Howard Ernest Hilford

31 Jan 1921 – 16 Feb 2001


Mary Ellen Hilford (Strawbridge)
Death:1963 (70-71)
Ernest Hayward Hilford
Birthdate:May 31, 1893
Birthplace:Mangapai, Northland, New Zealand
Death:June 22, 1984 (91)

Howard Ernest Hilford was born in Whangarei hospital 31 January 1931. He grew up, alongside his three brothers ,Jack, Leon, Murray and sister Yvonne  He attended Waiotira primary school and went to Whangarei High School.  At the age of 17 he joined the Royal NZ Navy.

Many New Zealanders saw service with Arctic Ocean convoys to North Russia.

Veterans of the Arctic Convoys 1941 – 1945

About 7,000 New Zealand officers and ratings served with the Royal Navy for varying periods during the Second World War. The peak was reached in September 1944 when the total strength of the Royal New Zealand Navy was 10,635 of whom 1,242 officers and 3,659 ratings (a total of 4,901) were serving overseas in ships and establishments of the Royal Navy.

New Zealanders saw active service in ships of every type from battleships and aircraft-carriers to submarines, motor-launches, and landing craft and in every sea from Spitzbergen in the Arctic to Cape Horn and from Iceland to the shores of Japan. They took part in every major naval engagement or operation and in countless minor actions, as well as in the ceaseless patrols and sea drudgery that make up so great a part of naval warfare. A majority of them were ‘hostilities only’ men from farm, factory, office or college, and all gave a good account of themselves.

The passage of a Russian convoy was one of the most hazardous and arduous operations of the war at sea. The ships were exposed to attack by U-boats throughout the run and for 1400 miles were within range of German aircraft, with the added risk of forays by the Tirpitz, Scharnhorst, and other heavy ships.

From 1942 onward the convoys were run mainly during the winter months, when the long hours of darkness reduced the risk of air attack. The task of shepherding a convoy of slow, heavily laden ships through bitter Arctic gales and snowstorms was a grim ordeal. Weather damage was often severe. Several escort aircraft-carriers buckled the fore-end of their flight deck 60 feet above the waterline and one recorded a heavy sea which rolled the whole length of the deck.

This twin Mk. 21 6-inch turret is the ‘Y’ turret from HMS/HMNZS Achilles and was the aft turret when she went into action at the Battle of the River Plate on 13 December 1939.

When INS Delhi was decommissioned the turret was offered to New Zealand as a memorial to the men who had fought in her during Achilles service with the Royal New Zealand Navy.

In 1993, work was began on the concrete foundations for the turret and director control tower to be placed at the main entrance to HMNZS Philome

After the war, Howard lived in Wellington and worked as a merchant seaman.  He meet (Barbara Sellars) at a dance and were soon married.  They lived in Wellington, where they had four children – Brenda, Peter, Lesley and Alan

Howard Hilford Passed Away in 2001 in Orewa North of Auckland. He has three grandchildren, Samantha Bowden, Jesse and Caillan Hilford  

Permission to use information and photos has been given. Photos and information supplied by Lesley Hilford.

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