Richard Oswald HILDER

Service Number: NZ426689
RNZAF Trade: Driver (Petrol), then Driver (P) Mechanic
Date of Enlistment:1942
Rank Achieved: Leading Aircraftman
Flying Hours: Nil known
Operational Sorties: Nil known

Date of Birth: Richard was born on the 25th of June 1912 at Wellington
Personal Details: Richard was the son of Martin Joseph and Hilda Hilder, of Otorohanga. He was married to Eileen Hilder (nee Joyce). Richard was born in Wellington and he then moved with his family to Otorohanga in 1928. He was undoubtedly educated in Wellington and possibly finished his schooling in Otorohanga, but it is known he sat and passed his Proficiency Examination and Post Office Entrance Examination. He also served in the School Cadets for two years.

On leaving school Richard worked for four years with the Post Office, and then joined his father and brother in the family business, Messrs Hilder and Sons, who were transport operators. Richard was an active partner in the business, as a cartage contractor, until he joined the RNZAF in 1942.

Service Details: Richard joined the RNZAF at Rongotai on the 10th of July 1942, in the trade of Driver Petrol. he was later remustered to be reclassified a Driver (P) Mechanic. No doubt he required little training with his experience, and near the end of July he was posted to RNZAF Station Ohakea where he successfully passed his Trade Test on the 28th of September 1942.

On the 23rd of November 1942 Richard embarked for Tonga as a member of No. 15 Squadron, who were the first RNZAF Fighter Squadron to operate in the Pacific, with Curtiss P40 Kittyhawks they had taken over from an American unit in Tonga.

On the 1st of February 1943 Richard was reclassified with the rank of Leading Aircraftman.

Richard was invalided home to Whenuapai on the 10th of July 1943, and a month later he was transferred to Sick and Wounded, No. 1 Port Depot. This was purely an administrative unit title, and he was not actually at the port depot in downtown Auckland. He was actually gravely ill and was sent to the Military Annex of Auckland Public Hospital. A news report stated he "had been operated on a number of times for trouble which he had contracted whilst in the tropics." He did not recover.

Details of Death: Richard Hilder died on Christmas Day, the 25th of December 1943, from illness, aged 31. At the time he was attached to the unit known as Sick and Wounded, 1 Port Depot, RNZAF Mangere, having been brought home from Guadalcanal

Buried at: He is buried at Otorohanga Public Cemetery, plot 133.3

Connection with Cambridge: This is one of the few people on this website who may not have actually lived in Cambridge at any time. However I have added him because whilst he was overseas with the RNZAF, and later in hospital, his wife Eileen had lived in Cambridge, at 66 Queen Street. Research continues to see if he had also lived here himself before joining up, or called Cambridge home during his RNZAF service, which is a possibility.

Thanks To: Details of this airman's death were sourced from the excellent volumes of 'For Your Tomorrow' by Errol Martyn. See more details on these highly recommended books here


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