John Hill was born in Renfrew on 24th August 1895, to James and Jessie Hill. John decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and study Medicine at the University of Glasgow. His father had graduated MB CM in 1890 and MD in 1895.
John started his medical degree in 1912, intending to finish in 1917. He passed his first professional exams in October 1913 and March 1914, achieving a second class certificate of merit in Zoology. His studies were then interrupted by the First World War and he went off to serve with the Cameron Highlanders. He returned to the University in 1916 to continue his degree. He passed his second and third professional exams with ease but was required to resit his fourth professional examinations in Surgery and Clinical Surgery.
He achieved great success thereafter being awarded prizes in Clinical Surgery, Practice of Medicine, Midwifery and Medical Jurisprudence. His war service may have also contributed to his achievements in the Psychological Medicine class where he was awarded a first class certificate of merit. He graduated on 6th October 1919. His classmates noted in their yearbook that he was “The sort of man who comes up to you after dinner and says, ‘Pick a card’”.
On 7th June 1924 he married Grace Leisk Hunter, who had graduated MB ChB from the University in 1917. They married in the North Parish Church, Saltcoats and moved to Renfrew. In 1935 they moved to Highburgh Road in Glasgow’s West End. At that time John was again studying, undertaking research for a thesis. He gained an MD in 1936 for a thesis entitled Observation on the etiology of seasickness with special reference to cardio-vascular changes and indications of treatment. In March 1939 John made his will and joined the Merchant Navy. His final voyage was as Ship’s Surgeon aboard the ill fated RMS Lancastria.
The Lancastria had been built in Glasgow for the Cunard shipping line and named Tyrrhenia. Many people found it difficult to pronounce the name and so in 1924 she was renamed. In April 1940 the Lancastria was requisitioned by the Government as a troopship and was sent to help with the evacuation of British soldiers from Norway. In June she sailed into a war zone once more, shortly after the famous Dunkirk evacuation, to rescue soldiers fighting with the British Expeditionary Force in France.
On 17th June she was located just off the port of St Nazaire where she had been ordered to embark as many troops and civilians as she could hold. With 6,000 or more people on board, the Lancastria had just set off for home waters when she came under attack from German bombers. She was hit by at least three bombs and began to sink. At least 3,500 people are believed to have died in the bombing or in the water after the ship went down. John Hill was among those who died aboard the Lancastria that day. His name appears on the Tower Hill Memorial in London.
He was survived by his wife Grace. She died on 26th November 1950 in Glasgow.