A war photographer and pilot from Ashwell who died in the Second World War is set to be honoured as part of a new memorial project.

Squadron Leader Anthony Eustace 'Tony' Hill was the eldest son of Col. Eustace Hill - former commander of the 104th Essex Yeomanry Brigade - and the family lived in Elmwood House in Ashwell.

Educated at Harrow, Tony was set to become a director of Fordham Brewery. A keen aviator, he joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve, becoming a Pilot Officer in March 1939, and a Flying Officer in September 1940.

Tony then joined No.1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit (PRU), and was the first pilot to photograph the Scandinavian cities of Copenhagan and Malmo in April 1941.

Royston Crow: Squadron Leader Anthony Eustace 'Tony' HillSquadron Leader Anthony Eustace 'Tony' Hill (Image: The Spitfire AA810 Project)

Throughout WWII, the PRU operated highly dangerous, clandestine photographic reconnaissance operations, and captured more than 26 million images of enemy operations and installations during the war.

Due to the clandestine nature of their operations - photographers flew solo operations in Spitfires and Mosquitos, unarmed and unarmoured - the death rate was nearly 50 per cent.

Tony was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in May 1941, and by August was promoted to Flight Lieutenant. 

In December 1941 he carried out the reconnaissance of the Wurzburg radar station at Bruneval ahead of a British commando operation which gave the allies significant intelligence on the German radar capability.

Tony gained a bar to his DFC in March 1942, with the citation saying: "This officer has carried out many successful operational flights over hostile territory and has shown outstanding skill and determination."


In August 1942 he was awarded the Distinguised Service Order (DSO), and the rank of Acting Squadron Leader.

On October 19, 1942, Tony was given the command of 543 Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, and on the same day was sent to photograph the results of a daylight raid on the Schneider Works at Le Creusot in France.

German fighters were waiting for him, and his Spitfire was brought down - leaving him badly wounded.

Tony was taken prisoner and transferred to hospital, but died from his injuries on November 12, 1942, at the age of 28. He is buried in a small cemetery in Dijon.

Despite the PRU having among the lowest survival rates of the war, there is no national memorial to the pilots and navigators.

The Spitfire AA810 Project has led the campaign to create a memorial - and is backed by North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald.

Sir Oliver said: "I am delighted to support this campaign to commemorate those who served in the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit.

"This includes Anthony Hill (known as Tony), who served admirably under difficult conditions, and sadly lost his life during service.

"I look forward to working with the Spitfire AA810 Project to establish this memorial and to being able to pay my respects there once it is completed."

Anyone related to Anthony Hill, or who knows of someone who served in the PRU, is asked to get in touch by visiting www.spitfireaa810.co.uk, or email Tony Hoskins at Tony@spitfireaa810.co.uk.