Denis Hills

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Denis Cecil Hills (8 November 1913 – 26 April 2004) was a British teacher, traveller, author and adventurer.


Denis Hills was born in the Birmingham suburb of Moseley. He attended King Edward's School, Birmingham before going on to Lincoln College, Oxford in 1932 to read PPE. In 1935, he left Oxford to travel through Germany, funding himself by writing for the Birmingham Post.

Returning to England, he worked briefly at Shell-Mex before moving to Poland in 1937 as English editor of a cultural magazine. Hills' book Return to Poland showed his fascination with pre-war Poland, and in 1939 he moved to Warsaw to teach English. At the outbreak of war, he moved to Romania where Hills worked with the British Council. He was for a time seconded to General Kopanski's Polish Carpathian Lancers Brigade, and then to the King's Own Royal Regiment. Polish-speaking, he joined the 5th Kresowa Division in Iraq and Palestine before being sent to Italy in 1944.

When the war was over, Hills became an interpreter and liaison officer with the Soviet military mission at Taranto. After being demobbed, he taught English in Germany and restless by nature cycled from the Arctic Circle to Salonika. In 1955 he moved to Turkey teaching English in Ankara before becoming an instructor at the Technical University. In 1963 he moved to Uganda, teaching at Makerere University in Kampala, when Idi Amin seized power in 1971. Hills spoke out regarding Amin in the book he was writing, The White Pumpkin and was arrested in April 1975 charged with espionage and sedition, tried and condemned to death by firing squad for referring to the dictator as a 'black Nero' and a 'village tyrant'. The Queen interceded on Hills' behalf, and the then-Foreign Secretary, James Callaghan, flew out to Kampala to bring Hills home.[1] In 1981 Hills played himself in the film Rise and Fall of Idi Amin.[2]

He returned to Africa in 1976, travelling through Southern Rhodesia, which was the subject of his book The Last Days of White Rhodesia. In 1982 he taught in Nairobi.

In 1985 he returned to Poland but was summarily expelled as a result of a piece in The Daily Telegraph's Peterborough column, in which he was described as travelling through Poland in order to write a "less than complimentary book about the Communist regime".

Denis Hills had a daughter (Gillian Hills) by his first wife Dunia Leśmian, daughter of Polish symbolist poet Bolesław Leśmian, and two sons by his second wife Ingrid Jan.


  • My Travels in Turkey (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1964)
  • Man with a Lobelia Flute (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1969)
  • The White Pumpkin (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1976)
  • Rebel People (London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1978)
  • The Last Days of White Rhodesia (London: Chatto and Windus, 1981)
  • The Rock of the Wind: a return to Africa (London: Deutsch, 1984)
  • Return to Poland (London: The Bodley Head Ltd, 1988)
  • Tyrants and Mountains: a reckless life (London: John Murray Publishers Ltd, 1992)


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