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Remembering World War II
John Rankin Aitken
Name: John Rankin Aitken Rank: Sergeant (Pilot) Service Number: 528206 Service: 34 Squadron, RAF Place of Birth: Antigonish, NS Year of Birth: 1919/1920 Date of Death: January 16, 1944 Age: 24 Cemetery: (Unknown) Buried in Burma John Rankin Aitken is not currently commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in a CWGC Cemetery, nor on any WWII Memorial. Records available indicate he was born in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and one news-clip indicates he lived in Airdrie, Lanarkshire, Scotland in the UK likely at the time of his enlistment. John Aitken was awarded the British Empire Medal (Military Division), [BEM (M)], for Brave Conduct by King George VI in 1942 (Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood, St. James’s Palace, London): Records that are available, indicate Sergeant Pilot John Aitken was flying a Hawker Hurricane IIC fighter with 34 Royal Air Force Squadron on January 16, 1944 and was killed on operations in Burma. 34 RAF Squadron was based at Palel, located south of Imphal, India between November 1, 1943 and April 10, 1944. The Squadron converted to the light ground attack role from November 1943, when it began to receive single-seat Hawker Hurricane fighter-bombers. The source from Page 5 of the book “They Shall Not Grow Old” by Les Allison, states: During WWII many Allied aircraft lost in the Burma jungle were never located. Aircraft that failed to return from operations and efforts to locate missing pilots, crews, and planes were often unsuccessful because of the dense jungle. As one Veteran remarked, “In that jungle it was impossible, absolutely impossible. It’s like looking for a needle under a hundred haystacks”. The US Department of Defence, in 2008, says that more than 500 US aircraft and 1200 crew members are still missing in the China-Burma-India theatre. In the postwar years missing Allied aircraft have been discovered in the Burmese jungles; however, there remains no record of the Hawker Hurricane and Sergeant John R. Aitken News clip relating to the 1942 award of the British Empire Medal.
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528206 Corporal John Rankin Aitken, Royal Air Force, 652901 Corporal Robert Christopher Mason, Royal Air Force, 1063929 Corporal Richard O'Brien, Royal Air Force. These airmen, who are employed on bomb disposal duties, have displayed courage and devotion to duty of a high standard. During the past five months their aerodrome in Malta has been subjected to intense and almost continuous enemy air attacks and a very large number of delayed action bombs have been dropped. They have been called upon, both by day and night, to carry out their duties in the face of many dangers and flying operations have never been held up. Corporals Aitken, Mason and O'Brien have displayed great devotion to duty and complete disregard for their own safety. They have saved many aircraft from destruction and have set an example of the highest order. Awarded August 11, 1942; in the London Gazette 35667 dated Aug 14, 1942)
“AITKEN, JOHN R. Sgt(P) 528206 - RAF from Antigonish, Nova Scotia. KIA [Killed in Action] Jan. 16/44 age 26. #34 Sqdn (Lupus Volt Lupus Volat). Hurricane aircraft lost during operations. Sergeant Pilot Aitken is buried in Burma. [normally the specific cemetery is listed in Allison’s book but for Aitken he simply wrote ‘buried in Burma’.]
Squadron Leader J A Bushbridge the Commanding Officer of No. 34 Squadron RAF briefs his pilots at Palel Burma before taking off on another sortie