Man who created online library of war experiences laid to rest
Recordings: Heroes’ accounts saved forever
The funeral of an airman who gave a voice for unsung heroes of the Second World War has taken place.
Jack Burgess, 93, coaxed fellow veterans into speaking about their missions after fearing their first-hand accounts could be lost forever.
A Kirkcaldy man, Mr Burgess turned countless hours of often harrowing interviews and written accounts into three books and a massive online library.
In some cases, veterans were so traumatised by their experiences that even after more than half a century, their families and loved ones were unaware of the full truth.
Mr Burgess, who served as a flight engineer on RAF Liberator bombers in the Far East, flew the longest flights of the war – in one case 23 hours and 30 minutes over 3,800 miles. As a member of Force 136, he dropped agents and guerrilla fighters hundreds of miles behind enemy lines.
Mr Burgess, who died on September 28, was public relations officer of the Scottish Saltire Aircrew Association, which disbanded in July.
After being awarded the British Empire Medal for services to military aviation in 2015, the former warrant officer revealed that for many years he was unable to talk about fighting the Japanese until he was with other airmen who understood.
Mr Burgess said: “Hopefully, details of what actually took place during their relatives’ flying service has been a source of comfort to surviving family members, or those too young to understand the terrible demands of war.”
Mr Burgess, who held the Burma Star with Pacific clasp, started off working in a factory but after the war became a college lecturer, gained an honours degree and raised four children with his late wife Margaret.
Mr Burgess’s funeral was held at Templehall Church, Kirkcaldy, on Wednesday.
Jack Burgess, centre, at his BEM ceremony with Fife Provost Jim Leishman, left, and Lord Lieutenant of Fife Robert Balfour.