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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. W R Burns


William Richard Burns was born in Devonport, England on 10th June 1912 but went to New Zealand in 1929 and worked on sheep and dairy farms.

He joined the RNZAF in January 1940 and after training at Weraroa and Ohakea sailed in the SS Akaroa on 23rd March, arriving at Tilbury on 9th May.

After gunnery instruction at 5 OTU Aston Down, he was posted to 236 Squadron at Thorney Island on 6th July 1940. He moved to 282 Squadron on 14th November and then went to 221 Squadron in mid-December.


Above: 236 Squadron gunners

(Back): Sgt. RI McChesney (NZ), Sgt. WR Burns (NZ), Sgt. CWD Brown, Sgt. J Lowe, Sgt. GG Green, unknown ‘Jock’

(Front): Sgt A Spiers., Sgt. JE Goldsmith, Sgt. HDB Elsdon




Burns came off operations on 26th March 1941, to operate and maintain the searchlight on the first Wellington to be equipped with the Leigh Light for anti-submarine work. On 10th July 1941 Burns went to the Coastal Command Development Unit to instruct on the Light.

In late January 1942 he joined a searchlight development unit, 1417 Flight, which became 172 Squadron on 8th March and by June was fully operational. Burns was posted to 210 Squadron on 15th January 1943, later moving to 59 Squadron and 279 Squadron.

Commissioned in December 1943, Burns was serving with 279 until November 1944, when he went to 5 (Coastal) OTU at Turnberry.

He was repatriated to New Zealand in September 1946 and released in December as a Flight Lieutenant.

Burns died on 23rd May 1949.

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