. . . 

Donald Ernest Hillman F/L(P) J17893
From Elrose, Saskatchewan. Killed in Action Jun. 24/44 age 26. #148 Squadron (Trusty).
BROTHER to James Gordon Hillman.
Halifax aircraft # JP237 missing during a secret night operation twenty three miles north-east of Genoa.
Flight Lieutenant Pilot Hillman is buried in the Staglieno Cemetery, Genoa, Italy.


Mr. And Mrs. R. B. Hillman of Elrose, have reason to be proud of the military record of their family, having five sons and a son-in-law in the armed forces. The sons are all Saskatchewan-born, and have lived in Elrose since 1922, having received their public and high school education here.

Petty Officer Gerald Hillman, 22, is a shipwright, with the R.C.N., and is stationed in Newfoundland. He is married and has a small son. Before joining up he held a position with the McCabe Elevator Company in Elrose.

Pte. Lorne Hillman, 19, is with the Canadian Active Army at Maple Creek.

The youngest son, Arthur, 17, is with the Signal Corps in Saskatoon.

Pilot Officer Gordon Hillman, 26, is a navigator with the R.C.A.F. in England. He enlisted in June, 1941, and went overseas in October, 1942. Prior to enlistment he taught school at Pleasant Deer Hill, and Hitchcock Schools.

Flight Sergeant Donald Hillman, 24, is also with the R.C.A.F. in England. Before enlisting he was an accountant with the Empire Meat Company in Saskatoon.

The eldest son, Rupert, who lives with his family at Fleet, Alberta, has tried several times to enlist but has been rejected on medical grounds.

Pte. Alan Walker, a son-in-law, who enlisted as a driver mechanic in the army, is stationed in Ontario. His mother resides in Biggar.

Brothers Lorne (RCA) and Donald (RCAF) ~ Jerry (RCN) and Donald
Elrose, Saskatchewan

Our sincere thanks to Shirley Hepburn of Scotland 
who found us on the Internet
and supplied most of the photos and documents 
featured on this tribute honouring my dad's brother, 
Donald Hillman
I found the website of James Grant which lead me to this website. 

I would be interested if you could give me as much information about Donald Ernest Hillman as you could. The reason I am asking this is that my Grandfather Dixon Finlayson was on the same flight in 1944 when they were killed.

I have some information about the squadron flights and a photo of the grave in Italy were they were buried along with the names of the rest of the crew which I could give you if you were interested.

Thank you.
Shirley Hepburn.from Scotland

Hi Bill,

I had a look at the photo of Donald Hillman (on your Elrose Website) and I recognised him straight away from a picture that I have of the whole crew.

I have dug out the photo of Donald's grave and also a picture of the cemetery in Italy.I spoke to my mum to see what other info she had and she came up with a photo of the graves marked with wooded crosses before the headstones had been placed.

She also told me that when she was looking through her mum's things about 10 years ago she found some items of property that had been sent to her from the R.A.F. after my grandfather had died but some of the photos didn't belong to her -- they belonged to Donald! She sent them to the R.A.F. who were going to forward them on to Canada.

I have given all this info to my husband who is going to scan them all and put them on a pdf file so that I can send you them..Hope this info is of use to you.


The following documents supplied by Shirley Hepburn
from her family's collection may be read in two ways.
You may click the thumbnail images to see full screen blowups
view the keyed text that accompanies the thumbnail images on this page.

Commonwealth War 
Graves Commission
2 Marlow Road Maidenhead 
Berkshire SL6 7DX
Telex 847526 Comgra G
Telephone Maidenhead
(0628) 34221 (ext....)
Fax (0628) 771208

Mrs. I R Duke
103 West Main St
West Lothian
8 JUN 1990

Dear Mrs. Duke

Thank you for your letter of 31 May and the collection of snapshots which you say do not belong to your family but which you would like returned to the next-of-kin of Flight Lieutenant Hillman.

I am sending the photographs to the relevant body in Canada in the hope that they may well be able to locate the family and so pass on the photographs which you so kindly sent to us.

