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Brett Hilder


Brett Hilder was born in 1911 the youngest son of renowned watercolourist Jesse Jewhurst Hilder. Hilder joined Burns Philp and Co as a cadet in 1927, gaining his masters certificate in 1937. A year later he obtained an additional master qualification, to become only the sixth Australian, at the time, to gain the qualification. As a sailor Hilder travelled extensively to the Dutch East Indies and the South Pacific Islands receiving his first vessel command in 1946.

Hilder was an exceptional navigator and during World War II taught navigation to Australian air crews, later rising to Wing Commander serving Catalina flying boats for the Royal Australian Air Force.

At the end of the war Hilder resumed his career as a merchant sea-captain and returned to Burns Philp and Co serving as master of the MULIAMA, MANGOLA, MORINDA, MALAITA and the BULOLO, eventually becoming Commodore of Burns Philp and Co.

After Burns Philp and Co eventually sold its fleet of vessels, Hilder joined the Australian Liner Services as Master of CAPE ARNHEM, later doing relief work in Pacific Tankers.

The Hilder group of five islands was named after Brett Hilder by British Admiralty, as was Hilder Reef, in the Two Mile Opening to the north of Lizard Island off the Great Barrier Reef. This honour was bestowed upon Hilder in recognition of his discovery in 1963 of a new passage through the reef.

Hilder was a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Royal Geographical Society and a member of the Company of Master Mariners and the founder of the Australian Institute of Navigation. He was a prolific armature painter and held several exhibitions of his work. Hilder wrote three books: 'Navigator in the South Seas' about his life and experiences as a ship captain; 'The Voyage of Torres' and 'The Heritage of JJ Hilder' about his father a prominent painter that supported a national touring exhibition of his father's work organised by the Queensland Art Gallery. Brett Hilder died in April 1981.