Pilot Officer Gerald BILLING was probably Flying (?) Officer G D ‘Jerry’ BILLING of 401 (RCAF) Squadron, 2nd Tactical Air Force (as No.38 Group), downed by flak on 1st July 1944 with Spitfire IX ML135. He crash-landed south of Carentan in enemy territory, was seen running and finally evaded.
Biography of ‘Jerry Billing’ extracted from ‘All Spitfire pilots’ website
Born 04/20/1921 Essex Ontario Canada
As a young boy he dreamed of flying, after reading books about WWI pilots. When WWII started Jerry knew it was his chance to fly. He joined the RCAF in 1940 as an air gunner ( bomber), and advanced to wireless air gunner because of his eagerness to learn and his proficiency in Morse Code. With Jerry’s persistent requests of the training personnel for pilot training, the Commanding Officer finally relented, starting with the required test in Mathematics, which he passed. In London Ontario Jerry learned to fly the Fleet Finch and was one of the first to solo. He moved on to Dunnville Ontario in mid-1941 were he flew Yale aircraft (Jerry soloed the Yale with only two dual trips). With all the ground school completed, he was told he would be an Instructor based in Canada. This was insufficient as a challenge for Jerry, so with great persistence and perseverance, he acquired his fighter pilot status. In 1941 he was sent to the UK ( Tern Hill ) for advanced flight training on the Miles Master. That completed, he advanced to the Hawker Hurricane, and with an above average assessment, he was then posted to a Spitfire training unit. After soloing in a Spitfire MKI Serial K 9929, Jerry requested to join a Spitfire Squadron. (which in the early 40’s were reserved for above-average pilots). In 1942, Jerry joined #19 Squadron RAF which was equipped with the Spitfire MKV, flying many types of sorties ( intercept, CAP, etc.).
Jerry volunteered to help defend Malta, which was surrounded by the enemy and on the verge of defeat. Launching from HMS Furious in Spitfire MK Vb his small unit completed a 1200 mile open water flight to Malta to join #185squadron. Flying daily in many different sorties from bombing (on-the-job training with a Spitfire ) to aircraft interception. Jerry saw lots of action and never hesitated to tear into the enemy .In the RAF during WWII it was required that confirmation of a KILL, probable, or damage, must be made either by another pilot or recorded on gun film (unavailable in Malta). Unlike the scoring used by the Germans, Russians and Yanks, an aircraft destroyed on the ground was NOT considered a KILL to the RAF .On patrol Dec 8 1942 Jerry was jumped by 3 BF109’s and was forced to bail out, later to be plucked from the Mediterranean by air/sea rescue. In March 1943 on a scramble to intercept 10-plus enemy aircraft, as Jerry attacked 2 BF109’s, another BF 109 got a jump on him and disabled his Spit, forcing him to bail. After recovering from his injuries, Jerry flew more sorties. When he left Malta on 19th of May 1943, he did so with the knowledge that he had superseding the 2-3 month average life span of a fighter pilot in Malta! During Jerry’s time on Malta he was in many air battles against many different enemy planes, due to the lack of confirmation from other pilots he didn’t claim any kills, but shot up many different enemy planes, and strafed everything from U-boats to pillboxes. After a month leave to Canada Jerry returned to the UK to instruct new spitfire pilots in the art of dog fighting.
In 1944 Jerry was sent to 401 Squadron RCAF at Biggin Hill were he was assigned a Spitfire MK-IX. Leading up to D-Day he Flew many sorties over France. On June 6th 1944 D-Day, Jerry was patrolling over Gold beach. The next day, Jerry downed aJU88 and gave 2 FW190’s a good squirt of gun fire. On June 18th Jerry was relocated to B4 ( a makeshift air base near the front lines) in France. His log reveals many intercepts and bombing sorties in the next days. July 1 on an intercept Jerry was hit by Flak and was forced to crash land in no-mans-land. He would spend several days evading the Germans, finding refuge in the town Brehal, where the LeBourgois Family cared for his injuries and hid Jerry from the enemy. Picked up by advancing American’s he was brought back to B4, sent back to the UK for debriefing where he was told that, because of his evading behind enemy lines, he would not be allowed to fly in combat anymore. Jerry Billing flew over 250 sorties during his two tours of duty in World War II. During those tours he flew with many famous pilots such as George Beurling, Hap Kennedy, Buck McNair, and Stocky Edwards, just to name a few. Once back in Canada, Jerry tried everything to get back into combat flying but to no avail. (He even tried joining the USAF). After hostilities ceased, he was was released from the RCAF, in 1946.
In 1947 Jerry was the chief flying instructor at the Windsor Flying club
In 1948 Jerry re-enlisted in the RCAF and was based in Trenton to instruct pilots to become instructors were he flew B-25, Lancaster, P-51, Vampire jet aircraft.
In 1951 Jerry joined the Canadian Jet Demo team the Blue Devils flying in the #2 position in a De Havilland Vampire for the teams last season. Later in 1951 sent to New Brunswick for instructing pilots to fly jets, were he flew the T33, and in 1952 they received their first F86 Sabre jets.
In 1954 Jerry was assigned back to the UK as a exchange officer in their fighter development squadron where he flew the Hawker Hunter, Supermarine Swift, Meteor, Canberra, and Venom. Returning to Canada in 1956 Jerry was behind a desk pushing paperwork for the Defence Command ( not to Jerry’s liking ) but he did fly as much as he could, getting checked out on the CF100.
In 1958 Jerry was posted to a Tactical squadron where he did air show displays in the CF86 Sabre and trained pilots from different countries and ferried planes around Canada and Europe. During this time Jerry also trained Canada’s second jet aerobatic team — the Golden Hawks.
