William (Bill, Bull) Garing

Full name:
William Henry Garing, DFC, USDFC, CBE


Electrical Engineer, Mechanical Engineer
Royal Military College, Duntroon, Australian Capital Territory
Highest rank:
Air Commodore
Decorations/ commendations:
Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Mentioned in Despatches (MID), Distinguished Service Cross (DSC)
Royal Australian Air Force
Service Number:
World War II 1939-1945
Military event:
Battle of Milne Bay 1942, Battle of the Atlantic, Battle of the Bismark Sea, New Guinea campaign 1942-1945
No. 10 Squadron RAAF, Coastal Command RAF, No. 9 (Operational) Group RAAF, No. 75 Squadron RAAF

Bill Garing had a distinguished career in the Royal Australian Airforce (RAAF), becoming one of its most highly qualified airmen. He was known as a canny and forceful wartime leader, earning the nickname 'Bull'. He is remembered by many as one of Australia's most successful operational-level air commanders in the Pacific during World War II.

Early life

William 'Bill' Henry Garing was born in Corryong, in Victoria's High Country, on 26 September 1910. His parents George and Amy had a small farm and his father was a miner.

After attending Corryong Higher Elementary School, Bill won a scholarship to Melbourne's Working Men's College (now RMIT). He studied electrical and mechanical engineering.

Defence career

While at college, Bill joined the Citizen Air Force as a Leading Aircraftman and learned about flying for 18 months. He trained as a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner in Airco DH 9A light bombers.

To further his flying career, Bill was accepted into the Royal Military College, Duntroon, in January 1930 as an Air Cadet officer.

In December 1930, Bill graduated and transferred to the No. 1 Flying Training School RAAF at Point Cook, Victoria. He trained as a pilot under World War I veteran and school founder, Richard 'Dickie' Williams.

In the early 1930s, Bill trained in the United Kingdom (UK) as a specialist in air-and-sea operations. He studied at the School of Air Pilotage and Specialist Navigation School. He became the first person in Australia to qualify for a first-class aircraft navigator's licence.

By the outbreak of World War II, Bill was serving with No. 10 Squadron RAAF in the UK and flying Sunderland flying boat patrol bombers.

Four men in white flying uniforms stand in front of a large 1930s military plane listening to a man in a heavy long coat and Air Force cap

The first Commanding Officer of No. 10 Squadron RAAF, Wing Commander Leon Victor Lachal, left, at the RAF Station Pembroke Dock, Wales, c 1939. He is speaking with 4 of the original members of the Squadron. Left to right: Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) William 'Bill' Norman Gibson; Flt Lt Charles William Pearce; Flying Officer Ivan Stanley Podger; Flt Lt William 'Bill' Henry Garing. AWM UK3073

As Flight Commander in the Royal Air Force Coastal Command, Bill was conducting anti-submarine operations. On 10 October 1939, he flew the unit's first operational mission.

Bill was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in July 1940. He was commended for flying so aggressively that he could intercept a German air attack on the armed merchant ship RMS Mooltan. Later, he helped rescue survivors - many of them British children - from the evacuation ship SS City of Benares after it had been torpedoed.

Returning to Australia in 1941, Bill commanded No.9 (Operational) Group RAAF. Due to an increased risk of war with Japan, the RAAF began developing reconnaissance. Bill played a key role in developing attack plans for the units stationed in New Guinea.

New Guinea Campaign

Bill's exceptional planning and leadership shone through in 2 key battles of the Pacific war:

Bill's previous role in planning attacks gave him a good understanding of the situation in New Guinea. Serving alongside the United States Army Air Force (USAAF), he took command of the RAAF units and implemented planned attacks.

Milne Bay

During the defeat of the Japanese invasion at Milne Bay, Bill made it clear to everyone that the Australians would not retreat.

Bill described the Battle of Milne Bay as:

...a scramble. We had the minimum facilities; you had the ghastly weather and mud and mosquitoes and everything to contend with. I can't imagine a worse scenario than that one except what the troops had to face climbing back over the Kokoda gap. That was unbelievable.

It was vital. Milne Bay was the first time the Japanese had been defeated on land and never won another land battle. So, it was literally the turning of the tide in the whole of the South-West Pacific. It was darned important for the morale of the Australian people. Just imagine if we'd been defeated at Milne Bay and the fact that Port Moresby would have been belted right, left and centre every day by the Japanese bomber formations with no resistance. Just imagine what it would have been like. No, the answer was it was vital; it was vital to win it.

[William Henry Garing, interviewed by Edward Stokes, 5 June 1989]

The RAAF's contribution to the Milne Bay battle under Bill's command was vital to the eventual victory.

A smiling man in summer military uniform leaning on a military vehicle with a driver, with a plantation of coconut trees and other vehicles in the background.

