W/O Terence Birch
In February 2004 I received an e-mail from a work colleague of Jacqueline Birch, wife of Clive Birch, whose father was W/O Terence Birch.
W/O Birch was killed on 11 June 1944 and is buried in Villenave D'Ornon Communal Cemetery near Bordeaux.
Clive knew very little about the circumstances of his father's death, but aided by some recollections from my father (G.D.Kelsey) he arranged to visit the site of his father's grave, and see the area where his plane was shot down.
The following is an account of the trip he made:-
"We flew to Bordeaux on Monday March 23rd. My heart sank a little as we arrived by taxi at the hotel that had been part of the fly/accommodation deal I had booked with the travel company. for the hotel was on the edge of this large city in an industrial area. It seemed a bit isolated.
That evening after a meal in the one restaurant near the hotel I approached the hotel receptionist to try to find the area of Villenave D'ornon which was the location of my fathers grave. Eventually I managed to make myself understood in my very limited French.
Villenave D'ornon", she said "you are in it"!!
We had by more luck than judgement been booked into a hotel that was only one kilometre from the graveyard. God was looking after us.
The next morning the three of us walked to the graveyard. It was a very profound experience. After a short search we found the military part set in the middle of a civilian walled enclosure. Terry's grave was at the front of six British and Canadian dead. Behind them was approx. forty Polish war dead.
We spent around an hour being quiet, taking photos, having a short prayer for healing, and talking about how we felt about this experience. We left to return to the hotel as the rain started. It was a serious but not a sad feeling that I left with."
The grave of W/O Terence Birch
The following is a cutting from a local French newspaper regarding the visit (followed by an English translation)
Clive Birch, son of the English pilot whose fighter was brought down in the swamp of Certes on June 10th, 1944 took in himself on the scene of the drama.
A Fighter crashed in the swamp of Certes
Sixty years later, Clive Birch and his wife Jacqueline, came from Cheltenham, 150 km to the north of London (sic) - to Audenge to collect themselves (recollect) in the place where his father was killed 60 years earlier, during the crash of the plane.
June 10th, 1944 airman W.O. Terence Birch, 23-year-old pilot, and his navigator, sergeant Ernest Stanley Tickle (29 years old) from 151 Squadron RAF, settled in a panic. their plane, Mosquito Mk 13, having been damaged in the right wing during and air battle above the basin of Arcachon. Aiming for the domaine of Certes, their plane crashed in the swamp. The two English airmen, seriously injured, taken out of the machine by German soldiers, were transported to the military hospital Robert Piqué in Bordeaux.
At the time of the crash of the plane, Clive Birch, the son of the pilot, was only 11 months old. He thus came on the “Bassin d’Arcachon” to reminisce at the grave of his father in the cemetery of Villenave d’Ornon. Then he came to the site of the crash and where it remains to this day. In a very moving silence he threw a handful of the gravel brought from his father’s grave into the water.