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The Airmen's Stories - F/O C N Birch


Colin Norman Birch, of Northampton, was born on 27th November 1918. His father is shown in the 1901 census as a draper's apprentice, living in Leicester. According to the 1939 register he was a hosiery agent living in Northampton.

CN Birch joined the RAFVR in December 1937 as an Airman u/t Pilot.

He joined the RAF on a short service commission in September 1938 and completed his flying training at 2 FTS Brize Norton.


Above image courtesy of Andrew MacRae via Laurie Chester.


In June 1939 Birch was posted to No. 1 Squadron at Tangmere and he went with it to France at the outbreak of war. He was rotated to England on 24th May 1940. The rest of No.1 Squadron was not withdrawn until 18th June.

On 19th August Birch blundered into the London balloon barrage during a night patrol. He baled out and landed on the roof of a house. It took him a long time to convince the local people that he was British. His Hurricane crashed and burned out in Chatterton Road, Finsbury Park.

Birch claimed a He111 destroyed on 30th August and a Me109 on 1st September.

He was posted from No. 1 to 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on 18th October 1940. The unit was redesignated 56 OTU in November. In 1941 Birch did an instructors course at CFS Upavon. The unit moved to RAF Tealing in March 1942.

He was at HQ Fighter Command in 1942 and the Fighter Leaders School at Aston Down in 1943.

Awarded the AFC (gazetted 8th June 1944), Birch was posted to ADGB Bentley Priory, moving in 1945 to the Central Fighter Establishment, West Raynham.

In 1946 Birch served on the staff at Air HQ Northern Italy. He was Commandant of No. 2 RAFVR Centre in 1947 and in 1948 he was granted a permanent commission.

From 1949 until he retired on 28th March 1958 Birch held a number of appointments, the final one being at the Air Ministry on Intelligence duties.

He retired on 28th March 1958 as a Squadron Leader.

Birch died on 30th October 2005 in Blairgowrie, Perthshire.



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