Major William Claud Kennedy BIRCH, MC
Remembrance - The Yorkshire Regiment, First World War
Major William Claud Kennedy BIRCH, MC

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Major William Claud Kennedy BIRCH, MC

A photo of Major Birch from the Royal Aero Club Aviators’ Certificates, 1910-1950, is shown below.

Major William Claud Kennedy BIRCH, MC

2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment. Killed 5 January 1918.

The following data is given in "Officers of the Green Howards, 1688 - 1931" by Major M L Ferrar;-
"Born at Landor, India, 24 August 1891, son of Colonel William Alexander Birch, Indian Army, of Compton Lodge, Walton-on-Thyames.
2nd Lieutenant 4 March 1911; Lieutenant 27 October 1913; Captain 13 April 1916; Adjutant 17 June 1917 - 20 November 1917.
Lost his life in the fire at Hedge Street Tunnel, near Ypres, 5 January 1918.
At the beginning of the war he was attached to the Royal Flying Corps, and had gone out on a bombing expedition. His machine was hit many times and he was wounded in the arm. Finally, he was forced to land in a ploughed field. After many adventures he found his way to Flushing and disguised as a seaman under the name james Buckle he worked his passage to England. He was reported missing on 15 january 1915 and "not missing" ten days later. He rejoined the Flying Corps and was twice mentioned in despatches and awarded the Military Cross. He rejoined the 2nd Battalion in March 1917.
The Chaplain wrote the following account of his death;-
"We had an awful tragedy on last FRiday night in the support trenches - a big tunnel. It is believed that the electric light short circuited and a fire broke out in two places (at 1230 Saturday morning, 5 January). Major Birch and all the other officers in BHQ were awakened, but, alas, he, the acting Adjutant and all the officers in B Company failed to get out, and were burnt to death along with two other officers and a padre and about 15 signallers and runners. A service was held shortly after. The entrances were sealed up as soon as possible to stop the flames and spread the fire. At the enquiry it was decided that no blame attached to the regiment and that everything possible had been done. These officers were really most of the flower of the regiment, three had won Military Crosses. They were the bravest and the best. One of the men tells me that he (Major Birch) could have got out, and came to the entrance steps, asked if all were out, and was told "No", and so he went back to get them and so gave his life. He was in command of the battalion at the time of writing with acting rank of Major."
His brigade commander, Brigadier General G D Goodman, wrote;-
It was only the day before he died that, as I left him in the forward area, I thought to myself how well he was doing in command of his battalion, and how satisfied I was to have him there. I had already recommended him for a permanent command, and in those days officers of his stamp are not very many. He will be much missed, both in his regiment and in the brigade, and was a very gallant soldier.""

Royal Aero Club Aviators’ Certificates, 1910-1950, are available on The data for William Claud Kenndy Birch in this collection includes;-

>Major William Claud Kennedy BIRCH, MC

>Major William Claud Kennedy BIRCH, MC

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