In this the 70th anniversary year of the Battle of Britain, I have decided to write this memoriam to my father as I thought that after all the years that various people have written what I regard as a lot of ‘fairy tails’ about Hugh, it would make sense to try and put the record straight.
In my eyes Hugh was a very brave Canadian to come to England to help our forces win the War and give his life in so doing. To see that some authors have written that he acted illegally is downright disgusting. I have decided that the best course of action is to publish the facts as I know them. I should mention that I have not been approached by any author to provide the information which I have laid out below.
Hugh William Reilley 28th. May 1918 - 17th. October 1940
Born: Victoria Hospital, London Ontario, Canada.
Father: Hugh William Reilly (note the missing "e" before the "y").
Mother: Annie Miller
Parents married: Hamilton Ontario, Canada 25th. October 1916.
Parents Place of Birth:
Hugh - Smith Virginia, USA. (aged 30 at date of wedding - born 1886)
Annie - Aim Pier, Fraserburgh, Scotland.(aged 23 at wedding - born 1893).
The above details appear on Hugh Reilley's Birth Certificate that also give the family's address as 960 Cass Ave., Detroit, USA.
It is assumed that Annie decided to move back to London Ontario to give birth to Hugh in order to be near her Brother's family. Not long after Hugh's birth they went back to live in Detroit but returned to London again in 1928/9 to live at 20 MacKinnon Place, South London.
At about that time Hugh (senior) and Annie separated and he returned to Detroit. (Exact dates are not known but it is thought that Hugh must have spent no more than about 9 years with his parents in America). There is no further information known about Hugh (senior). He is now presumed dead.
Annie died 25th. May 1930.
After Annie died Hugh was brought up by his uncle, John Miller (brother to Annie) and his wife Rosina Anthea Musgrave Miller (nea Clarke) in London Ontario until 1939.
Education: Prior to 1933 he was at The Tecumseh Public School.
High School: London South Collegiate 1933-38
Interests: Most sports, but especially Rugby (American football) and Tennis.
Employment: Between 1938/9 he worked at the Highland Golf Club, probably as a "Caddie" and also at the "Winery" (job type unknown) both in London Ontario.
In May 1939 (age 21) he and his friend Bert Bucannan (an RAF Coastal Command Pilot killed in July 1940) left from Montreal bound for England to join the RAF.
Hugh joined the RAF for training 20th. September 1939 and was given a short service Commission for 4 years as Acting Pilot Officer on probation in the General Duties Branch of the RAF Volunteer Reserve. His first letter to my mother was from No.1 Initial Training Wing, Jesus College, Cambridge on 22nd. September 1939.
Letters dated 30th. October, 15. November 1939 and 2nd. January 1940 were from the Bristol Flying School and No.10 E.F.T.S. Yatesbury, Caln, Wiltshire. Where he reported flying Tiger Moths.There is also a photograph showing him standing in front of a Harvard Trainer but no date is known.
Hugh married my mother, Margery (usually called Molly) Etta Fleming whom he had met at a Ball given by Lord Beverbrook in London. His address at the time was No.2 F.T.S. Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.
On the Marriage Certificate dated 20th. April 1940, he stated that his father was deceased but gave his occupation as a "Government Transport Inspector".
On the 10th. August 1940 Hugh was graded as a pilot Officer on Probation. He was subsequently posted to 64 Squadron at Leaconfield, Yorks in early September and moved to 66 Squadron at Gravesend on the 15th. He is also reported to have served in 92 Squadron, but no further details are available for this part of his service.
So from the date he joined an operational flying unit to the date he was shot down and killed would have been just over a month. From joining the RAF until his death was about 13 months.
During his service he claimed a damaged Bf 109 on the 24th September (my birthday), a half kill of He. 111 bomber (with his wing leader Bobby Oxspring) on 26th. September 1940 and a kill of a Bf. 109 fighter on the 27th. September.
Hugh was shot down by Major Werner Moulders, Kommodore JG51 (an Ace in his own right) over Westerham, Kent on October 17th. 1940 and crashed on Crockham Hill, Sevenoaks, Kent where his plane was found burnt out. He was buried with full RAF honours at Gravesend Cemetery.
Hugh had been flying Spitfire R6800, normally used by Squadron Leader Rupert Leigh.
Malicious and unsubstantiated statements have been made by a number of authors detailing my fathers’ life during the War which I regard as offensive. Several of these claim that Hugh was an American born in Detroit Michigan and that he illegally obtained a Canadian Passport in order to join the RAF.
I have his Birth Certificate and he was born in London, Ontario, Canada.
Although Hugh’s father was American, Hugh's birth was only registered at his Canadian Birthplace and there has never been any documentary evidence to support the suggestion that he was an American. The lack of scholarship shown by many authors is appalling and represents a great disservice to the memory of a young Battle of Britain pilot.
The following are some of the authors concerned:-
Winston G. Ramsey - The Battle of Britain Then and Now. Published by After the Battle Magazine.
Alex Kershaw - The Few. Published by De Capo Press
David Alan Johnson - The Battle of Britain, July - October 1940. Published by Combined Publishing
The remaining relatives; my mother, her mother and a close friend - Michael Braden as well as my Cousin, Paul Miller all regarded him as a Canadian. All the people who have been able to offer information on Hugh's past before coming to the UK have been Canadians.
Apart from the UK, the only other country to honour his bravery was the Canadian Government.
Most of the involved and detailed research has been carried out by my cousin, Paul Miller of Grand Bend, London, Ontario, Canada to whom I am most indebted.
I was born on the 24th. September 1940 (less than a month before his death) and I am not even sure that my father had seen me before he was killed, particularly as he appeared to have been rather busy around that date.
Christopher H.A. Reilley (Hugh's Son)
17th October 2010.