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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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148 Squadron Crest
24.06.1944 No. 148 Squadron Halifax II JP237 Fl/Lt. Donald E. Hillman

Operation: Operation Sound 1 – N. Italy

Date: 24th June 1944 (Saturday)

Unit:No. 148 Squadron Special Operations Executive (SOE)

Type: Halifax Type II

Serial: JP237

Code: FS-?

Base: RAF Brindisi, Italy

Location: Santa Maria del Taro / Borgo Val di Taro

Pilot:Fl/Lt. Donald Ernest Hillman J/17893 RCAF Age 26. Killed (1)

Pilot/Nav: P/O. Nicholas Holyk J/92012 RCAF Age 35. Killed (2)

Flt/Engr: Sgt. Arthur Pinder 1538939 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Dixon Finlayson 1824006 RAFVR Age 35. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Michael Sumner 1801255 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. James Ross Robertson J/161315 RCAF Age 21. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Edward Geoffrey Chapman 1323119 RAFVR Age 21. Killed


The secret report on the fatal mission shows that the Halifax II aircraft JP237 took off at 20.11 hrs 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."
"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 Northern 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."

Rear L to R: Sgt. Dixon Finlayson, Sgt. James Robertson, Sgt. Nicholas Holyk, Sgt. John Sumner. Front: Sgt. Arthur Pinder, Fl/Lt. Donald Hillman, Sgt. Edward Chapman.

During this period 148 Squadron flew Halifax bombers but were not affiliated to Bomber Command. Their missions were of a secret nature - parachuting arms, ammunition and other supplies to resistance groups fighting behind the enemy lines. The locations for these drops were pre-arranged and normally marked by a pattern of lights hopefully visible to the crew.

As was the case for all aircraft during the war, navigation was by dead reckoning and visual recognition of land marks. Often, by the time they reached the target area, heavy cloud obscured their vision causing drop zones to be missed or a total cancellation of the mission. The resistance groups sometimes had Allied liaison officers with them and occasionally they would be parachuted in. Also, from the squadron operation log, it would appear that one of their tasks would be to drop hundreds of pounds of propaganda leaflets (‘Nickels’) onto various towns enroute back to their base at Brindisi.
It is believed that while JP237 was approaching the target it was hit by enemy fire and crashed in the mountains between Santa Maria del Taro and the Borgo Val di Taro area of northern Italy.

Above and below: Francesco Sabini and his archaeology group in Italy with recovered pieces from the aircraft.

Burial Details:

F/Lt. Donald Ernest Hillman. Staglieno Cemetery Genoa, Italy. Collective Grave III C 27-30. Son of Robert Boswell Hillman and Jane Hillman, of Elrose, Saskatchewan, Canada..

P/O. Nicholas Holyk. Staglieno Cemetery Genoa, Italy. Collective Grave III C 27-30. Son of William and Eva Holyk, of Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada, brother to Walter (3), husband of Sarah Holyk, of Mount Cartier, British Columbia, Canada.

Sgt. Arthur Pinder. Staglieno Cemetery Genoa, Italy. Collective Grave III C 27-30. No further details.

Sgt. Dixon Finlayson. Staglieno Cemetery Genoa, Italy. Collective Grave III C 27-30. Son of Adam and Alice Finlayson, of Edinburgh, husband of Agnes Robb Finlayson, of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Sgt. John Michael Sumner. Staglieno Cemetery Genoa, Italy. Collective Grave C III 27-30. No further details.

Sgt. James Ross Robertson. Staglieno Cemetery Genoa, Italy. Grave III C.26. Son of William James Robertson and Olive May Robertson, of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Sgt. Edward Geoffrey Chapman. Staglieno Cemetery Genoa, Italy. Grave III C.25. Son of Walter Thomas Chapman and Daisy Ethel Chapman, of Staines, Middlesex, England.

(1) Hillman Bay, Saskatchewan is named after F/L Donald Ernest Hillman

(2) Holyk Creek, British Columbia is named after P/O. Nicholas Holyk

(3) Walter Holyk, (1921-2004), BASc (Geol Eng) 1949, died June 1, 2004 in Kelowna, BC. Walter was born March 21, 1921 in Mount Cartier, south of Revelstoke, BC. He served as navigator in the RCAF during World War II (1942-45). After graduating from UBC, he attended MIT, receiving the PhD in Geological Engineering in 1952. Walter joined Texas Gulf Sulfur as a geologist and set out to locate pyrite deposits from which sulphur could be produced in eastern Canada. As a result of his studies on massive sulphide sediments, Walter sought sulphide ores in close association with rhyolites and sediments under certain structural conditions. Half Mile Lake Mine, New Brunswick, Nanisivik zinc-lead mine, Baffin Island, and Kidd Creek deposit (zinc-copper-lead-silver) Ontario were deposits found as a result of his implementation of this hypothesis. Walter was inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame in 1997, received CIM's Dufresne Award for Mineral Exploration in 1980, and the PDAC and no.039;s Distinguished Service Award in 1992. Upon retirement in 1976, Walter became an orchardist in East Kelowna (He likened this to a sentence to ten years hard labour). Walter leaves his wife Helen (B.Com, UBC, 1946), son Nicholas, and grandchildren Angela and James Bailey. Helen has since passed on as well to be with her husband.

Information supplied by the family of Fl/Lt. Donald Hillman and John Holyk and compiled by Colin Bamford for Aircrew Remembered. Thanks also to Francesco Sabini and his archaeology group in Italy for photographs of recovered pieces.

CHB 23.03.2011
KTY 07.06.2015 New format.
CHB 08.10.2019 Links to place names added.

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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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