- Surnames starting with the letter B. 

Walter Billington DFM

Rank:Flight SergeantNumber:751750
Ship/Rgn/Sqn No:429 Sqn RAFVR
Name of Rgt or Ship:Bomber Command
How Died:Killed in Action
Country of burial:Lost Overseas - North SeaGrave Photo:Yes
Cemetery or Memorial:Runnymede Memorial
Town Memorial:Not Listed
Extra Information:
Born during the June quarter 1920 in the Salford R.D. - ref: 8d/18, the son
of William & Frances Alice Billington (nee Wiggans).  The CWGC record him
as being 31 years of age.  This is incorrect, he was 23 years of age at the
time of his death.

1939 National Registration - 19 Bancroft Street, Stretford.    William
Billington - Married - born: 20th October 1885 - occ: Steel Works.  
Frances A. Billington - Married - born: 23rd July 1885 - occ: Unpaid
Domestc Duties.   No other names either shown or redacted.   This would
indicate that Walter was already away serving in the RAF on the 29th
September 1939.

No. 429 (Bison) Squadron was formed at East Moor, on 7th November 1942, as
a bomber unit of No. 4 Group, but was assigned to No. 6 (RCAF) Group five
months later. On 11th and 12th August 1943, came a move to Leeming, which
was to be the squadron's home for the rest of its stay in the UK. Equipped
originally with Wellington Ills and Xs, the squadron began operating with
Halifax IIs in September 1943, and then switched to Halifax Vs in November
and to Halifax Ills in March 1944. By the end of March 1945, it was flying
Lancaster ls and IIIs, with which types it made its last few attacks of the
heavy-bombing campaign.

Walter had previously served with 144 Sqn and was Gazetted for his D.F.M on
the 19th September 1941.

Serving as the Rear Gunner ("Tail End Charlie"), he took off at 19.01 hrs
from RAF East Moor Airfield bound for a "Gardening" Operation (Laying mines
at sea).   Their Wellington Bomber Mk.X No. HZ260 - AL-K with a crew of
five was Pilotted by Sgt J.F. Black RCAF.   They were forced to ditch in
the sea some 87 miles off Cromer, Norfolk.  Sgt Rothena was picked up by an
Air Sea Rescue launch on the 5th March and survived.   Sgt Black died a few
hours before help arrived and is buried in the Sutton in the Forest
Churchyard, Yorkshire.  The other three crew members - Fl/Lt. Campbell DFC,
RCAF;  P/Off. F.W. Bartleet and Fl./Sgt Billington were not found and are
commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

His Wellington bomber was shot down when on a mine laying operation on
March 2nd or 3rd 1943. 

I am most grateful to family member - Glenda Eaves (nee Billingham) for the
following information about Walter and his fated mission that night.  "75
Wellingtons went out that night. Walter's aircraft was the only one to be
shot down and it was his first mission.   He was listed as a Wireless
Op/Air Gunner and was the rear Gunner on that mission.  probably the worst
position to be in for night fighting.   Makes for an interesting account.

Particulars of the deaths of that flight: Crew of his aircraft consisted of
R118059 Sergeant J.H. Black (pilot), J15235 F/L C.S. Campbell (navigator),
1387043 Sergeant P.G. Rothera (bomb aimer and sole survivor), 126387 P/O
F.W. Bartleet (WOP) and 751750 Flight Sergeant W.D.M. Billington, DFM (air
gunner).   The aircraft carried two 1,500 pound mines for gardening
Nectarine (Frisian Islands). A report of the aircraft loss read, in part:

The aircraft [sic, aircrew ?] was picked up by H.S.L. on Friday afternoon,
5th March at 1420 hours in a position 53.24 North - 03.27 East. This
position is fairly accurate since the aircraft which sighted the dinghy in
which the Bomb Aimer, 1387043 Sergeant Rothera, P.G. was found alive, had
had a good fix a short while before.  Also, in the dinghy was the body of
the pilot, R118059 Sergeant Black, J.H., who had died a few hours before
being picked up.

Statement signed by Sergeant Rothera reads as follows: "Flight Lieutenant
Campbell said we had cone out at around 140 m.p.h. We must have been a
little off track when we sighted the islands. We broke cloud and came down
to about 1,500 feet. We pin pointed the island and flew off on our given
course, dropped our vegetables, and had started climbing on track when we
were attacked by one or more night fighters. The port engine was hit and
rendered unserviceable, and the intercommunication system became
unserviceable as well".

"After that the pilot sent me back to see how the rear gunner was. I found
the doors jammed but saw that Flight Sergeant Billington was slumped in the
starboard side of the turret.  I began to bang at the doors but could not
attract his attention.  There were many bullet holes in the port top of the
turret.  The wireless was reported O.K. at this time.   I reported this to
the captain and he said that he was having difficulty maintaining height
and gave orders to carry out ditching procedure.  I informed the Navigator
and Wireless Operator and proceeded to carry out my part of the procedure. 
We jettisoned the bomb bars and I went back to collect the Verey
cartridges.  I pulled the floatation gear and was just reaching out to take
out the astrodome when everything went black - presumably we had hit the
water.  Just before this the pilot had said that starboard engine had

"I came to with water up to my nose and attempted to open the astrodome
again. I found I could not do this as it was stuck and by this time we were
under water. I swam back on the chance we had broken our back and found
that this was the case.  I broke water just beside the dinghy. The sea was
moderately smooth.  As I went to climb into the dinghy, the pilot swam up
alongside.  He had been thrown out of the pilot’s escape hatch sustaining
a severe wound on the forehead. I estimate that we struck the water around
60 miles from the target in a westerly direction".

"By Wednesday night the sea became choppy and we got wet.  Sergeant Black
began to weaken and by Thursday he could not move.   When first sighted by
a single Beaufighter around 7 a.m. on Friday morning, he was in a weak and
semi-conscious condition.  I went to sleep and woke up with a start to see
five Beaufighters overhead. This would be around 11 o’clock in the
morning. Sergeant Black was dead by this time".

"Flight Lieutenant Campbell and Pilot Officer Bartleet were standing up in
the aircraft when last I saw them.  That was just before we crashed.  I
believe they must have been knocked unconscious with the impact when the
aircraft hit the water. The pilot estimated the floating time to have been
around 30 seconds".

"Sergeant Rothera was conveyed to the Naval Sick Quarters at Melton Lodge,
Great Yarmouth on the evening of Friday, March 5th. The body of Sergeant
Black was conveyed to the police mortuary at Great Yarmouth, and was
subsequently interred with full military honours at the Parish Cemetery,
Sutton-on-the-Forrest, York, at noon on Monday, March 8th, 1943".

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