Dambuster of the Day No. 66: Philip Burgess

Burgess lores

Flg Off P S Burgess

Lancaster serial number: ED927/G

Call sign: AJ-E

Second wave. Crashed on outward flight.

Philip Sidney Burgess was born in Portsmouth in August 1922. Both his parents died when he was very young, so at the age of four he and his brother were adopted by the Rowland family in Folkestone, Kent. The Rowlands were well known in the town as they ran a popular rock and sweet shop. Burgess was educated at the town’s Harvey Grammar School.
He volunteered for the RAF soon after his 18th birthday, and undertook part of his training in Canada.
He was commissioned in May 1942, and after further training was promoted to Flying Officer shortly before being posted to 61 Squadron in January 1943, a few months after he turned 20. He then became the regular navigator on a crew captained by the New Zealander Ian Woodward, in which the wireless operator was Charlie Williams.
By the end of March he had completed 17 operations. However, his captain Ian Woodward had completed his tour so both he and Williams agreed to join the crew being put together by Norman Barlow which would transfer to 617 Squadron for the planned secret mission.
Despite the six weeks of low level training, Norman Barlow, Philip Burgess and the rest of the crew were all killed instantly when they hit a pylon just outside Haldern, Germany.

After their parents’ death, Philip Burgess and his brother were adopted by the Rowland family of Folkestone. They ran this Rock Shop, well remembered by many generations of people from the town. [Pic: Alan Taylor]

Yet to turn 21, Philip Burgess was probably the youngest officer to take part in the Dams Raid. He was buried with his comrades in Dusseldorf Cemetery, and reinterred after the war in Reichswald Forest Cemetery. His brother, Carrol Burgess, served in the Royal Engineers and survived the war.
Thanks to Susan Paxton and Alan Wells for help with the entries for all the Barlow crew.

More about Burgess online:
Entry at Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Entry at Aircrew Remembered website

KIA 16.05.43

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
Eric Fry, An Airman Far Away, Kangaroo Press 1993

The information above has been taken from the books and online sources listed above, and other online material. Apologies for any errors or omissions. Please add any corrections or links to further information in the comments section below.

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Filed under Philip Burgess

7 responses to “Dambuster of the Day No. 66: Philip Burgess

  1. Susan Paxton

    I think the 37 operations he was credited with have to be wrong; I’m suspecting 17 might be the correct number. He joined 61 Squadron in late January, and if we can use Charlie Williams’ logbook for February as an example, he might have been getting 9-10 ops a month, so Feb-March he might have had 17 when he followed Williams to 617. Hopefully the family still have Phil’s logbook and we might be able to pin this down.

  2. Philip is also memorialized on the Lydd War Memorial in Lydd, Kent: http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Kent/Lydd.html

  3. Gloria nee Burgess

    Hi, my family name is Burgess and originated from Lydd, many family members are buried in Lydd churchyard, I stopped by there the other day and noticed Philips memorial, my grandad was named Tom, I wonder if we are related? It would be lovely to find out.

  4. Phyllis Frost nee Burgess

    Gloria, Was your Great -Grandfather Cecil Burgess and was your Grandfather Thomas Burgess a traindriver for the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railways ? If that is so then you are related to Philip. Thomas was my Dad’s brother

  5. Just got a list of Philip’s ops with the Woodward crew in 61 Squadron; he flew 13 ops with them total, one an RTE, starting with Hamburg on 30 January and ending with Munich on 9 March. Probably had a couple more as a supernumerary after Woodward finished, but haven’t chased those down yet.

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