2nd Lieutenant, 6th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) – Anglo Boer War
2nd Lieutenant, 3rd Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) – St. Helena
Captain, 129 Baluchis’ – Indian Army (inter-war)
Pilot and Flight Commander, Royal Flying Corps
Major, 40th Pathans – WWI
Major, 40th Pathans – North West Frontier
- Queens South Africa Medal with clasps Cape Colony and South Africa 1901 to Lieut. H.A. Hill - Middlesex Regt
- 1914/15 Star to Capt. H.A. Hill, 40 Pathans
- British War Medal to Major H.A. Hill
- Victory Medal to Major H.A. Hill
- IGS Afghanistan NWF 1919 to Major H.A. Hill, 40 Pathans
Herbert Hill was born in Limerick, County Clare, Ireland on 2 December 1881, the son of Brigadier General Augustus West Hill, CB, late of the Middlesex Regiment, and his wife, Alice Emma.
The 1891 England census reveals that a 9 year old Hill was a Visitor in the house of Ellen Philpott, a 57 year old widow living on her own means in Dormansland, Lingfield, East Grinstead, Surrey. He was not alone, with him was his 3 year old brother, Gerald Victor Wilmot Hill who later went on to win the D.S.O. as a Lt. Colonel in the army. The connection with the Philpott family is not apparent.
In later years he was sent to the United Services College (later the Imperial Service College) which he attended from May 1898 to July 1899, excelling in sports and captaining the First XV at Rugby.
Coming from a military family, Hill’s decision to enter the army would have come as no surprise – indeed his latter education groomed him for the role of army officer. He wouldn’t have long to wait before getting his chance – the Anglo Boer War had erupted on the world stage in October 1899, quite literally three months after he had finished his schooling.
Hill was commissioned into the 6th Battalion, Middlesex Regt (a Militia battalion and one in which his father had served with distinction) with effect from 26 January 1901. With the war already well underway he sailed for South Africa with his battalion; serving with them as a 2nd Lieutenant from 25 March 1901 until the middle of June 1901, earning the Queens Medal with clasps Cape Colony and South Africa 1901. The 6th Battalion were operational in the Matjiesfontein area bordering on the Karoo and would have been deployed to counter any potential threat of incursions into that area by the Boer forces as they ventured south in search of supplies and new recruits to their cause.
According to “The Times” of Tuesday, 6 August 1901, Hill was one of the “invalids” who arrived at Southampton aboard the “Canada.” What his malaise was is not known but the Imperial soldiers, both rank and file, were decimated by Enteric Fever in the main.
On 19 Oct 1901 he was posted, as a 2nd Lieutenant, from the militia battalion to a regular battalion “on augmentation” and, with the same rank, was sent to St. Helena as part of the 3rd Battalion to guard Boer Prisoners of War until July 1902. After this he was seconded for service with the Indian Army with effect from 20 March 1904. He served his probationary year in India with the Durham Light Infantry and on 5 December 1905 was posted to the 88th Carnatic Infantry as a Lieutenant.
But the life of a soldier need not be a lonely one. The Marriage Register of St. Thomas’ Cathedral in Bombay reveal that Hill tied the knot with Helen Elizabeth Onslow-Reid on 23 December 1908. He was 28 at the time and his wife 33 – five years older – was this to be a factor in years to come? Settling down to married life, he was posted to the 129th Duke of Connaught’s Own Baluchis with effect from 15 October 1909 with promotion to Captain following on 28 February 1910.
Hill, his career well under way, lost no time in starting a family. His first child, Una Alix Augusta was born at Karachi on 18 October 1909, followed by the birth of another daughter, Yvonne Aline, on 15 December 1910.
But potential financial ruin stared him in the face a few years later - he next appears in the London Gazette as being posted to the Temporary Half-Pay list as a captain with effect from 1 August 1914. Fortuitously the advent of the Great War on 4 August 1914 intervened, reviving his fortunes. He was re-posted to the Active List with effect from 1 August 1915 where, according to the Army Lists, he served with the Indian Army in Belgium and France from May until July 1915. He may have returned to the 129th Baluchis who had arrived in France in 1914, or it may have been the start of his service with the Royal Berkshire Regt in which unit he was promoted to temporary Major with effect from 13 February 1916.
