Back To 1931-40







1. Name
Arthur Richard BURCH
2. Date Commissioned
1 September 1928
3. Date retired
18 April 1955 (Decd. 11 Feb 64)
4. Rank
Major RM
5. Awarded wings
September 1933
6. Flying schools
No.1 F.T.S RAF Leuchars 18 September 1932
7. Aircraft types flown
Mainly T.B.R types e.g. Swordfish, Albacore etc. until 1945.
From 1945 also on fighter types e.g. Hellcat and Corsair. Full details are in his Pilots Flying Log Book held in the Archives, Eastney.
8. Squadrons
820 Sqdn September 1933 - December 1934
821 Sqdn December 1934 - January 1936
824 Sqdn February 1936 - February 1937
816 Sqdn March 1940 - October 1940
767 Sqdn November 1940 - January 1941
771 Sqdn. January 1941 - October 1941
822 Sqdn October 1941 - August 1942 (Senior pilot and CO January 1942)
9. Aircraft Carriers
Courageous September 1933 to January 1936
Hermes January 1936 to March 1937
Furious March 1940 to October 1940
Battler August 1942 to September 1944
10. Senior Appointments
CO 771 Sqdn January 1941 to October 1941
CO 822 Sqdn January 1942 to August 1942
Cdr (Flying) HMS Battler August 1942 to September 1944
D.S.C. ( London Gazette 25 June 1940)
"For daring and resource in the conduct of hazardous and successful operations by the Fleet Air Arm on the coast of Norway."
1939-45 War Medals incl. Atlantic, Burma, Italy. N.G.S.M
12. General
Having qualified as a T.S.R. Pilot in 1933, Dick Burch spent the next four years until Februay 1937 in First Line Squadrons in the Home Fleet and China. Then followed a period of Corps Duty but on the outbreak of war he returned to the FAA. After refresher courses and Torpedo training he then joined 816 Sqdn in March 1940. From then until September 1940 he was embarked with the squadron operating off the Norwegian coast against German Naval units. He was the Senior Pilot of this squadron, the CO being an Observer. As Senior Pilot he tactically led the raids and on 11 April 1940 he made history by leading the first ever proper torpedo attack carried out by any squadron. This attack was made against German destroyers in Trondheim Fjord but the torpedoes failed to reach their targets owing to shallow water. Solo atacks had in fact been made in 1915 by Flt. Cdr. C.H.K. Edmonds and G.B. Dacre who between them dropped three 14 inch torpedoes from Short Seaplanes against Turkish merchant ships in the Dardanelles but these were felt at the time to be a stunt.

He led further raids - on these occasions armed with 250 lb bombs - on 12th and 13th April against German destroyers off Narvik - the squadron claiming two probable hits with 250 lb bombs. On 15th April he again led a bombing raid against German aircraft on a frozen lake near Narvik - the squadron scoring two direct hits. During this raid Burch collected a large splinter from his own bomb in his starboard upper plane. He also made reconnaissance flights in the Narvik area on 18th and 21st April in bad weather. Further attacks were made from Furious on 7th and 22nd September but these were frustrated by bad weather.

From January to October 1941, Dick Burch was in Command of 771 Squadron shore based at Hatston in the Orkney Islands and it was from his squadron that the Martin Maryland aircraft came which searched out the Bismark on 22nd May 1941 and which initiated the hunt for and sinking of this mighty battleship.

His next Squadron was 822 Sqdn (Swordfish and later Albacores) as Senior Pilot but he took over command on January 1942. However, before he could take them into action he was appointed to H.M.S. Battler, one of the new Escort Aircraft Carriers as Lt. Cdr. (F). This ship was commissioned in October 1942 and saw its first action in June 1943.

On 4 June 1943, having embarked the squadrons, Battler sailed from Belfast to Gibraltar as escort to Convoy OS 49 carrying out A/S patrols en route. She arrived at Gibraltar on 14 June and sailed again on 22nd June with Convoys KMS 16 and xK 9 combined. The convoy was shadowed and on 24 June two Seafires of her 808 Squadron shot down a FW Condor. The ship arrived back in Greenock happy with her first test.

Her next assignment was with Force V for Operation Avelanche- the landings at Salerno (9 - 12 September). On completion of this task, Battler was withdrawn to Gibraltar where she embarked 834 Squadron and then went via Suez to the Indian Ocean arriving at Bombay in October 1943.

She was then employed on convoy escort duties between Aden and Bombay and in searches for blockade runners and U-Boat Depot ships. On 12 March 1944 one of her Swordfish sighted the "Brake" south Mauritius and guided the destroyer "Roebuck" to the target which she sank gunfire. Two U-boats escaped but later one of them was attacked by the CO 834 Sqdn and although the attack was inconclusive the U-boat gave no more trouble.

After leaving Battler he served in shore stations in U.K. taking conversion courses to American Fighters e.g. Corsair and Hellcat but the war ended before he could be given another appointment. He then returned to Corps Duties including a tour in 42 Commando as 2 i/c - 1947/48.

He retired on 18 April 1955 and died on 11 February 1964.


13. R.A.F Rank
Flight Lieutenant