Search for family of Plaistow pilot killed during Second World War
- Credit: Leo Janssen
A woman who witnessed a pilot being shot down during the Second World War is trying to trace his family.
Lieutenant Raymond Jesse Hill, from Plaistow, was just 24 when his plane came down over the Dutch village of Westerbeek on October 14, 1944.
Annie Nabuurs, now 93, encountered Lt Hill shortly before his death and is keen to share her memories of what happened with any of his surviving relatives.
In her diary, she wrote about how she saw his plane circling over her house as she returned from running an errand.
"I threw all I was carrying in the air and waved with both arms and in a flash, I saw that he waved back to me," she wrote.
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"Did my red sweater pull his attention, or did he feel, just as I did on this beautiful Saturday morning, a new taste of life?"
But while Annie was in her back garden, telling her brother and sister about what had happened, Lt Hill's plane was coming under fire.
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"Suddenly a ball of fire hit the small plane," Annie wrote. "Then it came down in black pieces, just behind the apple trees. Black clouds and smoke were in the air.
"Soldiers who saw this crash happening explained that one of their own shells had hit him."
Annie and her family were visited by a priest a short while later, who asked if he could pick some flowers from the garden for the funeral.
Annie wrote: "I could not stop my tears, falling on my hands. It was so sad and totally unnecessary.
"Only three hours ago, so alive, and now, laying in a passing grave, no coffin, no family, not even a flag to add some military honour to the ceremony."
In 1945, Lt Hill's body was moved to the nearby Overloon war cemetery, where he was buried with other fallen pilots.
Annie, who emigrated to Canada as a young woman, would visit Lt Hill's grave when she returned to the Netherlands.
Through research, she discovered the pilot was a member of the Royal Artillery and son to Alfred Jesse and Evelyn Ruth Hill. He had been married to Joan Mary Hill for only a year.
If you are a relative of Lt Hill, or may be able to assist with the search, email firstname.lastname@example.org