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West Wales Veterans Archive
Dates of Interview: 14th September 2022. Saundersfoot
Interviewer: Hugh Morgan.
Material included in collection: Filmed interview recorded interview with Duncan Hilling, photographs, and short written description.

Duncan Hilling was interviewed for the West Wales Veterans Archive on 14th September 2002 at his home in Saundersfoot.

Aged 96yrs old at the time of this interview Duncan eloquently provides a wonderful description of Saundersfoot during the 1930’s and early years of the Second World War but also a vivid and at times harrowing account of the effect of the Atom Bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which end the Second World War.

Duncan was a member of the first British troops to enter Japan just a few weeks after the Atom Bombs had been dropped onto these two Japanese cities by the American Air Force. The troops from the 2nd Mortar Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers were given no warning about the appalling dangers of radioactivity and venturing into Hiroshima and Nagasaki collected small items from the devastated cities wreckage back to their Barracks. Unsurprisingly during the years after the end of the war, cancer took its toll amongst Duncan’s closest comrades who went with him into these cities and its hospitals. Today at the remarkable age of 96yrs Duncan is the sole survivor from this group.

The filmed footage included in Duncan’s collection has been divided into two sections.

In Part One Duncan describes his childhood being brought up in Saundersfoot, the outbreak of WW2 and the early years the war including an aircraft crash nearby and the bombing of Pembroke Dock, Swansea, and Llanelli. He finishes Part One having volunteered and entering the RAF on 4th April 1944, to being transferred to the Army on 17th August 1944, and his initial service in India with the 2nd Mortar Battalion of the Royal Welch (which on 10th October 1945 became renamed as the Royal Welch Fusiliers.)

In Part Two, Duncan continues with his recollections from India and then into Japan, finding the Japanese civilian population friendly and welcoming despite Japan’s recent surrender and the end of the War. Duncan describes visiting a hospital in Hiroshima and the trauma contained within. After being in Japan for 9 months, the 2nd Bttn RWF is then posted to Malaya and in 1947, close to demob, Duncan becomes ill and spends three months in the Military Hospital whilst his friends have already returned to England and demob. Duncan is eventually dispatched back home and during December 1947 and January 1948 is given long-overdue leave and is then placed on the Army Reserve.

Duncan describes that he was told he had three options for civilian occupation: shoemaker, horticulture, or farming. His childhood sweetheart and shortly to become his wife, Audrey, then shared her thoughts with him. Duncan listened carefully to Audrey and felt his only option was to become a gardener.

The film finishes with Duncan describing his highly successful career as a Head Gardener in Picton House, and in psychiatric hospitals in the South-East and South-West of England, and St David’s hospital in Carmarthen.

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