With the 75th anniversary of the “Battle of Britain” at hand I would like to pay tribute to our Dad, Anthony E. Hilditch who, at the age of 22, served in the RAF defending England at that time. He was awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) from King George VI assessed as a pilot with “exceptional” skills.
Dad was a Squadron Leader in the 53rd Squadron based in south-east England tasked with strategic reconnaissance, anti-submarine, and anti-shipping patrols off the Atlantic coast of occupied France. He participated in night bombing raids on Saint Nazaire at the estuary of the Loire River. This port was crucial to the German U-boat operations in the Atlantic and the only port with a dry dock capable of handling the largest German warships Bismarck and the Tirpitz. The port was heavily fortified with anti-aircraft guns and he returned from these raids with flak damage to his aircraft on at least three occasions.
In 1942 his Squadron became one of the few British units to operate directly from the United States. They flew anti-submarine patrols off the Eastern seaboard to counter the heavy threat to shipping from U-Boats. The Squadron patrol extended as far south as Trinidad protecting bauxite shipments, crucial to the war production of aluminum.
In 1943 Dad was attached to the Royal Canadian Air Force as Chief Flying Instructor in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan showing pilots to fly the de Havilland Mosquito. In 1945 he was returned to the RAF as Squadron Leader in the 280 Squadron with air-sea rescue duties in the North Atlantic and English Channel.