Life story written by Paul Beecroft
Lewis John KIRK
L. J. KIRK
WIRELESS OPERATOR/AIR GUNNER
ROYAL AIR FORCE
21 ST MARCH 1941 AGE 27
“I bare you on eagles wings and brought you unto myself”
In the centre of the grave there is a plaque in the form of a star bearing the name ‘Lewis’ along with the symbol of a circle with a dot in the centre which is recognised by Scouts around the world and means ‘I have Gone Home’. Scouting’s founder Lord Baden Powell has the same symbol on his gravestone.
Around the outer curb stone of the grave the following is recorded:-
To the dear memory of LEWIS KIRK, who passed from this life to life eternal Aug. 5th 1920, aged 35 years. Also ESTHER MARGARET KIRK wife and mother. Re-united Feb. 3 rd 1947. Also our dear son LEWIS JOHN KIRK. Sergt. R.A.F.V.R. March 21 1941, aged 27. Per ardua ad astra. In the hope of everlasting reunion.
Lewis John Kirk was born in Reading on 19th August 1913 and was the only son of Lewis and Esther Margaret KIRK (nee PUGH). Lewis and Esther both lived in Reading and were married at St. George’s Church in Reading on 27th June 1911. When Lewis John was born they were living at 685, Oxford Road, Reading. During WWI, Lewis (senior) served with the 1st Signal Company, Royal Engineers and attained the rank of sergeant. He was awarded the Military Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal in 1918. Following the end of the war he returned to Reading and worked at Huntley and Palmers where he had been employed prior to the war.
In 1920 the family suffered a tragedy. In August the family went on holiday to Cornwall. On 5th August they were on Crinnis Beach near St. Austell. Lewis (senior) went into the sea to bathe on his own when he suddenly disappeared in the breakers. He was seen in trouble by his uncle but due to the rough sea nothing could be done to help him. His body was washed
ashore some three hours later. An Inquest was held the following day and the Coroner recorded a verdict of ‘Accidentally drowned‘. His funeral took place on 11th August and he was buried in Reading Old Cemetery.
Little is known about the early years of Lewis (junior) outside of him having an interest in photography, boating and was a member of the Y.M.C.A. Scout Troop. On leaving school it is not known what his employment was but in the late 1930s he was employed in the G.W.R.
Secretary’s Office at Paddington. Then, in 1939, a few months prior to WWII, he joined the R.A.F.V.R. Following the outbreak of war he was posted to 150 Squadron which had been reformed in 1938. At the time the squadron was equipped with Fairey Battle light bombers which were used as part of the Advanced Air Striking Force. In May 1940 they received
heavy losses in attempting to oppose the German invasion of France and were evacuated back to England. In October 1940, the squadron was re-equipped with Vickers Wellington Bombers and came under Bomber Command becoming operational from RAF Newton in Nottinghamshire.
Lewis had by now been promoted to Sergeant and was a wireless operator/air gunner in a Wellington MK1c Bomber. How many bombing sorties he took part in is not known but he surely did!
On the night of 21st March 1941 the six-man crew of the Wellington Bomber, R3288 took off from RAF Newton for a bombing raid on Lorient in Brittany. Returning from the raid with a damaged aircraft they became lost and whilst flying through clouds and unable to see properly the aircraft crashed into the upper slopes of Mt. Moel Farlwyd, Snowdonia and disintegrated killing five of the six crew, one of which was Lewis Kirk.
On the 28th March the Reading Standard newspaper recorded the following:-
ON ACTIVE SERVICE
KIRK, – While on active service, Sergt. Lewis
John, R.A.F., only son of Mrs. and the late
Lewis Kirk, aged 27.
Per Ardua Ad Astra.
His funeral took place a few days later at St. Laurence’s Church, Reading where he was a regular communicant. The funeral was attended by a number of relatives, members of the Registration Office, G.W.R. and a detachment of the R.A.F. His body was then conveyed to the Reading Old Cemetery where his is now buried.
On Friday 15th August 1941, the following appeared in the Reading Standard:-
KIRK. – To the dear memory of my darling
Boy, Sergt. Lewis John Kirk, R.A.F.V.R.
On his birthday, August 19th , also his
Father, Lewis Kirk, who left us August 5, 1920
And we, who are left, must grow old with the years
Knowing failure and heartache and blame.
While you stand on the moor with the wind in your hair.
Young and joyful, always the same.
The following year, on Friday 14th August, the following appeared in the Reading Standard:-
KIRK. – To the dear memory of my darling
boy, Sergt. Lewis John Kirk, R.A.F.V.R.,
on this his birthday, August 19; also
Lewis Kirk, who passed onwards August 5, 1920.
“They have out soared the shadow of our might.”
On Monday, February 3, 1947, in a London Hospital after a short illness Esther Margaret Kirk passed away. Her funeral service took place at St. Laurence’s Church on Saturday 8th February and she too was buried in Reading Old Cemetery.
Division 75, Row D, Plot 22