Perhaps thirsting for something more adventurous Hill made the profound decision to join the Royal Flying Corps – a radical departure from all he had, hitherto, known. Having joined at Reading on 9 April 1916, he qualified as a pilot in the RFC on 5 September 1916 and on the same date he relinquished his territorial force commission in the Royal Berkshire Regiment. He appears to have crossed the Channel to France almost immediately, making his appearance in the European Theatre for the second time, although in a vastly different role, the very next day, 6 September 1916. Initially posted to 18 Squadron, he was admitted to hospital with Dyspepsia on 12 October, returning to England per H. S. “Asturias” on 15 October. After treatment he re-embarked (by air) for France and was posted to 82 Squadron. He was to serve until 1 December of that year during which period he was appointed as a Flight Commander - his rank shown as temporary major (Captain, Indian Army), on 17 November 1916.
An unusual incident took place on 30 March 1917 when he was the Commanding Officer of No 59 Reserve Squadron. A F.E.2b (Farnham Experimental) plane, with serial number 7009 burst into flame. The official report read as follows:
“This was a presentation machine and carried the inscription 'Baroda No.15'. After service in France with No 23 Squadron it was flown back to England and allotted to the Training Brigade. It caught fire, cause unknown, on 30 March 1917 when being flown by Major H A Hill, who was unhurt.”
Undaunted Hill went on to serve in Belgium and France from 16 November 1917 until 1 May 1918 and it can be presumed that on 1 April 18, and the formation of the RAF out of the RFC, he was appointed to a commission in the RAF. At some point he was also substantiated as a Major in the Indian Army with effect from 28 February 1916. On 1 May 1918 he resigned his commission in the RAF “on ceasing to be employed”.
His escapades in the air a thing of the past, his next period of overseas service was with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force where he served between 25 May 1918 and 15 August 1918. Unfortunately there is no record as to which unit he served with, although mention is made that he was wounded.
The war over in November 1918 Hill returned to the Indian Army. His WWI medals, British War Medal and Victory Medal were issued by the Indian Government whilst his 1914/15 Star was issued by the Imperial Government c/o Training Battalion, 16 Indian Infantry Group, Multan, India.
What followed was a merry-go-round of appointments in the Indian Army. In the July 1918 Indian Army List Hill is listed as a Major but with no unit; by April 1919 he was attached to the 40th Pathans with effect from 26 September 1918. In the list of January 1920 (the following year) he was listed as a Company Commander with the 40th Pathans with effect from 13 May 1919, but attached to the 2-33rd Punjabis with effect from 26 November 1919. In Major R.E. Waters history of the regiment 'History of the 5th Battalion (Pathans) 14th Punjab Regiment Formerly 40th Pathans ("The Forty Thieves") there is mention of Major Hill in April 1919 in command of a Company involved in the search for and successful capture of a gang of bandits. Life was certainly never boring it seemed.
The Indian Army List of July 1921 showed him to be the 2nd In Command of the 40th Pathans, but by January 1922 he was Company Commander with the 9th Bhopal battalion. In the Indian Army List of October 1923 he is a Company Commander with the 5/14 Punjab Regiment – this regiment had been formed in the reforms of 1921/22; the 5/14th was the new title for the 40th Pathans. By 1925 he was listed as a Major of the 5/14 Punjabis, but posted to 4/14 Punjabis as 2 I.C.
For his efforts in the Afghan war he was awarded the India General Service Medal (1908) with clasp North West Frontier 1919.
After a long and eventful career, Hill retired from the Indian Army with the rank of Major with effect from 8 April 1926. At some point his family, including his mother, emigrated to what was known as Southern Rhodesia. It was here, whilst employed as a Clerk at a Tobacco Auctioneers that he passed away at the age of 61 on 15 May 1943. The circumstances of his death would have excited comment at the time – he passed away from a heart attack whilst playing a round of golf on the Bulawayo Golf Course!
Hill’s first marriage had ended in divorce on 15 December 1927 (it will be remembered that she was 5 years older than him). He remarried, taking for his bride Sheila Mary at Salisbury, Rhodesia on 20 December 1938. It was she who survived him along with his two daughters, Alix Una Augusta (who had predeceased him) and Yvonne Aline Maytham. His residence at the time of his death was “Hillcrest”, Colne Valley, Salisbury.