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Desmond Hill: RAF jet-setter who was just born to be a high-flyer

Veteran RAF pilot Desmond Hill, who has died aged 87 in Holywood, just had to be an aviator.

His father was a decorated First World War pilot who fell for Desmond's mother-to-be Mary – a nurse – as he recovered from injuries after his plane was shot down.

Back in civvy street, Hill snr was chief designer and chief pilot for planemaker Westlands. As a six-year-old, Desmond was taking flying by his father.

As a student, Hill jnr went to Cambridge, and became a talented member of its air squadron. He joined the RAF in 1945 as the Second World War ended and trained in Tiger Moths and Harvards.

Desmond was instructed at the controls of Spitfires by Ulsterman Ken McKenzie. At 21 he was the youngest RAF pilot to fly jets, when he took over the cockpit of a Meteor.

Desmond Hill, a native of Woking in Surrey, left the RAF in July 1949 and he and wife Belinda moved to Malahide, when he worked for Unilever and General Electric. Eventually the family settled in Bangor, Co Down. Belinda, who died last Christmas, was the daughter of Group Captain Edward Turner, commanding officer of RAF Aldergrove in the late-1920s.

Desmond was cremated at Roselawn after a funeral conducted by Canon Jim Sims. The congregation sang There Is A Green Hill Far Away by Cecil Frances Alexander, of whom he was a great nephew. He is survived by son Richard, who lives in Australia, daughters Venitia and Leanda, and four grandchildren.

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