The Airmen's Stories - Lt. (FAA) R A Bird
Ronald Arthur Bird was born on 7th May 1916 in North Witchford, March, Cambridgeshire, the son of George Henry Bird and Ethel Mary Bird (nee Gilby).
After leaving school he worked as a clerk until joining the Royal Navy on 1st November 1931 for boy service.
On his 18th birthday, 7th May 1934, he signed on for a regular engagement as a Seaman Gunner. Bird served on HMS Valiant, Ramilles and Curlew and, after some shore postings, he was commissioned from Acting Petty Officer to Acting Sub-Lieutenant on 1st September 1937 in the Executive Branch of the Royal Navy.
Above L to R: Bird, Mid. MA Birrell, P.O. WEJ Stockwell (head in cockpit).
From 6th June 1939 Bird was on the minesweeper HMS Niger. He was attached to the Fleet Air Arm on 9th October 1939. He did his elementary flying course at 14 EFTS Elmdon and went on to 7 FTS Peterborough on 11th December on No. 7 (FAA) Course.
He married Rita Gibson in January 1940 in Peterborough.
After completing his training, on 27th May 1940, Bird did fighter courses with 759 and 769 (FAA) Squadrons, after which he was posted to 804 Squadron at Hatston on 20th July 1940.
The squadron was seconded to Fighter Command and its Sea Gladiators were used on dockyard defence.
804 was reformed as a Catapult Fighter Unit in March 1941, with Fulmars and Sea Hurricanes, Bird was assigned to the SS Ariguani. He was launched in a Fulmar twice, on 30th April and 20th May 1941, landing each time at Sydenham, Northern Ireland.
On 4th October 1941 Bird was launched in a Hurricane from the Ariguani against a Fw200 Kondor, which he intercepted and damaged. He baled out and was picked up by the ship’s boat 50 minutes later.
In January 1942 he joined 881 Squadron on HMS Illustrious, from which he took part in operations in Madagascar. On 6th May 1942 he shared in destroying a Potez 63.
From March 1943 Bird commanded 881 Squadron, then on HMS Furious. On 8th July 1943 he shared in the destruction of a BV138. In November 1943 he took up a staff posting at Largs, Scotland.
In November 1944 Bird was given command of 882 Squadron, then on HMS Formidable and later on HMS Searcher. On 26th March 1945 he destroyed a Me109 and damaged another.
He was awarded the DSC (gazetted 26th June 1945 for ‘courage, daring and tenacity in air strikes whilst serving with HMS Searcher off Norway’.
He was awarded a Bar to the DSC (gazetted 7th August 1945) for ‘outstanding courage in air attacks against U-boat bases at Kilbotn, Norway’.
On 10th April 1946 Bird was killed in a flying accident when his Seafire broke up in the air whilst serving as CFI of 794 Squadron in HMS Gannet, an OTU at Eglinton, Northern Ireland. Bird was 29.
His name is on the Fleet Air Arm Memorial at Lee-on-Solent.