Hinds, William “Bill” Torrens

William, or Bill as he was known to his friends, was born at Ashford on the 15th December 1921, the son of William Geoffrey Hinds, traveller, and Doreen (nee Kenny) of Gillett’s Grange, Smarden. Kent.

He was educated at Harvey Grammar School, Folkestone, and at the King’s School Canterbury from September 1936 to July 1940, where he was in Meister Omers, a boarding house, and won his colours for Athletics. On leaving school, he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and rose to the rank of Sergeant (1330820). He trained as a pilot in Canada under the Empire Air Training Scheme, was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on the 15th of August 1942 and was posted to 234 Squadron. While he was with the Squadron, he was credited with half a kill.

On the 17th February 1943, he was promoted to Flying Officer and was posted to 54 Squadron in Australia. At that time, the Squadron operated Spitfires out of Parap Airfield (Darwin’s civil airport) where they were principally involved in defending Darwin against attacks by Japanese bombers. He arrived at the Squadron on the 27th April 1943.

 In June 1943, he wrote a letter to the Headmaster of King’s:
“The Nips don’t visit regularly enough to get in some real practising. To keep us company at night; mosquitoes, sandflies, large spiders, lizards and cockroaches have their frolics, not to mention the odd snake, which occasionally uses a flying boot for his evening nap. My impression after geography lessons at school was that Australia was a large very uninhabitable place, where the cities were small and old fashioned. I was surprised to find that Adelaide for instance was the most perfectly planned and prettiest city I had ever seen. Also it has the best cinemas I have encountered outside New York. This country holds endless possibilities for agriculture, engineering and irrigation, and I am, if possible after the war, going to stay out here to see what I can do. Imagine my surprise when I saw in the “Kentish Express” way out in the bush here, that the school had been awarded a shield for Life Saving. I bet Mr Goodburn is bucked.” Spitfires Taylor 1943

The following is from a Meister Omers publication: 
“At 08.30 hours on the morning of the 7th September 1943, the first warnings were received by the defenders of Darwin that a Japanese twin engined reconnaissance aircraft had been picked up on radar. Twelve aircraft of 457 Squadron were scrambled to intercept. It soon became clear that the enemy aircraft had a large escort of fighters and as a result, both 452 and 54 Squadrons were also scrambled.

As the pilots of the two squadrons neared Port Patterson, they saw a large gaggle of 21 enemy aircraft some 16 miles to the west of Sattler, and, while they were still climbing, they were engaged by the Japanese fighters who had a clear height advantage.

During the melee which followed, two Spitfires of 452 Squadron were shot down with both pilots managing to bail out. The pilots of 54 Squadron claimed a Zero fighter destroyed with two more probably destroyed, but they also reported that one of their pilots, Flying Officer Hinds, who had been flying Spitfire MkVc EF558, was missing.

The following day his burnt out Spitfire was found 20 miles south south east of Parap airfield and 15 miles to the west of the Strauss airfield in the vicinity of Kangaroo Flats near Pioneer Creek. Due to the fire which had followed the crash and had set fire to some of the surrounding bush, the rescuers were unable to recover his body until the 13th of September. He was identified by a cigarette case and a revolver, which had been thrown clear of the wreckage.

William Hinds was buried on the 14th September 1943 at the Berrimah War Cemetery, but two years later, on the 9th September 1945, he was reburied at the Adelaide River War Cemetery in the Northern Territory.”

The painting above is one of Robert Taylor’s. It is dedicated to the Spitfire Memorial Defence Fellowship and depicts the Mk Vc tropicalised Spitfires of No 1 Wing RAAF returning from a scramble over the city of Darwin in early 1943.

The Canturian, a King’s School magazine, wrote:
“If there was one characteristic about him, which could not fail to impress, it was his immense vitality. Whatever he had to do was done always with outstanding vigour and enthusiasm. He was indeed the very pattern of youth, a happy mixture of adventurousness and conservatism. These were the characteristics which made him an outstanding fighter pilot, and they are the same which will be so sadly missed in a world which has great need of young men of this type. He will have been happy to die doing a plain straightforward job for a cause in which he believed; our gratitude for his sacrifice must be mingled with a deep sense of personal loss.” Hinds

An edited ADF Serials report for Bill’s aircraft, A58-158, is as follows: Operational Loss on the 6th September 1943. Flying Officer William Torrens Hind, as part of a 54 Squadron flight of seven Spitfires along with aircraft from 452 Squadron RAAF, scrambled at 1040 hrs to intercept a Japanese reconnaissance raid by one Dinah and 20 Zeke. His aircraft crashed near Pioneer Creek, Northern Territory, and he was killed. He was found by the Army with the burnt out wreck the next day.

The following account is from Wing Commander Robert “Bob” Foster, who was a Flight Lieutenant in Bill’s Squadron at the time:
“8th September 1943 – An aircraft believed to be that of Flying Officer Hinds has been located by the Army, and a cigarette case and some plates and other small pieces from the crash reached here late tonight. A bush fire, no doubt started by the crash, made further salvage impossible. The aircraft was burnt out and it is reported that there was a body in it.
10th September 1943 – The crashed aircraft reported on the 8th is now confirmed as that of Flying Officer Hinds and his death in action is thus, also, unhappily, confirmed. He was 21 years old.” 

The movements of Bill’s  aircraft after taking off were not observed by any other members of the Wing, or persons on the ground, but it is generally believed that he was most probably shot down in combat, an assumption that seemed reasonable in view of the finding of the aircraft and the general circumstances of the casualty. Bear in mind that, at the time there would have been some 48 Spitfires in the air as well as 21 enemy fighters. Of interest, this was probably the last Spitfire to be shot down in Australia.

Aircraft records for Pilot Officer Paul Tully of RAAF 452 Squadron, who was scrambled at the same time, indicate that he was attacked by 20 plus Japanese fighters some 15 miles west of Strauss airfield, which is in the vicinity of Pioneer Creek.

The wreckage (see photo) of his aircraft (Spitfire Type F.Vc RAAF Serial A58-153 RAF Ser EF558) remains in the Army range area at Kangaroo Flats Training Area, just south of the headwaters of Pioneer Creek. The wreckage was scattered over a wide ledge and the assumption based on this was that it had impacted at a quite steep angle and at speed. Whilst the wreckage was scattered, it was in a defined area with no indications of any assemblages that would indicate a shallow approach.

According to Bill’s nephew, Michael Horsfall, he was not repatriated, as during his time in Australia he had become engaged to a girl from Adelaide, whose family arranged for his body to be taken south for burial in a military cemetery there. (Web Master: According to the previous accounts, it appears that Bill was actually buried at the Adelaide River War Cemetery, Plot G, Row C, Grave 7. On one of Bill’s headstones, there was only a simple inscription: Flying Officer W.T.Hinds – Royal Air Force – 7th September 1943) Hinds2

With thanks to Michael Horsfall, Greg Blackmore and Gordon R. Birkett.
Updated by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Association