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The Airmen's Stories - AC1 J B Mills


John Bailie Mills was born in 1921 in Ballyhay, Northern Ireland, his father Samuel had earlier returned from Philadelphia in the USA. His mother died of consumption in 1927.

He attended Ballyvester, Castle Gardens and Movilla elementary schools, leaving at the age of 14 to take up a position as apprentice electrician with Lewers Carroll & Co Ltd. in 1935.

He joined the RAF in December 1938 as an Aircrafthand. After completing his training he was posted to the BEF in France, based at Arras where he was a member of a Lewis Gun crew.



After withdrawing in the face of the German advance in May 1940 his unit retreated along the coast through Dunkirk and Cherbourg, eventually being evacuated in one of the last ships out of St. Nazaire.

Mills volunteered for aircrew duties and after a short radar course was posted to 23 Squadron at Collyweston on 1st July 1940.

Mills flew his first operational sortie on 28th July and he was still serving with 23 Squadron in November 1940.

His logbook for his time with 23 Squadron shows he flew alongside F/O Harding, P/O Gawith, Sgt. Dann, P/O Orgias, P/O Pushman, F/Sgt. Burton, P/O Ensor, Sgt. Young, F/Lt. Woodward, P/O Duff, Sgt. Loveridge and Sgt. Rose.

He was posted away from the squadron on 15th March 1941 to join 85 Squadron under S/Ldr. Peter Townsend. The squadron was exchanging its Hurricanes for the Douglas Havoc and changing its role to night-fighting, the Havoc carrying a pilot and radar operator.



Mills developed septicaemia and after treatment was declared medically unfit to fly, his last logged flight was on 2nd April 1941 in Havoc VY*C flown by Sgt. Berkeley, he had previously flown with him or Sgt. Calderwood.

He was then assigned to an RAF Forward Control Post preparing for the invasion of France. Some time after D-Day he went ashore at Gold Beach, driving one of the units vehicles.

Once landing areas had been secured or built, they were occupied by Hawker Typhoon squadrons, Mills's unit would direct them using the 'cab rank' system to bring immediate close support to advancing ground forces.

He remained with the unit till the end of the war in Europe, taking part in the Rhine crossing and being present at Lubeck when Allied forces linked up with the Russians.

Mills was selected for posting to the Far East where the war with Japan was still in progress and he sailed in the SS Uganda to Sydney, Australia in early 1945. He was involved with supply line maintenance to the Pacific Theatre, working on Douglas Dakotas.

Mills returned on the RMS Athlone Castle and was demobbed in Northern Ireland in 1946.

He married Rose, a primary school teacher, in Belfast and settled in Whiteabbey (below).



A career in the GPO telephone exchange in Belfast followed, he spent 30 years there, rising from telephonist to supervisor at the Central Exchange in the Markets area of Belfast. He worked night shifts during the Troubles and often managed the 999 operations (below, Mills standing right).



After retiring he was occupied by his three children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren plus attending the local gym until age 91.

Mills died from a heart attack aged 93 on 30th October 2014.



The majority of research and all images courtesy of his eldest son, Peter John Mills.


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