Gerald Birks

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Gerald Alfred Sigourney Birks
Born October 30, 1894
Montreal, Quebec
Died May 26, 1991 (aged 96)
Toronto, Ontario
Allegiance Canada
 United Kingdom
Service/branch Canadian Forces
Rank Colonel
Unit RFC/Royal Air Force
Awards MC and Bar,
Other work philanthropy

Gerald Alfred Sigourney Birks, MC and Bar, RFC (October 30, 1894 – May 26, 1991) was a Canadian fighter ace in World War I. He assisted in the founding of Khaki University during World War I


A son of William Birks, the owner of the Canadian jewelers Henry Birks and Sons, he was descended from a Yorkshire farming family. He was educated at Montreal High School and McGill University.[citation needed]

Military service[edit]

World War I[edit]

He originally enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 31 August 1915.[1] He was wounded on the Somme in 1916.[citation needed]

After transferring to the Royal Flying Corps, he soloed during pilot's training with only 212 hours stick time. Nevertheless, he had the considerable experience of 138 hours in his pilot's logbook when he shipped out to join 66 Squadron and its Sopwith Camels in Italy. He was assigned to C Flight, and became a favored wingman of famed fellow Canadian ace Billy Barker.[2]

Birks' first aerial victory came on 18 March 1918, when he destroyed a Rumpler reconnaissance plane over Pravisdomini, killing an Austro-Hungarian named Shneeberger. Six days later, he set another recce machine afire, killing the crew of Poelzi and Suski.[3]

His third victory would not come until 2 May 1918, when he wounded Leutnant K. Kosiuski and drove him into a crashlanding that destroyed his Albatros D.V. Two days later, Birks shot down and killed ace Karl Patzelt, as well as F. Frisch. In addition to killing both Austro-Hungarian pilots, he destroyed both their Albatros D.Vs; they were credited as "captured" because they fell within Italian lines.[4]

The new ace flamed another D.V a week later, on 11 May. He destroyed two Berg fighters in five minutes on a morning patrol on 19 May. The following day, he ruined another. On 24 May 1918, while flying wing with the redoubtable Barker, Birks was credited with shooting down Hungarian ace Lt. József Kiss, CO of Flik 55j; Birks thus became a double ace.[5]

On 9 June 1918, Birks set another Albatros D.V afire in midair. On the 21st, he capped his list of triumphs by destroying another D.V over Motta. Most unusually for a British pilot, he had no "soft" victories, such as "driven down out of control".[6]

For his deadly courage, Birks was awarded both the Military Cross and a bar in lieu of a second award; both were gazetted on 16 September 1918.[7]

For the Military Cross, his citation read:[8]

"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in destroying six enemy aeroplanes, two of which fell on our side of the lines."[9][10]

For the Bar to the Military Cross, the official text read:[11][12]

"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in destroying four enemy aeroplanes, two of which were destroyed in one fight."[13]

Birks was placed on the RAF's unemployed list on 13 March 1919.[14]

Post World War II[edit]

After the war, he became a patron of the arts, and was an active painter until his death. He died in 1991 in Toronto.[15]


  1. ^ Retrieved 6 January 2011
  2. ^ Retrieved 6 January 2011
  3. ^ Shores etal, p. 76
  4. ^ Shores etal, p. 76
  5. ^ Shores etal, p. 76
  6. ^ Shores etal, p. 76
  7. ^ Retrieved 6 January 2011
  8. ^ Retrieved 6 January 2011
  9. ^ (Supplement to the London Gazette, 16 September 1918) Retrieved 6 January 2011
  10. ^ Retrieved 6 January 2011
  11. ^ Retrieved 6 January 2011
  12. ^ Retrieved 6 January 2011
  13. ^ (Supplement to the London Gazette, 16 September 1918) Retrieved 6 January 2011
  14. ^ (The London Gazette, 20 April 1920) Retrieved 6 January 2011
  15. ^ Retrieved 6 January 2011