but after entering bad weather, the aircraft was instructed to climb to a safe height which it failed to do. Moments later, the Beaufighter was heard circling over the nearby town of Duns before ploughing into low-lying ground, one mile south-east of the town. At the time of the accident the aircraft’s undercarriage was in the down position. The crash killed Flt. Lt. Hilton instantly, the aircraft being torn apart by hedges and the subsequent slide along the ground. A board of enquiry was set up and investigations carried out, but no blame was apportioned to Hilton and the case was closed.

Flt. Lt. Hilton, an experienced pilot, somehow got into trouble, and that combined with the bad weather he was in, resulted in the loss of his life at the young age of just 26. To this day the cause of the crash is not known and Flt. Lt. Hilton remains buried in Scotland not far from the crash site, he is however, many thousand miles from home.

Flt. Lt. Hilton is buried in Duns graveyard in Sec. R. Grave 2.

The second airman’s grave in the graveyard at Duns, is that of Sgt. Thomas Alan Rutherford s/n 406626 (RAAF) who died on 14th August 1942, age just 20.

Sgt. Rutherford (Duns Cemetery)

Sgt. Thomas Rutherford

Sgt. Thomas Rutherford, born to Stamford Roy Rutherford and Laura May Rutherford, of Cottesloe, Western Australia, came from an aviation family, his father Stamford Rutherford RAAF (296635) and older brother Sgt Bernard Rinian Roy Rutherford RAAF (406540), were also serving Air Force members. As with many families who had siblings serving in the forces at this time, Sgt. Rutherford’s brother was also killed in an air accident, earlier that same year.

Sgt. Rutherford was born 3rd August 1922 at Brampton, England but enlisted in Perth Western Australia, on 3rd February 1941.

After completing his training, he also transferred to 54 OTU at RAF Charterhall in the Scottish borders.

August 1942 was, like July before it, a particularly bad month weather wise, which saw only 1,538 hours of flying carried out by 54 OTU. Only a small portion of these, just short of 400, were by night, the remainder being daylight flights. As a night fighter training station, this would be difficult for trainers and trainees alike, but undeterred they flew as many sorties as they could.

On August 14th, Sgt. Thomas Rutherford climbed aboard Blenheim Mk. V #BA192 along with is observer Sgt. James Clifford Kidd (s/n: 1417331). They dutifully carried out their pre-flight checks and lined the aircraft up ready for take off from one of Charterhall’s runways. After lifting off the Blenheim struck a tree causing it to crash. Both Sgt. Rutherford and Sgt. Kidd were killed instantly in the accident.

It is not known what caused the aircraft to strike the tree, whether it be pilot error or aircraft malfunction, but it was an accident that resulted in the loss of two young men far too early in their lives.

Sgt Rutherford is buried at Sec. R. Grave 3 next to Flt. Lt. Hilton.

Further reading.

McMaster University Alumni has further details of Flt/ Lt. Hilton’s life and career.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

National Archives of Australia website

Duns Cemetery – Berwickshire.

In the graveyard at Duns, in Berwickshire, not far from the village and former airfield RAF Charterhall (Trail 41), are two graves of nationals a long way from home.

Both airmen died in service whilst flying from RAF Charterhall, an Operational Training Unit airfield that prepared night fighter crews before posting to relevant night fighter squadrons.

The first grave is that of Flt. Lt. William Devaux Woodruff Hilton (RCAF)  who died on 23rd July 1942.

Flt. Lt. Hilton (Duns Cemetery)

Flt. Lt. William Devaux Woodruff Hilton

Flt. Lt. William Hilton (s/n: C/1626) was born on May 17th 1916, to D’Arcy Hilton (himself an ex pilot of the US Army Flying Corps in the First World War) and Gladys Woodruff, in Chicago, Illinois. He signed up for a flying career joining the RCAF as the United States were not at that time at war and therefore he was unable to train with the US forces.

Flt. Lt. Hilton reached the rank of Pilot Officer on 29th January 1940 after completing further training at RAF Twinwood Farm in Bedfordshire and RAF Acklington in Northumberland. On completion of this training, he was posted to RAF Charterhall and 54 Operational Training Unit (OTU), where he would fly Beaufighters.

The summer of 1942 suffered from poor weather, so poor in fact, that there were many restrictions on flying time, July only having 2,104 hours in total. This bad weather was to be responsible for many flying accidents and deaths that year, of which Flt. Lt. Hilton would be one.

