He went back and stretched the rope from the shore to one of the rescue craft. The soldiers were now able to pull themselves off the beach much more quickly and safely. Hichens got a lift back in a yacht and was awarded the D.S.C.
In November, after further training, he joined a motor gunboat flotilla, and soon showed that, despite the physical strains in these bouncy craft, greater maturity was not the hindrance, but a blessing. In the hands of heavy-footed youngsters they were constantly breaking down without achieving very much.
After proving how valuable the gunboats could be Hichens was appointed to the 6th Flotilla, under the command of Lt. Peter Howes, R.N. In February 1941, Hichens became the first RNVR officer to have command of a gunboat. In September, Howes was posted to another station, and on his recommendation Hichens became the first RNVR officer to command a flotilla. This was not an easy time to take over. Howes had done a splendid job, creating the first successful gunboat unit and proving their usefulness, but there was still a strong feeling among the regulars, both officers and men, to transfer to bigger ships to see more action. In a short time they had nearly all been replaced by “Hostilities Only” men, for whom Hichens had a high regard. Although some had never been to sea before, their dedication was such that they learned their trades remarkably quickly, put up with difficult conditions with hardly a complaint.
Increasingly, the action was now taking place on the other side of the water, to the great advantage of our coastal shipping and fishing.
Hichens had a constant struggle to get the gun boats adequately equipped. Starting as submarine hunters, they had machine-guns and depth charges. A daring and skilful helmsman could drop the depth charges under bigger craft, like armed trawlers, which was quite effective.