Vivian Joseph (Smoky) HIBBENS

Badge Number: TBC, Sub Branch: Richmond NSW
TBC

HIBBENS, Vivian Joseph

Service Number: 400712
Enlisted: 13 October 1940, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Warrant Officer
Last Unit: No. 145 Squadron (RAF)
Born: Bemboka, New South Wales, 16 January 1922
Home Town: Corowa, Corowa Shire, New South Wales
Schooling: Corowa Primary & Corowa High Schools
Occupation: Bank Clerk
Died: Heart attack, Huskisson, New South Wales, 10 June 1972, aged 50 years
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Memorials:
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World War 2 Service

13 Oct 1940: Involvement Leading Aircraftman, SN 400712, Aircrew Training Units, Enlistment/Embarkation WW2
13 Oct 1940: Enlisted Melbourne, Victoria
11 Apr 1941: Involvement Sergeant, SN 400712, Aircrew Training Units, Empire Air Training Scheme
30 Sep 1941: Involvement Sergeant, SN 400712, No. 234 Squadron (RAF), Air War NW Europe 1939-45
10 Apr 1942: Involvement Sergeant, SN 400712, No. 145 Squadron (RAF), Middle East / Mediterranean Theatre
18 Jul 1942: Involvement Sergeant, SN 400712, No. 145 Squadron (RAF), Prisoners of War
10 May 1943: Involvement Flight Sergeant, SN 400712, No. 145 Squadron (RAF), Prisoners of War
10 May 1944: Involvement Warrant Officer, SN 400712, No. 145 Squadron (RAF), Prisoners of War
20 Nov 1945: Discharged

STORY from his daughter Jennifer

My father "Smoky" Hibbens enlisted in the RAAF in Melbourne on 13th October 1940 and was trained under the Empire Air Training Scheme doing his Elementary Flying Training at Narromine NSW. He gained his Wings at Camp Borden, Ontario, Canada. His time in Canada was not without incident - along with a close friend and fellow trainee Andy Fotheringham (A Canadian from New Jersey, Canada) they took a plane each and beat up a little town called Barrie just north of Niagara Falls. Seeing as though they flew between the post office and a hotel just above car height at 160mph - they received quiet lenient sentences. Andy was found guilty of one charge and received 21 days detention and my father was found guilty of four charges and received 62 days detention reduced to 31.

After gaining his Wings at Camp Borden , Ontario on 13th September 1941 he was then shipped to England where he converted to Spitfires and then attached to the 234 Squadron at Ibsley in Hampshire - RAF 145 Squadron of the 244 Wing at Landing Ground 154 from May to July where he then flew Supermarine Spitfires and Hurricanes

In April 1942 he was posted to service in the Middle East to fly Spitfires with the RAF 145 squadron. He travelled to his destination in Egypt via Sierra Leone. After completing only eight operational sorties with his squadron he was detailed to transport a Hawker Hurricane fighter to 33 squadron RAF at Landing Ground 154 near Alexandria during the First Battle of El Alamein on 18th July 1942. He encourtered a sandstorm turned to the east to avoid it and was then blown off course by wind and attacked by 13 German ME109 Fighter aircraft. His aricraft was badly damaged and running out of fuel when he crashed close to german tanks near the El Alamein front line. He was not injured but was immediately captured and then sustained a bayonet wound to his left upper arm. He was taken to Mersa Matruh on the coast before being transported to a prisoner of war camp at Frankfurt in Germany for interrogation. On 8th August 1942 he was transferred to Stalag V111B (later Stalag 344) at Lamsdorf where he remained until Jan 1945. He was twice promoted while a prisoner to Flight Sergeant in May 1943 and to Warrant Officer in May 1944

He made several escape attemps whilst a POW and used to swap IDs and escape -then being caught and then doing it again. He made 11 escape attempts all up - always heading for the Oder River and the Russian lines - the longest time he was on the run was 13 days when he was finally picked up the the German Waffen SS

He escaped from a Death March in the Black Forest along the Czech German border on 16th April, 1945. He was picked up the the Czech underground who hid him until the Americans came through and liberated him and the town of Kayne on 27th April, 1945. He then went with the Americans into Berlin acting as their interpreter and was the last of the RAAF POWs from Stalag V111B to be repatriated back to England in June 1945