On July 23rd 1942, he was tasked with flying a model new to him, the Bristol Beaufighter, and was taken by an instructor on several circuits to better acquaint himself with the various controls and idiosyncrasies of the aircraft. After several successful landings and take offs, the instructor passed Flt. Lt. Hilton to fly solo, and handed the controls of  Beaufighter #R2440 over to him. His instruction to Hilton was to stay within the circuit of the airfield, sound advice as one of Scotland’s summer storms was rapidly approaching.

Hilton duly carried out the order and took off to perform various solo flight tasks. An experienced pilot, Flt. Lt. Hilton found no problem landing or taking off himself and completed one full circuit before things went wrong.

On the second  circuit of the airfield, Flt. Lt. Hilton somehow got lost, whether through an aircraft malfunction or pilot error, it is not known, but after entering bad weather, the aircraft was instructed to climb to a safe height which it failed to do. Moments later, the Beaufighter was heard circling over the nearby town of Duns before ploughing into low-lying ground, one mile south-east of the town. At the time of the accident the aircraft’s undercarriage was in the down position. The crash killed Flt. Lt. Hilton instantly, the aircraft being torn apart by hedges and the subsequent slide along the ground. A board of enquiry was set up and investigations carried out, but no blame was apportioned to Hilton and the case was closed.

Flt. Lt. Hilton, an experienced pilot, somehow got into trouble, and that combined with the bad weather he was in, resulted in the loss of his life at the young age of just 26. To this day the cause of the crash is not known and Flt. Lt. Hilton remains buried in Scotland not far from the crash site, he is however, many thousand miles from home.

Flt. Lt. Hilton is buried in Duns graveyard in Sec. R. Grave 2.

The second airman’s grave in the graveyard at Duns, is that of Sgt. Thomas Alan Rutherford s/n 406626 (RAAF) who died on 14th August 1942, age just 20.

Sgt. Rutherford (Duns Cemetery)

Sgt. Thomas Rutherford

Sgt. Thomas Rutherford, born to Stamford Roy Rutherford and Laura May Rutherford, of Cottesloe, Western Australia, came from an aviation family, his father Stamford Rutherford RAAF (296635) and older brother Sgt Bernard Rinian Roy Rutherford RAAF (406540), were also serving Air Force members. As with many families who had siblings serving in the forces at this time, Sgt. Rutherford’s brother was also killed in an air accident, earlier that same year.

Sgt. Rutherford was born 3rd August 1922 at Brampton, England but enlisted in Perth Western Australia, on 3rd February 1941.

After completing his training, he also transferred to 54 OTU at RAF Charterhall in the Scottish borders.

August 1942 was, like July before it, a particularly bad month weather wise, which saw only 1,538 hours of flying carried out by 54 OTU. Only a small portion of these, just short of 400, were by night, the remainder being daylight flights. As a night fighter training station, this would be difficult for trainers and trainees alike, but undeterred they flew as many sorties as they could.

On August 14th, Sgt. Thomas Rutherford climbed aboard Blenheim Mk. V #BA192 along with is observer Sgt. James Clifford Kidd (s/n: 1417331). They dutifully carried out their pre-flight checks and lined the aircraft up ready for take off from one of Charterhall’s runways. After lifting off the Blenheim struck a tree causing it to crash. Both Sgt. Rutherford and Sgt. Kidd were killed instantly in the accident.

It is not known what caused the aircraft to strike the tree, whether it be pilot error or aircraft malfunction, but it was an accident that resulted in the loss of two young men far too early in their lives.

Sgt Rutherford is buried at Sec. R. Grave 3 next to Flt. Lt. Hilton.

Further reading.

McMaster University Alumni has further details of Flt/ Lt. Hilton’s life and career.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission website (accessed 9.5.18)

National Archives of Australia website (accessed 9.5.18)

5,127 Missing Americans are Honoured Here

There are many excellent and fitting memorials around the country dedicated to the RAF and USAAF personnel. Many of these are relatively new and make for terrific places to sit, remember and give thanks to the young men and women who gave so much.

I have visited a few myself and will feature them here as I get round them. If you have been to one and would like to write a piece for us, please feel free to contact us, and we can make the necessary arrangements to post it here. We would love your contribution.

My first is the American Cemetery at Madingley.

Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial – Madingley

Not far from Cambridge, to the west of the M11, is the American Cemetery and Memorial at Madingley.

