Jeffery Phillip (Pip) BILLS

BILLS, Jeffery Phillip

Service Number: 417788
Enlisted: 18 July 1942, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Flight Lieutenant
Last Unit: No. 461 Squadron (RAAF)
Born: Laura, South Australia, 8 December 1923
Home Town: Broken Hill, Broken Hill Municipality, New South Wales
Schooling: Laura State School, St.Leonards Primary School, Adelaide Boys High, Goodwood Technical School, Broken Hill High School
Occupation: Engineer (retired as GM North Broken Hill Ltd)
Died: Natural causes (Pneumonia), Royal Adelaide Hospital, South Australia, 21 November 2014, aged 90 years
Cemetery: Broken Hill Cemetery
Ashes placed with those of his wife, Jean Elaine Bills (nee Wallace), who predeceased him.
Memorials:
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World War 2 Service

18 Jul 1942: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2 (WW2), SN 417788, Adelaide, South Australia
19 Jul 1942: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2 (WW2), SN 417788, Aircrew Training Units, Empire Air Training Scheme
18 Jul 1943: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Pilot Officer, Aircrew Training Units
30 Aug 1943: Embarked Royal Australian Air Force, Pilot Officer, SN 417788, Aircrew Training Units, Embarked Melbourne for United Kingdom (per svc record)
2 Feb 1944: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Flying Officer, SN 417788, No. 461 Squadron (RAAF), Battle of the Atlantic - RAN and RAAF Operations
3 Dec 1945: Discharged Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Lieutenant, SN 417788, RAF Statin St Eval Coastal Command Administrative and Operations base Cornwall

Jeffery Philip Bills known as Pip

Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, the nicknames given to Jeff and his two brothers was derived somewhat irreverently from the common trio of World War One Medals, the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, referred to affectionately as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, after a popular long running comic strip of that name, featured in the Daily Mirror and Sunday Pictorial for many years. Both Jeff's father and that of his wife, Jean had both served in WWI.

Jeffery Phillip Bills, Flight Lieutenant RAAF 417788

Jeffery, Jeff, Pip, Phil, Uncle Phil was born in Laura, South Australia 8th December 1923. Educated there, in Adelaide, and in Broken Hill where he soon met Jeannie. Jeannie always said she “set her cap for him” at first sight because he was the only boy in school with shoes AND socks. It was the start of a long and wonderful love affair. Finishing school he commenced an apprenticeship on the old South Mine in Broken Hill and attended the Broken Hill Tech, and then war broke out.
Jeff enlisted 7th December 1941 (the day after Pearl Harbour) in the Royal Australian Air Force, and underwent basic training and flight training in Australia, before shipping out to the UK by way of the USA. It was an uneventful trip marred only by the development of Scarlet Fever and a quarantine period in the USA. It is worth remembering that in an era when not many people even had driving licences, pilots were very much the astronauts of the era and receiving your “wings” was a very great achievement.
Arriving in the UK he awaited allocation to duties, did the basic courses such as escape and evasion, and then with some friends discovered an Australian Coastal Command Squadron was seeking aircrew. 461 Squadron had formed on Anzac Day 1942, from elements of 10 Squadron RAAF, who had been operating in the UK since the start of the war. Because of that auspicious date they were often referred to as the Anzac Squadron.
The opportunity to join Coastal Command, and fly Sunderlands (then the largest operational aircraft of the war) also meant that they would go onto operational flying without additional months of training. It was too good to resist, and he duly arrived on station, served with 461 Squadron, and in short order had passed his Royal Naval Watch Keeping Certificate. (Flying Boat Pilots, because they navigated on water had to pass the naval sublieutenants course to allow them to keep watch and command the boats while navigating on water.)
It was a very gentlemanly way to fly to war, with a roomy boat, a galley and the opportunity to rotate stations during the long (over 10 hours) flights out over the ocean. For aircrew it meant many long hours of boredom, watching over convoys and looking for the ever elusive U-Boat or enemy aircraft, followed by brief minutes of sheer terror when action commenced.
While it might sound a very safe war, Coastal Command losses during the war were the highest per capita of any of the commands, even Bomber Command. Sadly many boats went out, and were never heard from again, lost due to the weather, the enemy or misadventure. Jeff lost many friends during his time on the squadron. Happily he retained many and remained in contact for years after the war. Their ranks are very much thinned now.
Few of the flying boats actually succeeded in sinking a U-Boat, but Jeff and his crew received a commendation for their teamwork in successfully despatching U270 in the English Channel following the D-Day landings. It is something like pleasure to be able to relate that even this was accomplished with no loss of life. The boat was bought to the surface before sinking. One German seaman washed overboard during the sinking and feared lost was later recovered alive in his dinghy floating in the Gironde, an estuary, off France.
Throughout the war years he was in regular contact with Jeannie and it was always planned that when he returned they would marry.
The war in Europe wound to a close and Jeff received his final and most important award, his boat ticket home, which he said was the best award of all. His family agrees, as without that we would not be here today either.
Returning to Australia he was finally reunited with Jeannie, and they were soon married. Jeff returned to work on the South Mine as an apprentice, something of a step backwards for a commissioned officer with great responsibilities. He combined this with engineering studies at what is now the Broken Hill Technical College, and graduated successfully, returning to work on the South Mine as an engineer. He undertook several away jobs, including work at Port Pirie, Zeehan in Tasmania and Howell in New England.
Lesley came along in due course, and while he was up at Howell during the 1954 floods he was called upon to exercise his fatherly protective duties when she was bailed up in the (then outside) toilet by a goanna as big as she was. I am happy to relate that she survived. As for the goanna...
Other reptiles entering into family life were similarly despatched. Jeff returned to Broken Hill. Then along came Jim, later Ross and lastly Pam.
Jeff moved to the North Mine as an engineer, leaving the family home in Nicholls Street. He and Jeannie shepherded their children though school and higher education, at no small cost to themselves. Despite money not always being abundant Jeannie and Jeff always made ends meet, also committing great effort to charity work, and especially to Legacy. Jeff also served in his capacity as Patron of many Broken Hill organisations, charitable and sporting.
Through all this Jeannie always made sure we all had shoes AND socks to wear to school. (Lesley was the only student in kindergarten at Wills Street with full school uniform.)
Jeff moved up through management on the North Mine, and the kids got on with their own lives. There is a lovely expression, “empty nesters” but that was something Jean and Jeff never got to enjoy, as the kids kept coming back, and coming back. And I think they revelled in both loving, and being loved, having the kids always in their lives.
Jeff finally retired from the mines in Broken Hill, having progressed from humble apprentice to General Manager of North Broken Hill Limited. That in itself is no small achievement in a lifetime of great things.
Retiring to Adelaide Jeannie and Jeff maintained the family holiday home, and kept in contact with their many friends. Jeff was devastated when he lost Jeannie, but with the same quiet courage that exemplified his whole life he carried on for the kids, for the grandkids. He would have loved to be here for the arrival of his great grand-daughter but it wasn’t to be. Helped and cared for by Susie (to whom the family is so very grateful) and his girls especially in his last years he maintained and loved his independence to the end.
Denied a quick end like Jeannie he suffered a stroke, but after a few days of illness passed peacefully on Friday 21st November at Royal Adelaide Hospital. He went happily to be with his beloved Jeannie.
Jeff Bills was a girl’s sweetheart and later husband, an airman and pilot, an engineer and manager, but most of all a father, father-in-law, grandfather and great-grandfather to be.
Vale Jeff Bills

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Biography contributed by Ross Bills

Nicknames include: Jeff, Pip (for Pip-squeak and Wilfred), Phil, Uncle Phil