Jerry left the RCAF in 1964 to become a test pilot for DeHavilland, working on all aircraft they were designing atthe time. Jerry travelled the world displaying DeHavilland aircraft for potential customers. During the VietNam war Jerry delivered Caribou aircraft there forthe CIA. After leaving De Havilland Jerry trained a fellowby the name of Don Plumb, a local Windsor businessman, who had bought a dual seat Spitfire (TE308). Jerryworked with Mr. Plumb for many years displaying his warbird fleet at various air shows across North America.
In the early 70’s Jerry was contacted by Bill Ross to see if Jerry would be interested in flying a Spitfire Mk IX(Mk923) from California to Chicago to be restored. Jerry and Cliff Robertson came to the agreement that Jerry would be responsible for displaying the spitfire to the public at air shows as living history, and Mr.Robertson would keep it flying financially. From the mid-70’s to the mid-90’s ( 22.5 years ) Jerry displayed MK923 at many air shows across North America, thrilling thousands of spectators with his skill and grace behind the controls of the Spitfire. In 1984 Jerry flew for Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip as a curtain raiser on their visit to Windsor Ontario ( receiving a thankyou letter from the Queen ). In 1992 Jerry passed a unique milestone of 50 consecutive years flying Spitfires (also receiving congratulations from Her Majestythe Queen via letter). In 1994 Jerry retired from flying Spitfire MK923 and the aircraft was sold to Craig McGraw. It is nowdisplayed at the Museum Of Flight, Seattle. In Jerry’s career he displayed Spitfires NH188, TE308, SL721 and MK923 for many different owners across North America. Jerry over the years also checked out many pilots on flying a Spitfire.
FROM his obituary at 93:
Legendary Second World War pilot Jerry Billing, known for being head strong and somewhat of a daredevil, died Friday at a long-term care home in Woodslee.
He was 93.
“He had more lives than a cat,” said his son Erik. “It’s a sad thing to lose your dad or lose your husband. We knew this day would come, we just didn’t know when.”
It was 70 years ago in June of last year that Billing joined the D-Day invasion from above. He’d survived five months of intense air battles in the skies above Malta over the winter of 1942-43, including being shot down twice over the Mediterranean Sea.
After Malta, he was sent home to recover and train other pilots, but some crazy aerial stunts over Windsor convinced his superiors he was better suited for the battle on the front lines. Billing was shot down a third time over enemy territory. He was still only 23.
Members of Essex Memorial Spitfire Committee unveil a replica a Mark IX Spitfire circa 1944, an exact replica of the plane Gerald Daniel ‘Jerry” Billing flew into battle in 1944, during a ceremony at Essex Memorial Arena, Thursday September 4, 2014. (NICK BRANCACCIO/The Windsor Star)
In many ways, Billing, who survived more than 250 Second World War sorties, was honoured more outside Canada than here, perhaps caused in part by a cantankerous streak and pride of flying achievements that have left him a little contemptuous of authority. He was knighted by France, made an honorary French citizen, and was nominated for the Order of Canada in 1995.
This past September, a tribute was erected in Heritage Park in the town of Essex, where Billing was born, of a full-scale replica Spitfire complete with his name, call sign and serial number inscribed upon it.
“The reality is Jerry Billing has left a legacy behind and (Priscilla — the Spitfire) has changed the landscape of Essex forever,” said town Coun. Randy Voakes, and member of the memorial committee. “He’ll never leave us and the spirit of Jerry Billing will stay there forever.”
Saturday morning, an arrangement of flowers was placed at the base of the tribute aircraft, the card reading, “in memory of Lt. Jerry Billing.”
The fibreglass Spitfire replica was constructed by a British manufacturer and shipped from England. Billing flew an identical Spitfire on a number of missions including over Normandy beaches on D-Day in 1944.
“I have learned a lot about (the Second World War) because of Jerry, and a lot about Spitfires,” memorial committee member Suzanne Allison said. “I will never forget Jerry, and I thank him for reminding me that we must never forget.”
Allison told The Star in September that Essex residents got to know the sound of the Spitfire Billing flew in air shows and over local treetops. “You could be picking tomatoes in a field and you would be able to tell what kind of shirt he had on,” she said. “He would blow the hair off your head. He flew low. He loved doing that.”
Nov. 18, 2006: Second World War ace Jerry Billing holds a model of the same type of Spitfire he was shot down in. (Windsor Star files)
Billing wowed many locals over the years with aerobatic stunts in an MK923 Spitfire. He flew the plane until he was 75.
“Any time that Spitfire flew in air shows around here I’d go,” said Dave Cheeseman, who runs a historical website about Billing. “I remember an air show over the Detroit River for the freedom festival … I watched Jerry loop the Ambassador Bridge. He went right under it, came over and did a loop right back under it again.
“I talked to him in later years and he actually got hell for that. He was not authorized to do that.”
Billing had a private airstrip for more than 40 years. He paid for the airstrip’s land with a wartime pension, then built his house alongside it.
Billing is survived by his wife Karen, four sons, Errol, Wayne, Brick and Erik, and six grandchildren.
Link to the details the spitfires Jerry flew on ‘All Spitfire pilots’ website. Of note, Ep751 was flown off HMS Furious for the 1200km flight to Malta where Jerry spent at least double the lifespan of the average Spitfire pilot, having been shot down twice and surviving. Jerry’s love for the Spitfire, it’s history, it’s role will never be forgotten. A true pilot, who remained a pilot for his entire life.
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Evaded capture in France – F/Lt BULLIVANT
RAF Fighter Command Losses Of Second World War
by Norman L R FRANKS, Vol. 3, Midland Publishing
© Norman L R FRANKS