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Burns, Kenneth Halstead "Rabbie"

Date of birth:
(Portland/Oregon, United States)
Service number:
British (1801-present, Kingdom)


Kenneth Burns, captain of a Lancaster, was shot down over Berlin by a FW 190 during an attack on Nuremburg on 27 August, 1943. The explosion of a 250lb magnesium flare, blew him and his armoured seat clean out of the Lancaster. When he woke up on the ground he discovered that his right hand was severed. After being captured he was held in a number of camps including Stalag Luft III, Sagan, but owing to the severity of his wounds was repatriated via Sweden in September 1944.
Despite the loss of his lower right arm Burns returned to flying in early 1945 and after the German surrender was appointed to command No. 7 Squadron. The dropping of the atomic bomb on 6 August however, brought the Japanese war to an end, and, having failed to obtain a Permanent Commission, Burns reluctantly left the RAF in January 1946. He spent the next two years working in Uganda and Kenya and in 1948 accepted an offer to rejoin the Service as a Squadron Leader at H.Q. East Africa. He subsequently served in the Canal Zone and the U.K. in the Equipment Section, finally retiring with the lowering the Ensign at 3 Maintenance Unit, Milton, in 1961.

November 30th, 1937: Acting Pilot Officer (probation)
September 27th, 1938: Pilot officer
March 27th, 1940: Flying Officer
March 27th, 1941: Flight Lieutenant (war sub)
January 1st, 1943: Temporary Squadron Leader
September 28th, 1943: Squadron Leader (war sub)
October 1st, 1948: Squadron Leader (permanent and transferred
to the Secretarial Branch on appointment)
August 18th, 1949: Transfer to the Equipment Branch
July 1st, 1957: Wing Commander
June 29th, 1961: retirement

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Second World War (1939-1945)
Flight Lieutenant
Royal Air Force, No. 61 Squadron (Royal Air Force, No. 61 Squadron)
Awarded on:
February 16th, 1943
"In a short tour of 13 sorties with this Squadron, Flight Lieutenant Burns has built up an enviable reputation as a successful Captain. He has always displayed exceptional courage, determination and leadership in seeking out and destroying the enemy. His courage is exemplified by a reconnaissance of Turin carried out at 500 feet; his determination by an aiming point photograph of Essen in the face of extremely heavy flak; his efficiency by a target photograph of Berlin when he approached and bombed without the aid of the P.F.F. This Officer's cheerful offensive spirit has been an inspiration and model for all Captains and his work in all respects so outstanding as to merit a very strong recommendation for the immediate award of the D.F.C."
Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)
Second World War (1939-1945)
Squadron Leader
No. 97 (Straits Settlements) Squadron, Royal Air Force
Awarded on:
June 8th, 1943
Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)
"On the night of 4-5 May 1943, this Officer was detailed to attack Dortmund. On the way to the target one of his engines became unserviceable. Squadron Leader Burns pressed home the attack on the three remaining engines at reduced speed and height, obtaining a picture of the aiming point. On the night of 13-14 May 1943, he was detailed to attack Pilsen. His aircraft was hit by flak at Kassel and airspeed indicator was rendered unserviceable. Without this almost essential instrument, Squadron Leader Burns decided to continue to the target which was still over two hundred miles away. On arrival at the target he pressed home his attack with vigour and obtained a perfect night photograph showing his objective, the Skoda Works. He was then faced with the difficult task of flying a further 700 miles back to base which he reached within three minutes of his estimated time of arrival. The skill and determination displayed by Squadron Leader Burns on these two operations is in keeping with the high tradition of the Royal Air Force."
Second DFC awarded as a bar for on the ribbon of the first DFC.
Second World War (1939-1945)
Acting Wing Commander
No. 97 (Straits Settlements) Squadron, Royal Air Force
Awarded on:
September 24th, 1943
Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
"This Officer has completed 47 operational sorties, 32 of them with this Squadron, 16 of which were as Marker. During his tour with this Squadron, Wing Commander Burns has never turned back early from an operation despite somtimes meeting heavy odds. On one occasion his aircraft was hit by flak and his airspeed indicator rendered unserviceable, but again he went on. Once when he was returning from the target he was attacked by three single-engined Fighters and after evading them and although the machine sustained heavy damage, he landed the aircraft safely back at base. Also the success of this Officer's attacks is consistent and he regularly obtains photographs of the aiming point and his failure to do so is an exception. This has resulted in him being regarded as the most reliable Captain in the Squadron, with the result that he is often selected for the most difficult tasks. The last such occasion was when he was chosen to act as Deputy Master Bomber on Berlin on 23 August 1943. This Officer at all times shows an unfailing keenness to operate and displays tenacity and determination which are most commendable. He is an excellent Pilot and Captain and a valuable Flight Commander."


  • - The London Gazette Issue 34463 published on the 14 December 1937
    - The London Gazette Issue 34558 published on the 4 October 1938
    - The London Gazette Issue 34826 published on the 9 April 1940
    - The London Gazette Issue 35139 published on the 18 April 1941
    - Second Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 35904 published on the 12 February 1943
    - Fourth Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 35911 published on the 16 February 1943
    - Fourth Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 36183 published on the 21 September 1943
    - Third Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 36776 published on the 31 October 1944
    - Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 38532 published on the 8 February 1949
    - Second Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 38723 published on the 27 September 1949
    - Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 41111 published on the 25 June 1957
    - Second Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 42403 published on the 30 June 1961
    - Christies