Sergeant William Wilson Kirby (416768) served in the Royal Australian Air Force. For a time during World War Two he flew from a base in Northern Ireland.
On 15th May 1943, he took off in Bristol Beaufort DX134 flying with No 1 OTU RAF. Kirby’s role in the crew was navigator and bomb aimer. He was on a map reading non-operational training flight taking part in an air-sea rescue exercise.
At 1800hrs, the Beaufort crashed at Church Island, near Bellaghy, Co. Londonderry. All the men on board died in the accident.
It seems fairly apparent that the pilot was making a forced landing on open ground, but his approach took him over a church. It seems that to avoid hitting the church spire, he stalled the aircraft at approx 100 feet and crashed in a very steep angle just beyond the church building.
The report also pointed to issues with the port engine. It was inspected after the incident and traces of white metal showed up in the oil. Kirby’s pilot had been flying on the starboard engine when forced to attempt landing.
Also killed was pilot Sergeant RK Holmes of the Royal Canadian Air Force. He is buried in Milltown Cemetery, Belfast. Wireless air gunners Sergeant G Taylor and Sergeant JR Parks also lost their lives.
Sergeant William Wilson Kirby’s grave is in Belfast City Cemetery, Co. Antrim. His name is remembered in position 125 of the Commemorative Area of the Australian War Memorial.