BURLEIGH, TERENCE JOHN
W.Op./Air Gnr (Special Operator)
Date of Death: 23 April 1944
Son of George Edward and Doris Margaret Burleigh, of Dereham.
RHEINBERG WAR CEMETERY
Terence was born on 10th January 1924 at Norwich Road, Dereham, Norfolk. He attended London Road Infants School, National Junior School and Hamonds Grammar School at Swaffham. He was a member of St Nicholas Church choir. On leaving school at age 16 he went to work as a wages clerk for Richard Costain who were contracted to lay airfield runways. He worked at Attlebridge and the Newmarket. On his 18th birthday he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve at St Johns Wood, London.
He was posted to RAF Yatesbury in Wiltshire for training as a Wireless Operator / Air Gunner.On completion of his training his ability to speak fluent German led him to join an elite group of "Special Operators" engaged on Operation Airborne Cigar, training for this at RAF Hemswell. His duties along with German defectors, Poles, Czechs and other German speaking Englishmen were to jam radio frequencies of German fighter planes and feed false messages to them to decoy them away from the RAF bombers.
He joined 101 Squadron at RAF Ludford Magna in Lincolnshire on 6th April 1944. His first mission was to Essen which was a successful raid. On 23rd April Lancasters took off to raid Dusseldorf with Terence on board aircraft number ME619. The plane was hit by flak over Krefeld and crashed near Lank-Latum. Four crew members baled out and were taken prisoner but Terence along with the pilot and two gunners perished. They were buried in the village churchyard at Lank and remained there until 1946 when moved to the British Military cemetery at Rheinberg, near Duisburg, Germany.
His parents received many letters from friends and colleagues after his death. The following are quotations from three of them.
"Terry was a lovely character and a mite shy, his personality in its quiet way shines brightly wherever he is."
Canon John Collins RAF Chaplain and founder member of CND.
"I have known Terry since we were at Hemswell. He was a fine lad - a gallant young man and most devoted to duty."
Sgt C Beauregard, RAF Ludford
"You may draw some consolation from the fact that due to Terry's efforts that there were no attacks from fighters and that was the same for the rest of the wave which Terry, with his equipment, was sefending. He lost his life in the cause of freedom along with other unsung heroes. The price he paid will enable my son and his generation to live in a world at peace. We will never forget and I will see that my son never forgets either. If we do have an everlasting peace it will be solely due to the unselfish sacrifice of men of your sons calibre who, knowing the great odds against them, pressed on regardless to the inevitable end."
C Leverett. Father of the navigator.
Information and image provided by his brother Colin Burleigh.