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Birkland, Henry MiD (Flight Lieutenant)

Prisoner of War KIA 1944-March-25

Birth Date: 1917-August-16 (age 26)

Born: Caldwell, Manitoba

Son of Kristian Martin and Berthilde (nee Johnson) Birkland, of Calgary, Alberta. Brother of Hans, Elmer, Kristian, Lawrence, Martha and Anne.

Home: Calgary, Alberta

Enlistment: Vancouver, British Columbia

Enlistment Date: 1940-07-15

Decorations: MiD

Mentioned in Dispatches
72 Sqn- Squadron
Flight Lieutenant
Air Chief MarshalA/C/M
Air MarshalA/M
Air Vice MarshalA/V/M
Air CommodoreA/C
Group CaptainG/C
Wing CommanderW/C
Squadron LeaderS/L
Flight LieutenantF/L
Flying OfficerF/O
Pilot OfficerP/O
Warrant Officer 1st ClassWO1
Warrant Officer 2nd ClassWO2
Flight SergeantFS
Senior AircraftmanSAC
Leading AircraftmanLAC
Aircraftman 1st ClassAC1
Aircraftman 2nd ClassAC2
Service Numbers

Trained at 1 ITS (graduated 15 November 1940), 11 EFTS (graduated 5 January 1941) and 9 SFTS (graduated 26 April 1941). Missing, POW, 7 November 1941 (Spitfire W3367). Died as a POW, 25 March 1944 (shot following the Great Escape)

72 Squadron (Swift). Spitfire aircraft W 3367 was shot down on November 7, 1941 over enemy territory. Flight Lieutenant Birkland was taken Prisoner of War and was one of six Canadians who were shot by the Gestapo while they were trying to escape.

Addendum: - Mention in Despatches 72 Squadron (deceased) - Award effective 8 June 1944 as per London Gazette of that date and AFRO 1729/44 dated 11 August 1944. No citation in AFRO Detail provided by H. Halliday, Orleans, Ontario

Canada Source Canadian Virtual War Memorial

Canada Primary Source Library and Archives Canada Service Files (may not exist)

Google MapCalgary, Alberta
Google MapCmentarz Wojenny Wspolnoty Brytyjskiej w Poznaniu
7 C 3

Supermarine Spitfire

Source: Harold A Skaarup Web Page (DND Photo)
Supermarine Spitfire Mk. VI, RCAF (Serial No. X4492), in flight, 26 Feb 1944.

The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and other Allied countries before, during, and after World War II. Many variants of the Spitfire were built, using several wing configurations, and it was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft. It was also the only British fighter produced continuously throughout the war. The Spitfire continues to be popular among enthusiasts; around 70 remain airworthy, and many more are static exhibits in aviation museums throughout the world.

The Spitfire was designed as a short-range, high-performance interceptor aircraft by R. J. Mitchell, chief designer at Supermarine Aviation Works, which operated as a subsidiary of Vickers-Armstrong from 1928. Mitchell pushed the Spitfire's distinctive elliptical wing with cutting-edge sunken rivets (designed by Beverley Shenstone) to have the thinnest possible cross-section, helping give the aircraft a higher top speed than several contemporary fighters, including the Hawker Hurricane.

The Spitfire had detachable wing tips which were secured by two mounting points at the end of each main wing assembly. When the Spitfire took on a role as a high-altitude fighter (Marks VI and VII and some early Mk VIIIs), the standard wing tips were replaced by extended, "pointed" tips which increased the wingspan from 36 ft 10 in (11.23 m) to 40 ft 2 in (12.24 m). The other wing-tip variation, used by several Spitfire variants, was the "clipped" wing; the standard wing tips were replaced by wooden fairings which reduced the span by 3 ft 6 in (1.07 m). The wing tips used spruce formers for most of the internal structure with a light alloy skin attached using brass screws.

Due to a shortage of Brownings, which had been selected as the new standard rifle calibre machine gun for the RAF in 1934, early Spitfires were fitted with only four guns, with the other four fitted later. Early tests showed that, while the guns worked perfectly on the ground and at low altitudes, they tended to freeze at high altitude, especially the outer wing guns, because the RAF's Brownings had been modified to fire from an open bolt. While this prevented overheating of the cordite used in British ammunition, it allowed cold air to flow through the barrel unhindered. Supermarine did not fix the problem until October 1938, when they added hot air ducts from the rear of the wing-mounted radiators to the guns, and bulkheads around the gunbays to trap the hot air in the wing. Red fabric patches were doped over the gun ports to protect the guns from cold, dirt, and moisture until they were fired.

