Richard Salisbury Birks J17309

November 27, 1922 - April 10, 1943

Richard Salisbury Birks Richard Salisbury Birks Richard Salisbury Birks

RAF 56 Squadron

Richard Salisbury Birks was a Typhoon pilot during WWII. He was born oon November 27, 1922 in Syracuse, NY. On his attestation papers, he lived in Cornwall, Ontario. He noted that liked to collect stamps, enjoyed basketball, hockey, track and football, and was a student. He stood 5'7 1/2" tall, weighing 150 pounds. he had hazel eyes and brown hair. He was the only child of William H. and Lucetta S. Birks, Oshawa, Ontario. The family was Anglican.

He made his way to Ottawa, then Toronto, back to Ottawa, then Toronto in the month of April 1941. He was at No. 31 B&G Picton Ontario in May through June when he found himself at No. 3 ITS, Victoriaville. He was then at No. 17 EFTS Stanley in July , then to No. 8 SFTS Moncton, NB by September until December 1941. "Average in all respects. His flying is smooth but his judgment has not yet developed. He should not have too much difficulty on service aircraft." In Ground training: "Average ability but did not measure up to stress of final examinations. Failed Nav 4 Sigs. P but passed supps. Average in other subjects." He was sent overseas in January 1942 and was at an RAF Trainees Pool by February 1942. He was at No. 55 OTU by June 1942 and assigned to 56 Squadron by September 1942.

He was AWL January 16, 1942 for ten days at No. 1 "Y" Depot, Halifax, NS, and forfeited 11 days pay. He received a severe reprimand. He was placed on a special diet for five days in April 1942.

At 55 OTU: "91% on aircraft recogntion. An above average pilot, keen, steady, and reliable. Should be very useful with more experience. Discipline and punctuality very good."

He was the owner of an Austin, one in poor shape. See memo above about the car.

According to Hugh Halliday in Typhoon and tempest on page 20, P/O Birks and F/O Cluderay were sent to deal with a trawler 25 miles off the Dutch coast, near Petten. "They carried out 18 attacks, turning the trawler into a blazing wreck that trailed smoke for 300 yards. yet there seemed to be nothing suspicious about the boat, there had been no flak and the whole affair had been too easy. 'The pilots think they have pranged some inoffensive Dutchman out on his lawful business,' wrote the unit diairist. 'which rather detracts from the satisfaction of having done a good job well and truly.'....On the 10th of April, 1943, a few days later, "Birks, en route home from another shipping strike reported his throttle jammed and the engine running roughly. Cluderay advised him to climb to 500 feet and bale out. Birks got to that height, but then radioed, 'I can't make it.' Soon afterwards, his aircraft [Typhoon R8799] plunged into the sea." The report showed that the accident occurred at 11.20 hours 40 miles east of Yarmouth. He had been on a 'rhubarb' daytime operational flight. The hood and doors had been jettisoned at approximately 900 feet. Conclusion: "The aircraft suddenly developed engine trouble...the casualty was not attibutable to enemy action." Birks is memorialized on the Runnymede Memorial.

His mother wrote on May 1, 1944, "We are most anxious to obtain our son's trunk, an airforce trunk which he had permission to take overseas, also trophies which he won while in England."


  • Canadian Virtual War Memorial