Flight Sergeant Hilary Eldred BIRK MID

Service No: 402634
Born: Windsor NSW, 31 January 1922
Enlisted in the RAAF: 18 September 1940
Unit: No. 159 Squadron (RAF)
Awarded the Mentioned in Despatches (MID)
Died: Air Operations (No. 159 Squadron Liberator aircraft AL566), off Benghazi, 15 July 1942, Aged 20 Years
Buried: Benghazi War Cemetery, Libya
CWGC Additional Information: Son of the Revd. George Phillip Birk and Elvy Grace Birk, of Croydon, New South Wales, Australia
Roll of Honour: Burwood NSW
Remembered: Panel 118, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

Brother of Flight Sergeant Doric Phillip Birk (14228)

Flight Sergeant Birk evaded capture following the loss No. 99 Squadron Wellington aircraft X9761 on 28 September 1941.

On 2 July 1942, Pilot Officer Pottie and Flight Sergeant Birk MID survived the crash of Liberator AL552 at Fayid, Egypt, while on a night landing training flight.

On 15 July 1942 Liberator AL566 formed part of two formations of aircraft on an operational sortie to Benghazi, Libya. In a report by Squadron Leader Beck, leader of one of the formations, he stated “the two formations were engaged by enemy fighters over the target. AL566 was on Beck’s port side in No. 3 position in formation in the run up to the target. There was heavy and accurate flak over the target and just after releasing the bombs AL566 was seen to fall back and lose height. An enemy fighter dived onto the aircraft which made a steep turn to port. Both aircraft circled each other for a short time then AL566 was seen to spiral into the sea. Squadron Leader Beck considers that AL566 was hit by flak and in endeavouring to evade the fighter aircraft stalled causing a spin. The spin may have been due to damage to controls by flak.” Reports by other crews saw the aircraft crash into the sea. No parachutes were seen. Flight Sergeant Birk’s body was later washed ashore. In a 1948 report it was concluded that the remainder of the crew were lost at sea.

The crew members of AL566 were:

Flight Sergeant Hilary Eldred Birk MID (402634) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Martin Coston Fell MID (402118) (RNZAF) (Air Gunner)
Sergeant John Stephen Arthur Hodge (812278) (RAF (Auxiliary Air Force)) (Air Gunner)
Pilot Officer Henry Leisk (402036) (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner)
Pilot Officer George Gilmour Mallaby (402092) (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner)
Warrant Officer William Stevenson Miller (521648) (RAF) (Observer)
Pilot Officer John Campbell Pottie (402134) (Pilot)


Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records (RAAF Casualty Information compiled by Alan Storr (409804))
Chorley W R, Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War, Volume 2 Aircraft and Aircrew Losses 1941, Midland Counties Publications UK, 1993
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Clutton-Brock, O. (Oliver) RAF Evaders: the comprehensive story of thousands of escapers and their escape lines, Western Europe, 1940-5, Grub Street London, 2009
Department of Veterans’ Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 63/92/82

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