The first Rolls-Royce Griffon-engined Mk XII flew in August 1942, and first flew operationally with 41 Squadron in April 1943. This mark could nudge 400 mph (640 km/h) in level flight and climb to an altitude of 33,000 ft (10,000 m) in under nine minutes. As American fighters took over the long-range escorting of USAAF daylight bombing raids, the Griffon-engined Spitfires progressively took up the tactical air superiority role, and played a major role in intercepting V-1 flying bombs, while the Merlin-engined variants (mainly the Mk IX and the Packard-engined Mk XVI) were adapted to the fighter-bomber role. Although the later Griffon-engined marks lost some of the favourable handling characteristics of their Merlin-powered predecessors, they could still outmanoeuvre their main German foes and other, later American and British-designed fighters.Wikipedia

Wkikpedia Wikipedia Supermarine Spitfire

General Harold A Skaarup Web Page

YouTube YouTube How the Spitfire Became an Aviation Masterpiece

Kestrek Publications RCAF Supermarine Spitfire Serials - Kestrel Publications

CASPIR Aircraft Groups:
RCAF On Strength (8), RCAF 400 Squadron (175), Canadian Aircraft Losses (767)
last update: 2022-01-01 13:29:31

Spitfire Mk Vb W3367

FF 23-05-1941 6MU 25-05-1941 74S 12-06-1941 72S 29-07-1941 Shot down by fighters on sweep to St.Omer 07-11-1941 Pilot Officer H Birkland RCAF PoW was part of the 'Great Escape'

Stories and Videos

The Great Escape: Canadian Airmen Role

The Movie by the same name implies that The Great Escape was an American operation. It was not. It was primarily a British Commonwealth Operation and Canadian airmen had a very prominent role. In fact six Canadian airmen who were captured after escape were executed by German forces.

YouTube The True Story Of The Great Escape

Further Reading:

  2. THE GREAT ESCAPE by Paul Brickhill

The Escape

Seventy-six Allied Officers escape from Prisoner of War Camp Stalag Luft 3. 50 were subsequently murdered in retaliation for their escape attempt on the order of Adolph Hitler. 15 were recaptured, and 11 escaped.

6 - RCAF

  1. F/L GE McGill
  2. F/L H Birkland MiD
  3. F/L GA Kidder
  4. F/L PW Langford MiD
  5. F/L JC Wernham MiD
  6. F/L GW Wiley

4 - RAAF

  1. S/L J Catanach
  2. F/L AH Hake
  3. F/O RV Kierath
  4. S/L JEA Williams


  1. F/O A Christensen
  2. F/O PPJ Pohe

2 - SAAF

  1. F/L N McGarr
  2. Lt RJ Stevens

2 - Norway (RAF)

  1. F/O H Espelid
  2. F/O J Fugelsang

1 - France (RAF)

  1. Lt BW Scheidhower

1 - Greece (RAF)

  1. F/O S Skanziklas

32 - RAF

  1. F/L E Brettell DFC
  2. F/L LG Butt DFC
  3. S/L RJ Bushell
  4. F/L MJ Casey
  5. F/O D.H. Cochram
  6. S/L IK Cross DFC
  7. F/L BH Evans
  8. Lt Gouws
  9. F/Ls WJ Grisman
  10. F/L AD Gunn
  11. F/L CB Hall
  12. F/L AH Hayter
  13. F/L ES Humphreys
  14. F/L A Kiewnarski
  15. S/L TG Kirby-Green
  16. F/O W Kolanowski
  17. F/L TB Leigh
  18. F/L R Marcinkcus
  19. F/L HT Milford
  20. F/O J Mondschein
  21. F/O K Pawluk
  22. F/L HA Picard
  23. F/L CD Swain
  24. F/O RC Stewart
  25. F/O JG Stower
  26. F/O DD Street
  27. F/L E Valenta
  28. F/L GW Walenn
  29. F/L JF Williams
  30. F/L JLR Long
  31. F/O S Krol
  32. F/O P Tobolski

The Great Escape

  1. From which Prison Camp were the Canadian and British Airmen trying to escape and where was it located?
  2. How deep was the escape tunnel?
  3. How long was the tunnel?
  4. How many men expected to escape?
  5. How how many did escape?
  6. How many were re-captured?
  7. How long did it take to plan and execute the escape?
  8. What special skills were required to facilitate the escape?
  9. Was the Gestapo's treatment of the re-captured prisoners legal under the terms of the Geneva Convention?

Additional Projects

  • Compare and contrast the 1963 movie with the actual events
  • Compare the differences between Internment and Prisoner of War
  • Were there allied prison camps for Captured German and Japanese?
  • Were there detainment camps for non-combatants?

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