Bill Millington & Squadron Mascot During the Battle of Britain
Photograph of RAF Pilot Bill Millington (left) and Tom Neil.
The RAF pilot Tom Neil recalled that Bill Millington always had an affinity for animals. The diary of another Battle of Britain pilot, George Barclay included several photos of Millington with various mascots that he introduced to No. 249 Squadron. There was a dog, “Pipsqueak” and a duck “Wilfred” that became famous mascots of the embattled fighter squadron. In this photo, Pilot Officer Millington is seen in the company of fellow pilot, Tom Neil with the two squadron mascots. The original photo was taken in 1940 but not published until June 5, 1941.
Millington was born in England in 1917 but his family moved to Australia when he was a small boy. He was an active child, engaged in sports and known for his ability to fix mechanical devices with great skill. Flying was Millington’s great passion, and after his rejection from the RAAF, he sailed for England and secured a position in the RAF just four days after landing at Tilbury docks. After completing air training, he was posted to No. 79 Squadron, flying Hurricane fighters. His first combat victory was scored on July 9, 1940.
I go forth into battle light of heart…I regard it as a privilege to fight for all those things that make life worth living – freedom, honour and fair play….
- Pilot Officer Bill Millington, 1940
During operations on August 31, 1940, Millington was heavily engaged and was attacked by German fighters. He was wounded in the left thigh during the encounter and his aircraft set ablaze, but Millington stayed with the fighter, concerned that if he baled out the plane would crash into some village below. He crashed in flames at Conghurst Farm, Hawkhurst and scrambled away before his aircraft was fully engulfed by fire. He was awarded an immediate DFC for his heroic actions.
On September 19, 1940, Millington was transferred to No. 249 Squadron at North Weald. His tally of victories continued to accrue, but sadly, Millington went missing over the English Channel on October 30, 1940, just as the Battle of Britain was winding down. Millington is credited with 9 victories and two shared destroyed, but his actual total was likely higher. He was the 13th Australian to die in the Battle of Britain.
In this photo Pilot Officer P.H.V. "Pat" Wells hands Wilfred the Duck over to the RAF fighter ace, Tom Neil. The photo was taken in 1940 but not published until June 5, 1941.
The RAF pilot Pete Townsend recalled recovering from wounds received in a dogfight in a hospital bed adjacent to Millington’s. Shortly before his death, Millington wrote a letter to his parents in which he said: “I go forth into battle light of heart…I regard it as a privilege to fight for all those things that make life worth living – freedom, honour and fair play… Flying has meant the companionship of men, the intoxication of speed, the rush of air and the pulsating beat of the motor awaken some answering chord deep down which is indescribable.”