Guild of One-Name Studies
One-name studies, Genealogy
Hilton Digby Ronald Rayment was born in Auckland, New Zealand, on 12th September 1914, the son of Queenie Rayment, a 22-year-old unmarried immigrant from Chilworth in Surrey, England.
He grew up in Tauranga attending Otumoetai School and Tauranga District High School where he excelled at sport, rugby and rowing in particular and played rugby for both Bay of Plenty and Auckland. He represented Bay of Plenty from 1933 to 1940 and was a prominent full back at the time of the All Black team-that-never-was in 1939, because war was declared. As an oarsman he notched up several Auckland provincial rowing titles in pairs, fours and eights. He began a career in the building industry but this was interrupted by the war.
He joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force when war broke out in September 1939 and after an introduction course at Levin and initial training with the No 3 EFTS at Harwood, he undertook advanced training at No 6 SFTS at Dunville, Ontario in Canada. Training complete, he sailed for England to join the 243 squadron and was sent to North Africa in 1942 to support the eighth army in Alamein with 238 Squadron, flying Spitfires and Hurricanes.
Shot down and captured after attacking an enemy airfield in 1943, he was transported to Germany where he spent the next two and half years in Stalag Luft III along with fellow New Zealander Bill Griffith (who, like himself, later retired to Katikati in New Zealand). The two New Zealand pilots both played vital roles in the escape attempts from the prisoner of war camp, later made famous in the movie “The Great Escape”, when Hilton used his experience as a carpenter and a rower to devise ventilation bellows which operated on the principle of a rowing machine, using hockey sticks, leather bags, ping pong bats and tin cans to ventilate the famous 336-foot long Stalag Luft III escape tunnel called “Harry”.
Hilton dedicated his interment at Stalag Luft III to making things as difficult as possible for his captors and as a result spent time in solitary confinement for escape attempts and disrespectful comments about Hitler and the camp commandant. Although some of the prisoners did escape, the attempt was discovered by German guards and an enraged Hitler ordered 50 air force officers to be executed as a warning to others.
Liberated in May 1945 at the end of the war, he returned to England before making his way home to New Zealand through North America, arriving in Auckland in January 1946. He settled in the town of Katikati and became actively involved in the local community, creating successful building and farming businesses.
He continued to maintain a wide and active interest in all sports and was made a life member of the Katikati Rugby Club. He also enjoyed bowls and successfully competed in many tournaments around the Bay well into his retirement.
He died in his 86th year, being survived by his wife Meg, their four daughters and 10 grandchildren.
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