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The biography of the RNVR's most decorated officer from WW2.
on 15 December 2007
Mention any of history's greatest conflicts and certain names spring readily to mind either because they were great commanders or great heroes. Generally speaking, Robert Hichens is not one of those names - though it should be!
The Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) is the RN equivalent of the Territorial Army and provides a platform for those who are not fully employed by HM Forces to undertake their military training and weekends and other convenient times. During WW2, of course, these reservists were called up for full time duty. Robert Hichens was just one such person.
Commencing his wartime career in minesweepers, he earned his first DSC by twice going ashore at Dunkirk to help organise the evacuation. In October 1940 he transferred to Coastal Forces and was given command of a fast motor gunboat. Such were his skills of seamanship and leadership that he was quickly given command of a flotilla of these craft and was soon operating against the larger and more heavily armed German equivalent. In April 1943, however, Robert Hichens was killed in Action. By this time he had earned two DSOs, another two DSCs and was also Mentioned in Despatches. He had also been recommended for the Victoria Cross.
Despite there being another two years of warfare to endure, Robert Hichens remains the most decorated member of the RNVR from WW2 and this is his story. It is a story about the man from his roots to his final action. It is a complete story recounted by his son Antony. It is a story which should be read by all those with an interest in the wide-ranging subject of World War Two - if only to bring the name of this highly decorated officer more readily to mind.