Box 024, folder 28: Richard Hilborn

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HILBORN, Richard Canadian 1st Can. Parachute 6th. Brit. Airborne Box 24, #28

Last edit about 3 years ago by roweall
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Lieut. [crossed out] Subaltern [end crossed out] Richard Hilborn, age 26 at D-Day runs Preston Furniture Company, Preston Ontario Was with 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, 6th British Airbourne Div.

Dick was a commanding officer when he volunteered for the paratroopers, and went down two ranks in order to get in. A few days after D-Day he was promoted to Major because so many were killed. He was not married on D-Day, although he already knew his wife-to-be, a lovely very attractive British girl. He married her exactly a year later on June 6th, and on their 10th wedding anniversary a few years ago, went back to France to retrace Dick's route. They spent their anniversary at the [crossed out] [illegible] [end crossed out] Pegasus Pub (I believe that's the name) which says on the outside it was the first building captured by the British on 11:35 p.m. June 5th. He and his wife went inside and noone would let them pay for a thing as soon as they found out he'd been there 11 years before.

Dick wasn't wounded, and is still wrapped up in the war. He made his first jump in a pair of kilts. They have a beautiful house in the country on a hill in Preston [inserted] Ontario, [end insert] with a tennis court. Dick is very attractive, tanned, and looks as if he plays a lot of tennis. He's also very talkative and kept interrupting the others, although he seemed to have something interesting to say. They have three very well-behaved youngsters, a game room and a "help yourself" bar. Dick was on his way to make a speech that night, and was in a hurry.

Dick's plane was hit on the way over with flack, but it didn't hurt anything. One of the men, a signaler, fell asleep on the way over. They were all getting ready to jump when their plane just missed hitting a bomber, and [crossed out] [illegible] [end crossed out] their plane shot straight up in the air, and they went head over heels toppling over as the plane made a circle and came in okay. Dick said "you're scared [crossed out] [illegible] [end crossed out] before you jump, but afterwards you have a wonderful feeling of exhilaration. You're thrilled and feel great."

He said one man dropped — trying to be quiet — and landed right on top of a greenhouse, and went through, shattering glass all ove over the place. He wasn't hurt but he "sure made a helluva lot of noise." Another man was supposed to wipe out the pillbox (in Company "C") and dropped right on top of it. He was taken prisoner, and then when they finally did liquidate the pillbox, he was released.

One man landed in a well and eventually crawled out, and another landed in the channel near the shore and swam down the shore 5 or 6 miles before the Germans stopped shooting at him. Didn't get back to his group until the bombing of Caen. Another man landed on the roof of a cottage. A German took a shot at him, and he just slithered down the side of the house and disappeared into the grass and bushes at the side.

Dick said that in one group of gliders, the first landed in England, the second crashed, a third smacked between two large German [crossed out] s [end crossed out] guns and a fourth thought the canal was a nice smooth road (could see ribbon of [crossed out] [illegible] [end crossed out] [inserted] light [end insert] on the canal) and sank. However, he said 5 out of 6 gliders made it.

About 4 a.m. Dick went to a farmhouse and they thought he was a German in disguise, because they hadn't heard the beginning of the invasion yet. It took him half an hour to convince them, and then it was only because he took them to their door and said, "listen, they're coming -- can't you hear them?" And they could then hear the increased sounds of the invasion on the coast. Then they couldn't

Last edit about 3 years ago by roweall
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- 2 - Hilborn do enough for him, and insisted they take him all the way to where he wanted to go. He forced them to take money, although they didn't want to.

Dick remembers seeing a Mitchell plane that caught fire (about a mile distant) --no bigger than tinsel paper -- and then seeing a guy Jump out of the plane. His chute caught on fire and he (crossed out)illegible(end crossed out) just became a Roman candle in the air.

Around dawn, Dick saw, about a half mile away, a guy who had jumped and hit on the hydro lines. Every paratrooper has nightmares about landing on power lines,, and constantly dreads it. This guy was burned (crossed out) a (end crossed out)- electrocuted on the spot — and his arms were spread out on the lines like a crucifix, and when Dick saw him lying there, the sun was coming up behind him. You could see the shadows on the ground, and very impressive shadows they were. He'll never forget it.

And there s another thing you don't forget, and that's the many you see with the (inserted) bullet(end insert) hole straight through their forehead.

During the day Dick thought of many things. He remembered, for example, that he'd asked Alistair Pearson prior to D-Day (Pearson was with the 8th Battalion, age 29, had (inserted) an (end insert) M.C., and won 2 DSOs in Africa), "What's it like after 4 or 5 days without food or sleep?" And Pearson said, 'You'll find there are other more important things to think about." And Dick found out he was right.

Dick also remembers Lt. Gen. Richard Gale's speech to them right before D-Day. (Dick has Gale's book prominently displayed in his house.) Gale went on about, "By God we've got a job to do --" very pep-talkish -- they said he reviewed all the battalions prior to D-Day and didn't sleep until he'd seen them all, "You're going to battle tomorrow", he said, "and when you get a problem don't come to me and say 'we've got Germans on our front, what do we do?', but instead get down on your knees and thank God we've got Germans to fight!" And Dick said, the funny part about it was, Gale believed every word of it. And Dick remembered this (crossed out) constantly (end crossed out) on D-Day (crossed out) and afterwards whenever the going got rough. (end of crossed out)

His wife was in Southern England at a base working in a canteen on D-Day. She said on the night before D-Day, they saw hundreds of planes overhead with their lights on. This was unheard of in wartime England, so they knew that the big invasion must be on. (crossed out)(illegible)(end crossed out) Dick said they turned their lights off as soon as they left the coast.

The local drink was Calvados — all grades of it, and the barns were full of it. One guy had his water tin full of it, and they shot the bottom out of the tin so he wouldn't get stinko and get himself killed.

(inserted) Interviewed by Nancy Bashant (end inserted)

Last edit about 3 years ago by Johnmeps
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March 25, 1959

Mr. Richard Hilborn Preston Furniture Preston, Ontario Canada

Dear Mr. Hllborn:

Sometime ago you were kind enough to give us information in connction with a book on D-Day which is being prepared by Mr. Ryan for publication to the Reader's Digest in book form.

Due to the overwhelming response to this request, we have been deluged with material and have not had a chance to write to each and everyone as yet. However, we do want to thank you for being patient with us and to tell you how deeply grateful we are for your cooperation in the interview with you.

In order for us to edit your material for use in the book, it will be necessary for us to have your signature on the attached release, which we would thank you to return in the enclosed self-addressed envelope.

Again many thanks for your help.

Sincerely,

for Cornelius Ryan aw encl.

Last edit about 3 years ago by roweall
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I agree that Mr. Cornelius Ryan, his licensees and/or assigns, has all rights whatsoever in the interview and material from me regarding D-Day. [underlined] RC Hilborn [end underlined] signed

[underlined] 30 March 1959 [end underlined] date

Form RC. HILBORN PRESTON FURNITURE [?Co LTD?] PRESTON ONT

P.L. I understand also that my name as such would not be used in the book [crossed out] other [end crossed out] RCH

Last edit about 3 years ago by SarahAnn
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