William 'Bill' Henry Garing at Gurney Airfield (No. 1 Strip), Milne Bay, Papua, c October 1942. He's standing next to a Jeep driven by a United States officer at the Gurney airstrip. AWM OG0061F

Bismarck Sea

Between July 1942 and February 1943, the Japanese were landing convoys of reinforcements to the north coast ports of New Guinea. Allied forces had made many unsuccessful attacks against the Japanese during this time. After the success of the Japanese across the South West Pacific Area, Bill and his US counterparts implemented a different strategy.

The Allies formed a single, powerful strike force of aircraft. In March 1943, they coordinated more than 90 RAAF and US strike aircraft, plus their fighter escorts, to conduct precise air strikes on a Japanese convoy.

The Battle of the Bismarck Sea was indeed the most important air versus sea battle in the whole of the south-west Pacific - no question about it.

[William Henry Garing, interviewed by Edward Stokes, 5 June 1989]

The Allies inflicted severe Japanese losses. The Japanese had 8 transport ships sunk; 4 destroyers sunk and another 4 badly damaged; and around 50 to 60 Zero fighter aircraft shot down.


During his career, Bill received:

  • Commander of the Order of the British Empire
  • Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Mentioned in Despatches
  • Distinguished Service Cross (United States).

Bill's actions and strong leadership style won the respect of senior US Army commanders General George Kenney and General Douglas MacArthur. According to the citation, Bill was awarded the US Army Distinguished Service Cross:

for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy in action against enemy forces in New Guinea, during the Papuan Campaign, 23 July 1942 to 8 January 1943.

Life after the war

In 1948, Bill was at the Joint Services Staff College in the UK. Then in 1953, he took command of the RAAF Overseas Headquarters in London. In later years, he served as commandant of the RAAF College and as officer commanding bases at Pearce, Point Cook, Richmond and Edinburgh.

Bill's passion for flying never ceased. He continued until his retirement in 1964. In 60 years, he logged more than 3,900 hours of flying time and flew over 90 types of aircraft.

Smiling man dressed in military flying gear sitting in the open cockpit of a fighter plane

Group Captain Bill Garing CBE, DFC when he was attached to No. 78 Fighter Wing RAAF in Cyprus, 1953, learning about jet fighter tactics and flying methods. He had recently finished a year's study at the Imperial Defence College, London and was soon to take command of RAAF Overseas Headquarters, London. AWM MALTA0379


In 1964, after his retirement, Bill maintained an active interest in military affairs. Alongside a group of high-profile retired senior officers, he lobbied the Australian Government to acquire nuclear weapons.

Over the years, Bill attended RAAF history conferences to share honest but sometimes controversial recollections of the Pacific war.

Bill married twice and had 4 children. After a long illness, he died on 1 January 2004, aged 93.


1943 'Government Gazette Appointments and Employment', Commonwealth of Australia Gazette (National: 1901 - 1973), 21 October, p. 2312, viewed 23 Jan 2023, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article232759453

2004 'Brillant leader who knew no fear', Sydney Morning Herald, January 19 — 11:00 am, viewed 23 Jan 2023, https://www.smh.com.au/national/brilliant-leader-who-knew-no-fear-20040119-gdi6m5.html

Australian War Memorial (undated), Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire: Group Captain William Henry Garing, RAAF, viewed 7 February 2023, https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C2670038

Garing, Robert William (2004), 'A Celebratory Eulogy', The Whisperer, The Beaufighter and Boston Association of Queensland, March 2004, p 5, viewed 10 Feb 2023, https://www.ozatwar.com/raaf/whisperer/march2004.pdf

King, Colin M. (2008), Song of the Beauforts: No 100 Squadron RAAF and Beaufort bomber operations, Second Edition, Air Power Development Centre, Tuggeranong, viewed 10 Feb 2023, https://www.radschool.org.au/Books/song%20of%20the%20beauforts.pdf

McAulay, Lex (2010), Group Captain William Henry Garing, https://www.3rdattackgroup.org/resources/SWPA/Banner_Books/Group%20Captain%20William%20Henry%20Garing.pdf (see attached), viewed 7 February 2023

Ryan, Julianne (2016), Garing, Willam Henry, Virtual War Memorial Australia, viewed 7 February 2023, https://vwma.org.au/explore/people/796905

Smith, Cameron (2004), 'Celebration of the life of William Henry (Bull) Garing', The Whisperer, The Beaufighter and Boston Association of Queensland, March 2004, p 4, viewed 10 Feb 2023, https://www.ozatwar.com/raaf/whisperer/march2004.pdf

Stokes, Edward (1989), Air Commodore William Henry (Bill) Garing CBE DFC, US Distinguished Service Cross, 75 Squadron RAAF, interviewed by Edward Stokes for The Keith Murdoch Sound Archive of Australia in the War of 1939-45, 5 June 1989, Australian War Memorial, viewed 7 February 2023, https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/S00586

Wikipedia Editors (2022), 'Bill Garing' (2022, August 1), Wikipedia, viewed 7 February 2023, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Garing

Last updated: 13 April 2023

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2023), William Henry Garing, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 26 September 2023, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories/biographies/william-henry-garing
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