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Today in History




Name: Gerald Alfred Birks
Military Cross (MC) and Bar Gerald Birks
Country: Canada
Rank: Lieutenant
Service: Royal Flying Corps
Royal Air Force
Units: 66
Victories: 12
Born: 30 October 1894
Place of Birth: Montreal, Quebec
Died: 26 May 1991
Place of Death: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
 
 
      Gerald Alfred Birks hailed from Montreal. He soloed in 2.5 hours and went to Italy with the unusually high total of 138 hours flight time, where he joined No. 66 Squadron in March 1918. Assigned to C Flight, he soon became a favorite wingman of Capt. William Barker, and the aggressive pair cut a wide swath, almost constantly flying air-air and air-ground sorties. On 24 May, in a large dogfight, Birks shot down the Berg flown by Josef Kiss, CO of Flik 55J. Birks, who genuinely mastered the Camel, also was credited with another Austro-Hungarian ace, Karl Patzelt, CO of Flik 68J. By late June Birks was credited with 12 confirmed victories (all destroyed or captured), with 10 positively identified and two more likely. Eight of his victories came in May alone.
      Barker asked Birks to go with him to France but by then Birks was tired and in need of a rest. Years later he said that he didn't think he'd have survived Barker's epic VC mission, being largely worn out. Very, very few RFC/RAF scout pilots came close to Birks' ratio of verified victories.
      Interesting to note is that Birks did a little training in Canada after return from Italy and finished his aviation career with 311 hours total time!
      A patron of the arts, he remained an active painter until shortly before his death in Toronto in May 1991, age 96.

Notes contributed by Barrett Tillman

 
Military Cross (MC)
Lt. Gerald Alfred Birks, R.A.F.
   For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in destroying six enemy aeroplanes, two of which fell on our side of the lines.
 
Military Cross (MC) Bar
Lieut. Gerald Alfred Birks, M.C., R.A.F.
   For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in destroying four enemy aeroplanes, two of which were destroyed in one fight.
   (M.C. gazetted in this Gazette.)
 
Opponents
#5 Austro-Hungarian EmpireKarl Patzelt
#10 Austro-Hungarian EmpireJosef Kiss
 
Victories
Date Time Unit Aircraft Opponent Location
1 18 Mar 1918 0825 66 Sopwith Camel (B6424) Rumpler C (161.69) (DES) Pravisdomini
2 24 Mar 1918 1145 66 Sopwith Camel (B2497) C (69.81) (DESF) SE of Conegliano
3 02 May 1918 1145 66 Sopwith Camel (B6424) Albatros D.V (153.176) (DES) Levico
4 04 May 1918 0945 66 Sopwith Camel (B6424) Albatros D.V (153.210) (CAP) Vidor
5 04 May 1918 0950 66 Sopwith Camel (B6424) Albatros D.V (153.182) (CAP) Vidor
6 11 May 1918 1645 66 Sopwith Camel (B7358) Albatros D.V (DESF) Torre di Mosto
7 19 May 1918 0735 66 Sopwith Camel (D1913) Berg D (DES) Borgo
8 19 May 1918 0740 66 Sopwith Camel (D1913) Berg D (DES) Borgo
9 20 May 1918 1200 66 Sopwith Camel (D1913) Berg D (DES) Valdobiadene
10 24 May 1918 1045 66 Sopwith Camel (B6424) Berg D (DES) Lamon
11 09 Jun 1918 1020 66 Sopwith Camel (D8101) Albatros D.V (DESF) Levico
12 21 Jun 1918 0910 66 Sopwith Camel (D8101) Albatros D.V (DES) Motta
 
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