92533 Corporal Ruth Ada Hills, WAAAF

Story
Posted on 21 April 2021

Born in the Western Sydney suburb of Petersham on the 22nd of May 1923, Hills was the daughter of Edward Reuben and Elise Earl Hills. She attended Stanmore Domestic Science School, before completing her education at Chartres Business College.

Hills trained as a stenographer, which involved recording speeches and conversation in shorthand. Hills left school at the age of 14, and supported herself over the next four years by working as a stenographer at a solicitor’s office.

She enlisted in the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) in Bankstown on the 9th of October 1941. Due to her experience as a stenographer, the WAAAF assigned Hills to train in the role of teleprint operator.

On completing the training course at Bankstown, she was posted to the Headquarters North-Eastern Area in Townsville. The WAAAF was extremely busy as it provided vital support to both the Royal Australian Air Force and the United States Army Air Corps. During the war, more than 27,000 Australian women enlisted in the WAAAF and many served at the Townsville base.

Hills excelled at her job and was promoted to corporal in November 1942. At this time, Townsville was teeming with young men and women. Hills met a sergeant, and in February 1943 they became engaged. Shortly after she came down with dengue fever and was permitted to return to Sydney on sick leave.

In the early hours of the morning of the 27th of March 1943, Hills joined a large group of servicemen and servicewomen for the transport flight from Brisbane to Sydney. The Douglas C46 Dakota aircraft of No 36 Squadron took off at 5am in conditions of poor visibility. Shortly after take-off, an engine failed and the aircraft crashed into heavy timber, catching fire immediately.

All 23 occupants were killed instantly.

Hills was just 19 years old.

The wartime Minister for Air, Fred Drakeford, extended his deepest sympathy to all relatives and friends of those who had perished in the accident.

A full military funeral was held in Brisbane for the fallen Australian servicemen and servicewomen. Large and silent crowds lined Adelaide Street in central Brisbane as the funeral cortège progressed to Lutwyche cemetery.

The coffins were placed side by side on four RAAF vehicles and covered with flowers and the Australian flag. RAAF servicemen acted as pall-bearers for Hills’s coffin and her colleagues from the Townsville WAAAF base placed wreaths on each of the graves.

Hills’s parents travelled to Brisbane for the funeral, joining 100 members of the WAAAF and 150 of the RAAF. Also in attendance was Chief of the Air Staff Air Vice-Marshal Jones, the wartime Minister for Air, and the federal member for Griffith Mr William Conelan.

The name of Corporal Ruth Hills is listed on the Australian War Memorial Honour Roll along with some 40,000 Australians killed in the Second World War.