I can confirm the following information from our records:-

Sergeant (Air Gunner) Dixon Finlayson, 1824006, served with the 148 squadron, Royal Air Force (Volunteer Reserve). He died on 24 June 1944, age 35 . He was the son of Adam and Alice Finlayson of Edinburgh and he was married to Agnes Robb Finlayson of Edinburgh. He is buried in Plot 1, Roc C. Grave 27-30 of Staglieno Cemetery, Genoa, Italy. His grave is one in which he is buried with his fellow members of the crew. 

The record also shows that Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) Donald Ernest Hillman, 3/17893 served with the Royal Canadian Air Force but was with 148 Royal Air Force Squadron when he died on 24 June 1944, age 26. He was the son of Robert Boswell Hillman and Jane Hillman of Elrose, Saskatchewan, Canada. He also is buried in the same grave 27-30, Row C, Plot 1 of Staglieno Cemetery, Genoa, Italy.

Staglieno Cemetery, Genoa, is the largest communal cemetery of Genoa, and lies approximately 5 kilometres north-east of the entire of the city, and is connected by a good bus service.

I enclose a map of our cemeteries in Italy and brief directions on how to reach them should you be planning a visit. 

Yours sincerely
John Gimblett
for Director-General

-1 -
The Operations Book AIR 27/996 of 148 Squadron with which Sgt. Finlayson was serving when the fatal mission took place is on film because of the condition of the Volume itself.  It mentions all the flights made during 1944 by individual aircraft, specifying the crews who went, and uses date order. There is no index of the operations flown by individuals so it was necessary to look at the record of each of the hundreds of flights made to pick out those of which Sergeant Finlayson went, a time-consuming process. In the time allowed it was possible to get back to the 1 May, 1944.

In the resulting report, it was not possible to reproduce exactly the tabular format of the original reports, but all the facts are included. The nature of the operations is often undisclosed with only a code-name shown and there is no access to the underlying facts as, say the P.R.O. Staff, most of the papers on these Special Operations Executive (equivalent of the present day S.A.S.) files have not yet reached them.  The Squadron was specially organised to deal with S.O.E missions so the air crews were selected for their efficiency and dedication. 

The secret report on the fatal mission shows that the Halifax II aircraft JP237 took off at 20.11 hrs (i.e.  8.11pm) on "Operation Sound 1".  Instead of a landing time, a note states "Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it is presumed lost."

An overall comment on each night's operations by the Squadron's aircraft said on this occasion:

"13 aircraft were scheduled for ops but 3 had to be cancelled owing to technical trouble.  Of the remaining 10, 6 were successful and one (F.O. Hillman) is missing.  His target was a new one in N. Italy and nothing was heard from him after take off: F.O. Hillman was Acting Flight Commander of "B" Flight and making a very good job of it.  His operational record was of a very high standard and the loss of such an excellent crew is a sad blow to the Squadron."

The records of the flights made by Sergeant Finlayson during May and June require some general comment.  All were made in Halifax IIs, but not always the same aircraft.  The crew was almost always unchanged from that killed in the crash, except for the man under instruction, as the policy was to promote close comradeship and high efficiency.  Nearly all operations intended to drop by parachute containers of arms and ammunition and packages  of food to waiting resistance groups fighting behind the enemy lines.  The locations for these drops were 

/Cont . . .

- 2 -
pre-arranged and normally marked by a pattern of lights, hopefully visible to the pilot, but sometimes heavy cloud etc. hid the lights causing cancellation.  The resistance groups often had Allied liaison officers with them and occasionally these had to be parachuted in in the same way.  Because there was usually spare capacity in the Halifax, it would often take "nickels" (code for bombs) to drop on enemy towns before returning to Brindisi. The parachute "targets" were mostly in N. Italy or Yugoslavia.  Sometimes the location was only listed by latitude and longitude, but time prevented these from being related to maps for this report.  It could, however, be done later if wanted.  In the following listed operations by Sergeant Finlayson and crew, changes of aircraft are noted when they occurred, but otherwise were in that used for the previous operation. 

