5666834 DRIVER ARTHUR JAMES HILLMAN

Royal Army Service Corps

 

In Mark Churchyard, south of the Chancel, there is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission grave for Driver Arthur Hillman, who died on 8 May 1945, the day that is now known as Victory in Europe Day (VE Day).

 

Arthur Hillman was born on 25 October 1901 to Harry and Phoebe Hillman, who later had a Burtle address. After school, he found employment as a farm labourer until on 8 March 1924 he enlisted into the Somerset Light Infantry at the Taunton Army Recruiting Office. After a year in England, he served in Sudan, Egypt, Hong Kong and India before being discharged in February 1932 as a Private after six years service. During this period, he successfully passed several Army education certificates. On 7 July 1932, Arthur was married to Mabel Rose Amesbury, of Rose Cottage, Littlemoor Rd, Mark in Mark Church by the Rev. Chilseden. The witnesses were his brother Edward and a Mr HR Jenkins. The Hillmans were described as ‘a big man with a small wife’. Their only child, Ernest George, was born on 21 April 1935 at Axbridge. Their address was 1, The Wall, Mark.

 

On 8 March 1936, Hillman was placed on the Infantry Reserve with 8th (Home Defence) Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry until on 2 September 1939, the day before the Second World War broke out, he was mobilised into the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and was posted to 13 Field Workshops, No. 1 Base Ordnance at Chilwell, Notts and was promoted to Lance Corporal in January 1940, but a month later was admitted to the Infectious Disease Hospital in Colchester. On discharge, he was posted to 8th Ordnance Battalion until November 1941 when he joined 30th Ordnance Battalion and reverted to Private. He transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps on 20 January 1942 and joined the 43rd (Wessex) Division Divisional Supply Company until, on 30 June, he was posted to 43rd (Wessex) Division Divisional Transport Company for driver training. Posted to 488 General Transport Company for three weeks, he then trained with 8 Mobile Ambulance Company for four months. On 9 December 1942, he set sail for North Africa on the Troop Transport Shoemaker and landed with 112 Mobile Ambulance Company, as part of the 1st Army, collecting casualties from the front line during the final pursuit of the Afrika Corps until it surrendered in Tunis.

 

On 7 March 1944, Hillman was admitted to hospital for a week only to be re-admitted within ten days for two more days. Returning to 112 Mobile Ambulance Company, by 29 June he had been admitted to No. 7 Casualty Clearing Station with scabies. He was evacuated from the British North African Force with an enlarged prostate and cystitis and a month later was admitted to Walton Hospital in Liverpool for a week and then sent on leave. But, after ten days, he was admitted to the Royal West of England Hospital at Weston-super-Mare seriously ill until he was transferred to the La Retraite Convalescent Home in Weston on 13 October. On 5 December, Hillman was transferred to 118 Military Convalescent Home and was then sent on sick leave as a member of 189 Mechanical Transport Company in Berkshire. On 8 May 1945 Driver Hillman died at home, seemingly from prostate cancer.

 

His grave has certain poignancy because Driver Hillman died at about the same time as Germany surrendered in Europe - not killed on active service, but from illness. A rough guide, even today, is that for every person killed in action, three die from non-battle causes, such as illness, natural causes, in training, road traffic and aircraft crashes, drowning and accidental discharge of weapons. Since he was a serving soldier, Driver Arthur Hillman was buried with a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone.

 

In 1949, Mrs Hillman received his Africa Star (1st Army) Clasp, the War Medal and the Defence Medal. She lived in Churchlands and was regularly visited for Sunday lunch by Ernest, who would walk from Loxton, where he was living. He once worked at a college in Taunton and was last heard to be living in South Somerset or Devon.   

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