June 6, 1944, was a day that the world would remember for many lifetimes. The young Jerry Billing awoke that morning like most of his comrades with the burden of war still hanging on their shoulders.
While still digesting the intensity of the war effort that would take place today, learned through his pre-flight briefing, he unwillingly shows a gaze of amazement on his face as he approaches his lonely Spitfire MK IX.
The large abstract black and white stripes that were painted on the wings of his aircraft through the night, now confirm the absolute uniqueness of the day.
As in so many wartime mornings, he was greeted by a dark overcast sky that would not allow an immediate take-off. Anxiety was heavy, but with mounting impatience and a long enough wait, the sky opened up the much-needed window to their mission.
Climbing up on the wing of his powerful metallic steed he peers at the break in the sky and realizes the moment has come. He takes a deep solemn breath in meditation, then breaks the silence with his words “Let’s Go Chaps”.
The D-Day mission begins.
Why Endangered Species?
In my Southland Series, my goal was to bring awareness to the rich history we have around us.
The town of Essex, (which I’m proud to say is also my place of residence), is fortunate enough to have a living piece of history. He is Jerry Billing.
Jerry started flying Spitfires on April 8, 1942 and has now flown Spitfires for over half a century. He is the only pilot of his stature still flying today! The extreme rarity of this man and the Spitfire make both “Endangered Species”.
NOTE: Ronald Suchiu also painted this as a mural on a large wall in the town of Essex, Ontario (full scale). This print is in the collection of the Prime Minister of Malta.