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Telephone: 0131 226 6932 or 0845 388 5879
46 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3NH, Scotland (TSOH)

Biography and current catalogue for

Herbert William Hillier (b. 1869 fl.1900-1930) 

Hillier was an established London architect, artist and etcher who made fine quality etchings of London and elsewhere from 1900 until the Great War. Three of his works were exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1912-14. Although in his forties, he joined the Royal Naval Reserve and in 1915 volunteered as a war artist and served as an Able Seaman in the Dardanelles Campaign at the age of 46 aboard a former tramp steamer, requisitioned by the Navy as HMS Manica, which became the first Royal Naval balloon ship, specially adapted with a large wooden launching platform, powerful winches, a hydrogen compressor and gas tanks. The balloons were of the “Drachen” type (German for kite) and were very large gas bags with inflatable tail fins to aid stability in windy conditions. She mounted a single 12 pounder and anti-aircraft guns. Her support to the guns of the Fleet engaging the enemy in the land battle was considered a considerable success and further balloon ships were requisitioned. Her crew were fondly referred to by the rest of the Fleet as the "Maniac Balloonatics". Hillier went up in the balloons with the naval gunfire spotters and between April and July 1915 made invaluable sketches, annotated with his extensive and detailed notes, which he typed up on his return. These, together with his diary and 160 sketches made from the deck, sometimes under fire, are now in the collection of the Imperial War Museum. They were purchased by the Museum in 1926, apart from one, which he presented to commemorate his two brothers who had both been killed in 1918. It has been difficult to research his wartime activities, most likely because he was “merely” an AB, who had to carry out his everyday duties of sentry watches, coaling, man-handling the balloons and no doubt holystoning the decks in addition to his sketching.
After the War, he travelled in France and made fine, highly detailed etchings of Paris, which were published in The Studio; titles included, The Medici Astrological Column, Cathedral of Notre Dame and Views from The Madeleine. He also made etchings of The Bishop's Palace and The Cathedral in Amiens.
Exhibited at The Fine Art Society, Bond Street, between 1923-26.