A Canterbury boy born in 1927, Brendan Hill joined the Navy at the age of 19 as a Seaman Officer. When the time came he chose aviation as his primary specialisation and was selected as an Observer, and following training in the UK he served on 816 Squadron including aboard HMA Ships Vengeance and Sydney, two of the RAN’s aircraft carriers, flying Firefly aircraft.
He was promoted to LEUT in 1956 and subsequently obtained his Bridge Watchkeeping Certificate before resuming his aviation duties back at 816 Squadron as Senior Observer, and then aboard HMAS Melbourne as Lieutenant Commander (Ops). Postings to AJASS and Navy Office followed.
In 1969 he was appointed an MBE for his long service to the RAN. An excerpt from his citation reads: “… throughout his service his devotion to duty, leadership efficiency, perseverance and high sense of loyalty have been the subject of special comment by senior officers”
During his flying years Hill was involved in a remarkable incident during the Maitland Floods of 1955. An excerpt from “Flying Stations – A Story of Australian Naval Aviation” reads:
Exercising their peacetime Search and Rescue role, the RAN’s Sycamore helicopters graphically demonstrated their lifesaving abilities at the end of February 1955, during serious flooding over wide areas of New South Wales. The RAN helicopters rescued 63 people in Dubbo, 23 in Maitland and 24 at Narrabri. Mr Ian Little, the Bristol Aircraft representative who accompanied the Sycamores, set up an efficient overnight inspection and servicing schedule at Bankstown. However, it was at Maitland, near Newcastle, that a Sycamore crashed while attempting to rescue a group of men from a disintegrating railway signal box. Two men grabbed the strop on the first pass and this left the pilot, Lieutenant Gordon McPhee, with no reserve power. Aware that neither person was in the strop properly and that they could not hold on for long, McPhee tried to manoeuvre them quickly towards a bridge, which was the nearest high ground to lower. Just as his observer started to lower them, both dropped off and were subsequently drowned. The helicopter winch wire the flicked into a nearby high tension cable, bringing the helicopter down before the wire could be severed. The crew escaped but were swept 8 kilometres downstream before being rescued by an army DUKW amphibious vehicle.”
Brendan Hill died at his home in Huskisson (NSW) late on 14th or early on the 15th of May, 2022. He was 94 years old.