Night of 1/2 May 1944
Halifax JP226 took off at 23.25 on Operation Ampfield.  Due to heavy cloud cover, it was unable to drop its parachute items but dropped 250lbs of "nickels" on Treviso (Italy).  Landed 06.24. 

Left 20.02 on repeat of Operation Ampfield and successfully dropped 15 containers and 21 packages at Feltre.  250lbs Nickels dropped at "Previso." (probably mistype for "Treviso").  Landed 02.52.
Left 20.08 on Operation 319G and dropped 9c. and 12.p. "at a target in Central Poland".  (This may well refer to Warsaw where a major uprising against the Germans was faltering due to a shortage of ammunition and food.  The Russians, whose front line was not far away from Warsaw, had declined to assist as the British, in desperation, tried to assist from great distances by air.  The uprising was eventually crushed and this event in later years became a major historical/discussion point.)  On the return 300lbs N. were dropped a Hatvan.  Landed 06.35.
Left 23.12 on Operation Gargantuan 142.  Dropped 15c. and 20p. at 43.00N.  21.37E.  500lbs N. at Medvedia.  Landed 06.35.
Left 19.52 on "Op.116B (Grottaglie)" and dropped 12c. and 9p. at (illegible) N 21.31E.  Landed 05.36.

In Memory of:

Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) DONALD ERNEST HILLMAN
J/17893, 148 (R.A.F.) Sqdn, Royal Canadian Air Force
who died age 26 on 24 June 1944
Son of Robert Boswell Hillman and Jane Hillman, of Elrose, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Pilot Officer (Navigator) NICHOLAS HOLYK 
J/92012, 148 (R.A.F.) Sqdn, RCAF 
who died age 35 on 24 June 1944 
Son of William and Eva Holyk, of Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada; 
husband of Sarah Holyk, of Mount Cartier, British Columbia. 

Sergeant DIXON FINLAYSON (Air Gunner)
1824006, 148 Sqdn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
who died age 35  on 24 June 1944
Son of Adam and Alice Finlayson, of Edinburgh; husband of Agnes Robb Finlayson, of Edinburgh.

Flight Sergeant JAMES ROSS ROBERTSON (Bomb Aimer)
R/161315, 148 (R.A.F.) Sqdn, Royal Canadian Air Force
who died age 21  on 24 June 1944
Son of William James Robertson and Olive May Robertson, of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Sergeant EDWARD GEOFFREY CHAPMAN (Wireless.Op/ Air Gunner)
1323119, 148 Sqdn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
who died age 21 on 24 June 1944
Son of Walter Thomas Chapman and Daisy Ethel Chapman, of Staines, Middlesex.

Sergeant ARTHUR PINDER (Air Gunner)
1538939, 148 Sqdn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
who died  on 24 June 1944

Sergeant JOHN MICHAEL SUMNER (Air Gunner)
1801255, 148 Sqdn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
who died on 24 June 1944

All Remembered with honour

~ Thanks to John Holyk

Sgt. Dixon Finlayson is standing to the left in the back row.
Pilot F/L Donald Hillman is seated in the middle front row.



Donald Hillman Contents
1. Donald Hillman Intro
2. Donald Hillman Missions
3. Donald Hillman Photo Album I
4. Exploring the Crash Site
5. Sabini Photos of Parts Retrieved

To the F/L Donald Hillman
Tribute Part II

F/L Donald E. Hillman
S.O.E Halifax JP237 Missions
F/L William G. Campbell 
Lancaster KB 879 Tribute
F/O J. Gordon Hillman
Lancaster ~ Tribute
CPO R. Gerald Hillman
H.M.C.S  Prince Robert
CATP Air Museum
Brandon MB Canada
William Robin Hillman
BCATP Film Project 2004

Visit Brandon's


William Gerald Hillman
Bill and Sue-On Hillman Eclectic Studio
Copyright 2004/2013 by Bill Hillman