Len Hiller served on the Voltaire and became a POW

Please see updates and corrections from January 11, 2009 and January 21, 2009

Hello Mac,

I have attached several photos. My Uncle, Len Hiller served on the Voltaire and became a POW. I have recently obtained these photos from my cousin. I know the second photo was taken in a POW camp, perhaps another interested party may be able to put names to the people in these photos. My Uncle went on to work as a masseur with soccer clubs in Belfast, Nth Ireland and has since passed away. We believe he learned the skill while a POW.

Len was one of six brothers to serve with Royal Navy during WWII. They were Joe, Len, Arty, Sam, George and John Hiller.

My father, Sam Hiller was on the Kelly, under Lord Louis Mountbatten when war was declared. He also served on the Royal Oak, Whitehall, Doimede, Hermes, Jupiter, however he spent an extended period of time on the aircraft carrier, HMS Victoriious.


Dad trained at the HMS Caledonia from 21st August 1937 aged 16.5yrs until the 3rd June 1938 before being posted to :

HMS Diomede, HMS Hermes, HMS Royal Oak, HMS Jupiter and finally the Aircraft Carrier, HMS Victorious from early 1941 until October 1946. He was discharged from the navy in 1949.

He was on the Arctic convoys on which another brother, Benjamin Arthur (Arty) Hiller, aged 23 died. He was on the the HMS Edinburgh which was carrying Russian Gold. She was torpedoed on 2 May 1941. My grandparents were informed that Len was missing in action after the Voltaire went down on 9/04/41and then they received the news that Arty was killed 2/5/1941. They did not find out that Len was alive until the war was over.

Thank you so much for providing so much information regarding the Voltaire. I look forward to using more of your website information and links.

My father is the last surviving brother, he has rarely spoken about the war and it has only been recently that he mentions it at all. It was a very traumatic time and he like thousand of others came home and were expected to just get on with life. He had been in the navy for approx. four years when war was declared, he was then only 18.

We came to Australia in 1965.

Kind regards 
Jackie Welsh (nee Hiller)

Len Hiller on left
Len Hiller on left

Len Hiller in Canada after WWII
Len Hiller in Canada after WWII

Len Hiller perhaps top right
Len Hiller perhaps top right

POW Camp Len Hiller - front
POW Camp - Len Hiller - front



Thank you for your interesting letter and the photographs.

I guess there were not too many families that could boast they had six brothers, all in the Royal Navy in WW2.
Would your Dad be aware that the
Ministry of Defence in UK have recently released an Arctic Emblem to be pinned on either the 1939/1945 or Atlantic Star ribbon?

To qualify one needed to have served for 24 hours above the Arctic Circle 66 degrees 30 minutes North. His brother's family could also claim it for Benjamin.

I have just received my Emblem from London having served in HMAS Australia in August of 1940 up in and around Bear Island.

I will send you the details and a claim form in a separate E-Mail. Where are you in Australia?

Best wishes.


Here is Arty's record from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

You may not have seen it.

Hello Mac,

Thank you so much for your information re the Arctic Emblem. I have downloaded the application form and I will speak to Dad.

I very much appreciated the info on the Edinburgh, I had found out quite a bit about her final voyage via the internet but nothing as in depth as what you have provided.

I visited the war memorial at "The Hoe" in Plymouth where Uncle Arty's name is listed in June 06, something I had always wanted to do. It really is the most beautiful location for the memorial and the statues of the sailors dressed in the uniforms they would have worn on the Arctic convoys are extremely realistic and moving. The weather was beautiful and ships of the Royal Navy sailed past on their way to their port. It somehow seemed appropriate that these ships passed while I was at the memorial. Since I was a small child, Dad always told us about Arty and his name being listed in Plymouth, although he really never discussed the war as such. For sailors lost at sea these memorials must have become the equivalent of a final resting place and prehaps a place to say farewell. Apparently my grandmother would visit Plymouth to see her son, George (who settled there after the war) and her first stop always had to be "The Hoe".

The women of the time must have had amazing strength to carry on with life, knowing full well they may not see their loved ones again, often with husbands, sons and brothers serving at the same time.  I think it must have been a blessing that they did not have television to broadcast the horrors of war into their living rooms.

In regards to my location in Oz. We came to Australia in 1965 and lived in Benalla, North Eastern Victoria. Dad was very determined to move to a location that did not have a lot of English and Irish immigrants. He believed if you wanted to live in Australia then you should become an Australian. Dad arranged for us to become Australian citizens in 1971, even though it was not a legal requirement. Dad still lives in Benalla and I live on a farm at Glenrowan West (approx 22km north of Benalla).

I find the history of the Navy in WWII incredibly interesting and I am in awe of what people like yourself, my father and his brothers achieved. Keep up your amazing work.

Kind regards

Hello Mac,
I hope you are keeping well.
I have received the Arctic Star, one for Dad and one to go with my late Uncles medals. Thank you so much for the information which enable Dad to receive the Artic Star, he is really quite pleased even though his comment was " I have already a medal from the Russians".
I was wondering with your extensive knowledge if you could offer any answers to the following query.
My Dad (Sam Hiller) served on the HMS Victorious when she was seconded to the Americans (she was know as the USS Robin) in the Pacific. As he is now starting to have problems with his short term memory, the past seems to have become increasingly important to him. He often asks me if I could find out if any of the sailors killed while serving under the Americans ever received a medal from the US government? Dad lost several close friends during this time and he hopes that their parents may have received some recognition from the US for their sacrifice.

Hopefully the cold Melbourne weather is not being too unkind to you, it is very nice to see some green grass, much more pleasant to look at after many months of dust.
Kind regards
Jackie Welsh


Nice to hear from you and I am pleased you were able to get the Arctic Star emblem for both your Dad and your late Uncle.

We are not long back from a trip to Munich, a 7 day cruise down the Danube and a spell in Budapest. All went off very well, the weather fine all the time.

Yes the rain is good, and I trust you have had your share in the country.

Here is a bit about HMS Victorious when briefly loaned to the Yanks to embark their air crews.


Just a thought. Would the USS Robin have been 'wet' or 'dry' (alcohol/no alcohol)? If 'wet', what would be the position of the US navy air crew - subjected to mental and physical torture, or invited to partake of an ancient and hallowed British tradition?

And then there's the RN's 832 Avenger squadron on the USS Saratoga. I wonder if there was a dramatic rise in the number of emergency landings on the Robin/Victorious?

Jackie, I could not unearth any detail of US medals being awarded to British crew members.

That's it.

Best wishes,

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