Captain Myles Hildyard MC MBE
Citation for the Military Cross
77788 WS Lieutenant (T/Local/Captain) HILDYARD Miles Thoroton Nottinhamshire Yeomanry
Captain HILDYARD was captured during the operations in CRETE and was taken to the P/W camp at GALATOS. On 17th June, together with another officer, he escaped from the camp and took to the hills.
The intention of these two officers was to make for the Eastern end of the island and there endeavour to find a boat in which to escape to British territory. Before they had gone very far, they were shown a note from Lt.-Cmdr. VERNICOS, asking escaped British or Imperial officers to get into touch with him and he had good hopes of arranging their passage to EGYPT. Accordingly, the two officers met Lt.-Cmdr VERNICOS who arranged to hide and accommodate them in the Cretan hill villages.
On discovering that there were still a large number of Imperial Service personnel at large in CRETE, it was decided to form a headquarters from which to organise their passages to British Territory and, under the direction of LT.-Cmdr. VERNICOS, hiding places while waiting. Fruitless attempts were made to send a mission to EGYT to arrange the evacuation of the Imperial Service personnel. At last this became possible when a clandestine organisation was found, transporting Cretan soldiers from the Greek mainland to MENES, the northern-most point of cape SPARTHA.
After an arduous wait of ten days, enduring great hardships, a 20 ft. sailing boat arrived. This should have taken the whole party to the PELOPONNESE, but on the way they encountered bad weather and were forced to make CYTHERA Island and on the next day, ELAPHONSISUS. By various ways and after a number of difficulties the party managed to sail in a small boat by way of the AEGEAN Islands to the Turkish mainland.
In very trying circumstances, this officer was an excellent second to Captain PARISH, leader of this party.
Myles Hildyard, who has died aged 90, was awarded an MC in 1942 for his daring escape from a PoW camp on Crete.
In 1941, B Battery of the Nottinghamshire (Sherwood Rangers) Yeomanry was posted to Crete. Hildyard, then a captain with the battery, was based at Khelvis, overlooking the harbour of Suda Bay. On May 28, following the German invasion, the battery was ordered to destroy its guns and evacuate.
Hildyard's troop led the way, hiding in ditches, patches of corn or olive groves to escape the incessant bombing and machine-gunning. By June 1, the battery was only 20 yards from the embarkation point on the beaches when it was told that no more troops could be taken off and they were to surrender.
Finding food was the most pressing problem. Hildyard pursued a chicken into a house occupied by Australian soldiers. He boldly claimed it, decapitated it and ate it.
After a group of Alpine troops marched up the road and captured them, Hildyard talked to them in German and passed round cigarettes. He avoided being searched and held on to his Cretan knife and compass.
When Hildyard learned that the Allied officers were to be flown off the island, he and a comrade, Captain Michael Parish, decided to break out of their PoW camp at Galatos. Food was filched from German stores and, carrying a bucket and spade in an effort to look like a working party, they set off.
Dressed in bright blue hospital coats, they ran straight into two German soldiers. They pressed unripe grapes on them and persuaded them that nobody would try to escape in such garments. By the next day, they were moving along gorges into the hills.
A shepherd gave them goat's milk, a barber shaved them, a cobbler mended their shoes. Weak with dysentery, they fell heavily as they stumbled along the rocky paths, all the time keeping on the move. Their scratches went septic, the houses were full of fleas and the tree-locusts screeched all day.
Eventually, they traced a Greek naval officer, Lt-Cdr Vernicos, who hoped to find a ship that would take them off the island. Early in August, after walking for 25 hours, they reached a village near the sea. Hildyard found some canvas from a crashed glider and they used this to bind their feet, which were in shreds.
Vernicos then found a 20-ft caique in the town of Menes. It was owned by a shoemaker who wanted 1,000 drachmae per head passenger money. There was a quarrel over terms and Vernicos had to climb along the bowsprit yelling and brandishing his revolver before he got his party aboard and headed for Turkey.
The winds were often contrary, and they rowed through many nights dodging the enemy patrol boats. On Milos, Parish fell while climbing a cliff, fracturing his skull. Early in September, 90 days after they had slipped out of the German camp, they reached the Turkish mainland.
Hildyard and Parish returned through Smyrna, Damascus and Jerusalem to Cairo. They were both awarded the MC.
Myles Thoroton Hildyard, the eldest of the three sons of a judge and the grandson of General Sir Henry Hildyard, was born in London on December 31 1914. He was educated at Eton and at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he read Law. He was called to the Bar but the war intervened.
In 1939 he was commissioned into the Nottinghamshire (Sherwood Rangers) Yeomanry (NSRY) and accompanied his regiment to Palestine. The struggle was going badly for the Allies. In regular letters home, Hildyard reproved his parents for listening to the depressing wireless broadcasts. It would be better, he suggested, to go to church or make booby traps disguised as Friesian cows for German parachutists.
After his capture on Crete, the first his family knew of his survival was when the branch manager of the local bank contacted them to say that a cheque had been drawn in their son's name. His mother fainted on hearing the news.
In November 1941, Hildyard rejoined NSRY. He took part in the battle of Alamein as divisional intelligence officer and then returned to his regiment as adjutant and fought in the battles of Mareth and Enfidaville.
Hildyard accompanied NSRY in the Normandy landings on D-Day and then served at HQ 7th Armoured Division as GSO3 Intelligence. He took part in the negotiations for the surrender of Hamburg in the last days of the war in Europe. He was awarded an MBE and was twice mentioned in dispatches.
After the war, Hildyard returned to Flintham Hall, near Newark, in Nottinghamshire, an originally medieval and Jacobean manor house that had been in the family since 1789.
In the 1850s, the by then largely Georgian structure was remodelled and enlarged by TC Hine, of Nottingham, into a classic Victorian pile, with curious tracery similar to that designed by Hine for warehouses in Nottingham. A large central tower was added at the front of the house, and a vast barrel-vaulted conservatory and galleried saloon at the back.
Hildyard was devoted to Flintham and it became his life's work. He took over the estate from his father and farmed it successfully. He was also the creator of the house's splendid gardens.
Braving the rigid mores of the post-war world, he ordered a statue of Michelangelo's David, dazzlingly white in his nakedness and almost life-size, to be placed at the head of the swimming-pool. The carrier thought it must be meant for the village church and left it in the porch.
Hildyard was a founding member of the Nottinghamshire branch of the Campaign for the Preservation of Rural England and its president for 15 years. He was also fascinated by local history and was president of the Thoroton Society, founded by his ancestor Dr Robert Thoroton, for more than 40 years. He was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Nottinghamshire in 1954.
Myles Hildyard died on August 13 2005. He never married, his life at Flintham being made congenial by the presence of two male companions. A collection of his engaging wartime letters, entitled "It Is Bliss Here", will be published in the autumn.
This obituary was reproduced by kind permission from The Telegraph Media Group
Citation for the M.B.E.
77788 WS/Lieut T/Capt HILDYARD Myles Thoroton Notts (SR) Yeomanry
Captain HILDYARD is the best GSO III (I) whom I have met in this war. He has a first class memory, good military judgment and is always able to produce a balanced picture of enemy strength and dispositions. He gets through an enormous amount of work without any fuss. The information and advice which he has been able to give during the past weeks have contributed very materially to the successful operations undertaken by this Division.
(Of course it is entirely possible that Myles wrote this citation himself, since he was on the divisional staff at the time. However, he was known to have been a very good staff officer.)
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