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A Panoramic View Across Madingley Cemetery

Madingley is the only American Military Cemetery in the United Kingdom, dedicated solely to the Second World War. It covers an area of some 30 acres and the land it uses was donated by Cambridge University. The site was dedicated on July 16th 1956. It is operated and maintained solely by the American Battle Monuments Commission, who oversee 24 cemeteries and 25 memorials across 15 different countries.

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One of the 3,812 Headstones

The cemetery has become a symbol of not only the  sacrifice of those held within its walls but the 3 million Americans who were stationed here during Word War II and the continuing alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States in times of conflict.

Within the cemetery stand 3,812 headstones, 3,732 Latin crosses, and 80 Stars of David. The stones are laid out in a fan, each row like a ripple in a pool, with the origin at a flagpole, from which the entire site and surrounding countryside can be seen. Around the base of the flag pole are the words from  “In Flanders Fields“, a World War I poem written by John McCrae, which reads: “To you from failing hands, we throw the torch – be yours to hold it high“. Every night, as the flag is lowered, ‘Taps’ is played on a bugle to signify the end of the military day and lights out – the time to sleep.

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The Plaque Dedicated to the Crew of the 577th BS

Next to this are two buildings. Firstly, the visitors’ centre, where there is a place to sit and staff who will willingly search the Commission’s online database for you. On the wall outside the centre is a plaque dedicated to the crew of a B-24 of the 577th BS, 392nd BG, that flew from RAF Wendling; who through their actions avoided crashing into civilian homes in Hertfordshire.  Next to this, is an exhibition hall, detailed through stories and pictures, the American involvement in the Second World War; with specific examples of some of those souls laid to rest at Madingley.

Along the southern side of the cemetery, is the wall holding the “Tablets of the Missing”. Here, the names, rank and service branch of 5,127 personnel, whose bodies were never found are located. Among them are those of Major Alton Glenn Miller and Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. (Older brother of John F. Kennedy), to name but a few.

Along the top of the wall is the inscription:

The Americans, whose names here appear, were part of the price that free men for the second time in this century, have been forced to pay to defend human liberty and rights. All who shall hereafter live in freedom
will be here reminded that to these men, and their comrades,
we owe a debt to be paid with grateful remembrance of their sacrifice,
and the high resolve that the cause for which they died
shall live eternally.”

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The Wall With the Names of the Missing

The 427 foot long wall, has 4 statues representing: a soldier, an airman, sailor and coast guardsman, who stand guard over the inscriptions; the four statues were designed and created by the American sculptor, Wheeler Williams (November 30th, 1897 – August 12th, 1972). Wreaths are placed at the foot of the wall by American associations and serving units and makes for a moving experience.

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One of the Four Sculptures Depicting an Airman

At the other end of the wall is the memorial and chapel. The inscription on the memorial says “Grant Unto Them O Lord Eternal Rest” and 5 pillars each inscribed with one year of the war 1941 – 1945, that the Americans were involved. A brass inscription over the entrance reads “Into Thy Hands O Lord” and opens up to a detailed and incredible room. The roof depicts a formation of bombers and their escorts typical of those that flew from airfields in England, on their way to occupied Europe. On the wall a large map illustrates “The Mastery of the Atlantic – The Great Air Assault”,  in superb detail.  Designed by Herbert Gate, the American Artist, it is thirty feet long and eighteen feet high and shows the routes used to transport men and machinery from the United States. It also shows Naval operations and the bombing routes used during the great battles over Europe.

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The Memorial Building and Chapel

Outside the chapel, along the length of the ‘Tablets of the Missing’, are rectangular pools and rose beds, neatly laid out as they should be. Lined by trees, it makes a serene place to walk.

Madingley Cemetery is a moving yet peaceful place to sit and remember, to pay homage and to give thanks to the many young men and women who came from another country, to give up their lives in the name of freedom and democracy.

In the words of the original Chairman, General John J. Pershing, Commander of the American Expeditionary Force of the First World War:

“Time will not dim the Glory of Their Deeds”.

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The Atlantic Display Inside the Chapel

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The Rectangular Ponds in Front of ‘The Tablets of the Missing’

Madingley Cemetery can be visited freely, opening times and other details are available on their website here, from which many of the facts of this record have come.

The American Battles Monuments Commission also manages the Brookwood Cemetery in Woking, Surrey and their details can be found here.

The American Role of Honour can be seen here at St Pauls Cathedral, my thanks goes to wynnebook.wordpress.com for the valuable link.