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Biography

Vivian Joseph HIBBENS was born on 16th January, 1922 at Bemboka, NSW

His parents were Herbert Ernest Mingus HIBBENS and Ethel Cecilia PRITCHARD - he also had a sister Norma Pearl b. 1924 Bemboka

Vivian married Muriel Isabel ROBINSON on 21st July 1947 - one daughter Jennifer Frances HIBBENS

He enlisted with the Royal Australian Air Force on 13th October 1940 in Melbourne and was discharged on 20th November 1945

He died on 10th June 1972 in Huskisson, NSW and is buried in Lakeside Memorial Park, Kanahooka - Site 2, Section A, Lot 36, Garden of Ascension

 

Service History (courtesy of AWM)

 

Vivian Hibbens was working as a bank officer in Melbourne when he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on 13 October 1940, at the age of 18. Hibbens had previously served for a year in the militia, in the 8th Light Horse Regiment (Indi Light Horse). Assigned the service number 400712 Hibbens was accepted for aircrew training in December 1940 and promoted to leading aircraftman.

After initial pilot training at 5 Elementary Flying Training School at Narromine, NSW, Hibbens was sent to Canada for further flying experience with the Empire Air Training Scheme, arriving there in April 1941.  Hibbens graduated as an airman pilot on 13 September 1941, after training at Camp Borden and Halifax, and was promoted to sergeant. He had with him a mascot 'Kola' called Anzac which he carried in his cockpit on every flight he made, as a lucky talisman. Shortly afterwards he moved to the United Kingdom to undertake training as a Spitfire pilot, attached to 234 Squadron at Ibsley in Hampshire.

In April 1942 he was posted to service in the Middle East to fly Spitfires with 145 Squadron RAF. He travelled to his destination in Egypt via Sierra Leone. After completing only eight operational sorties with his squadron, Hibbens was detailed to transport a Hawker Hurricane fighter to 33 Squadron RAF, at Landing Ground 154 near Alexandria during the First Battle of El Alamein, on 18 July 1942. Hibbens encountered a sandstorm, turned to the east to avoid it, and was then blown off course by wind and attacked by 13 German Me109 fighter aircraft. His aircraft was badly damaged and running out of fuel when he crashed close to German tanks near the El Alamein front line. He was not injured, and took Anzac with him as he left the aircraft. He was immediately captured and taken to Mersa Matruh on the coast, before being transported to a prisoner of war camp at Frankfurt-am-Main in Germany.

In August 1942 he was transferred to Stalag VIIIB (later Stalag 344) at Lamsdorf, where he remained until January 1945. It is thought that Anzac was given by Hibbens to a British prisoner being repatriated to England on humanitarian grounds in 1943, with instructions to return him to his family in Australia with a message that he was alive and well. The Englishman apparently forgot the address and instead left Anzac at RAAF House in London, where he was placed behind the counter and reunited with his owner after the war in Europe had ended. Hibbens was twice promoted while a prisoner, to flight sergeant in May 1943, and to warrant officer in May 1944.

In January 1945, during an exceptionally cold winter, the Germans began moving many of their Allied prisoners across Germany in a series of forced marches, later called by the survivors, the 'Death Marches', or 'The March'. It was during the march of prisoners across Czechoslovakia that Hibbens made his final, and successful, bid to escape, the fifth he had attempted. Sheltered by members of the Czech resistance for three weeks he eventually reached the US Lines of the Air Signals Corps attached to the US 2nd Army at Kdyne, near the Austrian-Czech border, and accompanied them to Berlin, from where he was evacuated to Britain. Despite his request to be repatriated to Australia as soon as possible to fight the Japanese Hibbens returned home after the end of the war in the Pacific. He was discharged on 20 November 1945.

Anzac was again used as an aircraft lucky mascot in the early 1970s when Hibbens' daughter, Jenny, learned to fly and obtained her pilot's license.

HONOURS & AWARDS

Mentioned in Despatches  MiD

Citation (G H FILE RAAF 35D) GH File RAAF 8 - London Gazette 13th June 1946

He was a staunch member of the RSL all his life and led the Anzac Day and Memorial Day marches for his RSL clubs every year

STORY ABOUT HIS MASCOT KOALA - called ANZAC (www.awm.gov.au)

MEDALS AWARDED

1939-45 Star

Air Crew Europe Star

Africa Star

War medal 1939-45 Star

Australian Service Medal 1939-45 with Bronze Oak leaf for mentioned in dispatches

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