P/O Gordon Kirby Hignell  RCAF

197 Squadron RAF, May 10, 1943 – July 23, 1943

Of the nine Canadians who served with 197 Sqn, eight were shot down (seven KIA and one POW). Canadians provided about eight per cent of the total number of pilots (approx. 112) who flew with 197 Sqn during the two and a half years of its existence but their losses equate to about 20 per cent of 197’s total losses (approx. 40 KIA/POW). P/O Gordon Kirby “Bud” Hignell  RCAF (J16808) was one of them.

Gordon Kirby Hignell was the son of Gordon Kirby Hignell and Margaret May (nee Thompson) Hignell. He was born in Carberry, Manitoba. He liked swimming and fencing. He had one brother: Edward, 28. He was the husband of Marion (nee Smith) Hignell, of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. They were married on November 8, 1941, in Saskatoon, and she later moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba. The family attended the United Church.

Hignell worked in the office of the Ogilvie Flour Mills Co. Limited as a clerk for a period of three years, beginning in 1937. He said that after the war, he wanted to study music and be employed as a singer. 

Hignell enlisted in the RCAF on May 5, 1941. At No. 3 ITS, May 28 – July 3, 1941. “Fair educational background. Neat. Alert. Rather quiet. Easy going. Pleasant personality. Cheerful. Average type.” was written in his file.

At No. 14 ETS, July 3 – August 20, 1941: “Fairly good student but is inclined to become careless if not watched closely.” In Ground Training: “A very steady and keen type of student. He is inclined to do things without thinking and should be watched for this.”

At No. 11 SFTS, August 20-November 7, 1941: “A hard-working, average pilot, slightly nervous temperament, low on instrument flying, but no outstanding faults. Pleasing personality. Started out poorly, but improved greatly during the last half of the course. Not very self-confident yet but will improve with experience.

Hignell was awarded his Pilot’s Flying Badge on November 7, 1941. He departed Canada on December 9, 1941, and arrived at 3 PRC on December 19, 1941. He was at the M. E. Pool from January 8, 1942, until he was sent to the M.E. Pool at Amriya in May 1942. He was sent to Iraq July 20, 1942, then to RAF Shaibah, August 5, 1942. He was back at 5 (P) AFU January 14, 1943. He was at 56 OTU March 2, 1942, and assigned to 197 Squadron May 10, 1943.

P/O Gordon Kirby Hignell RCAF (J16808) – Log Book 197 Sqn RAF

On July 23, 1943, P/O “Bud” Hignell was detailed to take part in a ground strafing (rhubarb) operation over enemy-occupied territory in northern France in Typhoon IB JP426. He reported the presence of flak, Hignell’s aircraft did not seem to be in trouble, according to the pilot of another aircraft in the same formation. But it was feared that due to some enemy opposition, Hignell was forced down. There was nothing more heard from him.

German documents reported that a Typhoon came down at Belmesnil on July 23, 1943. The pilot was of the RCAF and was wearing a signet with the letters G.K.H. He was buried in the Military Cemetery of Les Vertus, Dieppe. He had last been seen in the Yvetot area, 25 miles SW of Dieppe, about 1500 hours.

On April 29, 1947, Hignell’s body was exhumed and placed in the Hautot Sur Mer Canadian War Cemetery. “The few remains left go to confirm the marking on the cross that the grave contains a Canadian airman.”

P/O Gordon Kirby Hignell  J16808

Born: December 20, 1918, died: July 23, 1943

Information reproduced with kind permission from The Typhoon Project. Digitised files from www.ancestry.ca and the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.