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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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72 squadron crest
07.11.1941 No. 72 Squadron Spitfire Vb W3367 Fl/Lt. Birkland MiD.

Operation: Rodeo

Date: 7th November 1941 (Friday)

Unit: No. 72 Squadron (Swift)

Type: Spitfire Vb

Serial: W3367

Base: RAF Acklington, Northumberland.

Location: Not yet identified

Pilot: Fl/Lt. Henry Birkland MiD. J/5233 RCAF Age 25. PoW. (1)


Taking part in a "RODEO" (A fighter sweep - without bombers - see abbreviation list) during the afternoon of the 7th November 1941 and shot down by JG26. He was subsequently made a PoW spending some time in Stalag Luft III. 


On the 31st March 1944 he was one of 76 PoW's that took part in the famous 'Great Escape'. 50 of these were murdered, 15 recaptured and 11 escaped. 

6 of those murdered from the 50 were Canadians (Fl/Lt G.E. McGill, Fl/Lt. H. Birkland MiD., Fl/Lt. Wiley, Fl/Lt. G.A. Kidder, Fl/Lt. P.W. Langford, Fl/Lt. J.C. Wernham MiD) and were executed by the Gestapo - on the personal orders from Adolf Hitler. 

Memorial at Birkland Lake shown above

(1) Birkland Lake at Alberta, Canada has been named after Fl/Lt. Birkland MiD.

Burial details:

Fl/Lt. Henry Birkland MiD. Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery, Poland. Grave. 7C.3. Son of Kristian M. Birkland and Botilda Birkland, of 334 Third Avenue West, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Enlisted in RCAF in July 1940, trained in Canada, receiving his wings at Prince Edward Island 10th April 1944. His grave inscription reads: Beloved by family and friends alike. He gave his life, knowing this right.

Research for relatives of the pilot. With thanks to the following: The CWGC, 'Fighter Command Losses' - Norman Franks.

KTY - 31.10.2015 Serial number corrected - courtesy Jack Brook

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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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