If Slim’s 14th army was the ‘Forgotten Army’ the RAF bombing campaign in the Far East is even more forgotten!
In this episode I’m talking to Matt Poole.
Matt’s mother is from Liverpool, her first husband was in the RAF serving in Burma when he was shot down over Rangoon. In trying to find out what happened that night Matt was introduced to Bill Kirkness who served in the same squadron.
British RAF wireless operator/air gunner Bill ‘Enoch’ Kirkness of Horsforth, Yorkshire, flew thirty-two B-24 Liberator bomber sorties, twenty-eight of which were against Japanese targets in Burma. He was credited with downing the night fighter that killed a crewmate and severely damaged his Liberatoaged his Liberator in April 1944; his aircraft’s crash-landing abruptly ended his first tour of operations. He was awarded a prestigious Distinguished Flying Medal for his heroism.
Bill’s memoir of Wellington ferry flights, Liberator training, and operations with 159 Squadron typifies aspects of the human spirit—including fear and anxiety, focused determination, numbing boredom, brotherly camaraderie, heart-wrenching anguish, and comic relief—which any young man immersed within such a conflict would have likely experienced. Bill wore his heart, not just his sergeant’s stripes, on his sleeve. Bill’s story is a compelling, dignified account of an average man’s war from 1942 to 1944 in the UK, the Mediterranean, Africa, and onward through his first operational tour based in India.
Matt Poole, an expert on 159 Squadron and RAF Liberator activities against the Japanese, seamlessly enhances Bill’s narrative with added historical detail. Although Bill passed away in 1994, Matt vowed to help bring the memoir to a wider audience.
Bill had written a memoir of his wartime experience, though he’s sadly now passed away Matt has edited the manuscript into RAF Liberators over Burma: Flying with 159 Squadron.
We discuss Bill Kirkness’s war, the RAF in Burma and Matt’s journey of piercing the story together.