FIRST NAMES: Thomas Brian

NUMBER: 808416

RANK: Sergeant

UNIT: 74 (Tiger) Squadron RAF

DOB:1st February 1919


STATUS: Died of Wounds

DATE OF DEATH: 26th July 1941

WHERE BURIED: East Harsley

MEDALS: 1939-45 Star with Battle of Britain Clasp, Victory Medal, Defence Medal

Photo of Sgt. T.B. Kirk
Photo of Sgt. T.B. Kirk with his Spitfire

Brian Kirk was born on the 1st of February 1919 and was the second son of Thomas and Esther Kirk and brother to Harry Malcolm Marigold and Thomas. Brian grew up on the family farm at Harlsey Castle and won a scholarship to Northallerton Grammar School. On leaving school Brian worked on the farm, but in 1938 decided to follow his elder brother who was already a qualified pilot into the Royal Air Force.

In 1939 Brian joined No 608 Squadron (Aux) at Thornaby where he learned the basics of life in the RAF. He was then posted to Sywell in Northamptonshire for basic flying training and was then posted to Montrose in Scotland to learn to fly Spitfires. In August 1940 Brian joined No 74 Squadron known as the 'Flying Tigers' which was based at Kirton-on-Lindsay. The commanding officer of this squadron was the redoubtable Sailor Malan and the second in command Mungo-Park. 74 Squadron were called The Flying Tigers because of the squadron crest which depicts a tiger's head and the motto "I Fear No Man".

By the time Brian arrived at the squadron the Battle of Britain was in full spate and the Tigers were in the thick of it. No 74 Squadron were eventually credited with shooting down more German aeroplanes than any other squadron during the Battle of Britain. Shortly after arriving at Kirton-on-Lindsay the squadron was detached to North Weald in Essex to face the onslaught of the Luftwaffe. On September 11th while covering a convoy, Brian shot down a twin engined B.F.110 Messerschmitt escort fighter. This is an extract from the book 'Flying Tigers' and Brian's part in shooting down a German aircraft in which the author, Group Captain Ira Jones, described Sergeant Brian Kirk as "A brave fighter" Brian recalled the event thus;

"We were on patrol over a convoy in the channel when we met 30 to 40 enemy aircraft. We attacked from ahead and a dogfight ensued. I managed to attack a Messerschmitt B.F.110 and opened fire with a ten second burst from three hundred yards. The enemy aircraft rolled over and crashed into the sea.

I opened fire on another enemy aircraft that crossed in front at about a hundred yards and I opened fire and saw large pieces fall off the aircraft, but then my ammunition had ran out, so I broke off and returned to base."

On October 20th 74 Squadron was scrambled from Biggin Hill to engage a large formation of German fighters over the Kentish town of Maidstone. In his report from his hospital bed after the engagement Brian reported;

"I, Sgt Kirk followed by P/O Draper of Yellow 3, we each attacked a Messerschmitt (Me) 109. Large pieces fell from the enemy aircraft wings and fuselage. I did not see the end of the Messerschmitt as I was shot down myself"

After a long running dog fight his Spitfire was so severely damaged it went out of control. Although badly wounded, Brian managed to parachute to safety. His aircraft crashed at Coxheath and he was picked up in a serious condition and taken to Preston Hall Hospital. He stayed in hospital for several months but never recovered from his wounds and on the 26th July 1941, he died. Brian was one of 'The Few' which means he qualified for the Battle of Britain Clasp which is worn on the ribbon of the 1939-45 Star.

Brian Kirk lies buried in the family plot at East Harlsey Cemetery. He is remembered on the East Harlsey War Memorial, the Northallerton Grammar School Gate Memorial, the Battle of Britain Memorial at the Museum, Hendon, London and his name is inscribed in the Battle of Britain Memorial Book in the Central Church of the RAF in the Lower Chapel St. Clement Danes, London. Brian is featured in three books: "'Flying Tigers' History of No 74 Squadron", "The Battle of Britain- Then and Now" and "Men of the Battle of Britain".

Brian was 21 years old.