CALGARY – He fought in D Day and completed over 100 missions piloting a Hawker Typhoon plane, but this Remembrance Day is the first without World War II veteran Jack Hilton.
While memories can fade over the years, Hilton had said the nightmares and flashbacks from the pilot seat became more vivid. The stories he told until he was 99 will forever keep him alive.
Sandra Kratz, Hilton’s daughter, talks about her childhood like it was a decades-long family vacation–with Hilton in the Royal Canadian Air Force, they moved every 14 months. And her parents brought their humour to every new home they shared.
“No matter what disaster happened they could always say, ‘Well, you now it could always be worse.'”
Hilton died March 7, 2019, at the age of 99. He was well known for his war stories and book The Saga of A Canadian Typhoon Fighter Pilot, which was released in 2015.
Kratz says her father suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after the war.
“He would never talk to us about it because he would have nightmares. And my mom went through it once and she said ‘no more’,” Kratz recalled.
“He went and gave a speech when they were living in Airdrie… and when he came back he had nightmares for two nights and my mother said, ‘That’s it. You’re not doing that again.'”
Hilton became a regular at the Hangar Flight Museum, sitting front row at Remembrance Day services and taking selfies with kids.
“Of course he was very humble, really didn’t talk about his experiences–most veterans never do,” said Retired RCAF member Honorary Col. John Melbourne.
“His face would light up, of course, when he did talk about flying the aircraft. The whole joy of it was flying that particular airplane.”
Hilton enlisted in the RCAF at just 19 years old. In 2015, he was awarded the Legion of Honour for his role in liberating France from the Nazis–it’s the country’s highest military honour.
The hangar is adding to this display to honour Hilton, it includes his helmet, wings and winter flight jacket.
“God bless you. We miss you. And you’re flying in better skies upstairs,” Melbourne said at a ceremony for the display unveiling earlier this week.
“Dad’s wish was that he wanted to go to sleep. And he got it,” Kratz said.