Lieutenant Colonel Charles James Burke, DSO

First World War

Burke was born in 1882 in Ballinhone House, Armagh. He joined the British Army where he served in the Boer War and in West Africa.

In 1910, he learned to fly and joined the Air Battalion Royal Engineers, from which was formed the Royal Flying Corps.

In May, he was appointed Commanding Officer of No. 2 Squadron, training it in aerial reconnaissance. On 13 February 1913, 5 squadron aircraft took off from Farnborough and over the next 13 days flew 450 miles (720 km) north to Montrose in Forfarshire, establishing the first operational military airbase in the United Kingdom. He was promoted to Brevet Major in June 1913.

As Commanding Officer of No 2 Aerial Reconnaissance Squadron he successfully proved through a deployment to Ireland that it was possible for a large scale air movement from England to the western front.

The Squadron flew to Ireland in September 1913 to take part in large-scale Army manoeuvres at Limerick, the first overseas deployment by the RAF and the proof of concept for the mass flight to France in August 1914. He was appointed Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel as the first CO of No. 2 Wing in France. He was Mentioned in Dispatches twice and also awarded the DSO. From February to June 1916, he was Commandant of the Central Flying School.

In the summer of 1916 he re-joined the Royal Irish Regiment, which was suffering a severe shortage of officers. He was killed in action on 9 April 1917, the first day of the Battle of Arras, whilst commanding 1st Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment. He is buried at the Point-du-Jour Military Cemetery, Athies, France.