Fife airman who voiced untold war stories honoured

Mr Burgess served as a flight engineer on RAF Liberator bombers in the Far East. Picture: Getty
Mr Burgess served as a flight engineer on RAF Liberator bombers in the Far East. Picture: Getty
Have your say

AN AIRMAN who gave a voice to elderly comrades to share their untold war stories has been honoured by the Queen.

Jack Burgess, 91, coaxed fellow Second World War veterans into speaking about their missions after fearing their first-hand accounts could be lost forever.

Mr Burgess, of Kirkcaldy, Fife, has been awarded the British Empire Medal after turning countless hours of often harrowing interviews and written accounts into three books and a massive online library.

In some cases, veterans were so traumatised by their experiences that even after more than half a century, their families and loved ones were unaware of the full truth.

Mr Burgess, who served as a flight engineer on RAF Liberator bombers in the Far East, is web co-ordinator of the Scottish Saltire Aircrew Association. The former warrant officer said: “I’m obviously very proud of this award but I’m equally proud that I knew each author of the 250 aircrew experiences, which appear either in the website library or in book form.

“Bill Reid VC was my motivating factor and provided the incentive to initiate this record of aircrew eyewitness accounts which otherwise may have been lost.

“Hopefully, details of what actually took place during their relatives’ flying service has been a source of comfort to surviving family members, or those too young to understand the terrible demands of war.”

After the war, Mr Burgess, who also holds the Burma Star, became a college lecturer and raised four children with his wife Margaret, who died two years ago.

In October 2000, he received a Presidential Award for services to military aviation from the Aircrew Association president, Air Chief Marshall Sir Andrew Wilson. His BEM, awarded last month, carries an identical citation.

Mr Burgess added: “I considered it tragic that so many courageous men who had served their country were passing away and taking their memories with them.

“It is also the least we can do as an act of remembrance for those who have gone before us, having served their country as military aircrew in the quest for peace.

“I know from my own experience that aircrew were often reluctant to speak of their past for fear of being disbelieved or accused of boastfulness. Silence was very often preferred.”

Paying tribute to Mr Burgess, SSACA president, Wing Commander Brian Thornton, said: “Jack has been our public relations officer for some 15 years and throughout that time he has worked ceaselessly to foster and sustain interest in wartime and post-war British military history.”