Squdron crest
Home header
squadron badge

Welcome to the 578 Squadron Association Website.

squadron Badge


The hamlet of Burn, which lies two miles south of Selby in North Yorkshire, was rudely disturbed in the early 1940’s when a large Royal Air Force airfield was established immediately alongside.

The first occupants were No. 1653 Heavy Conversion Unit RAF. They formed at RAF Polebrook in January 1942 to convert crews for the Consolidated Liberator for duties in the Middle East, moving to RAF Burn in June 1942. The units stay was short lived however and it was disbanded in October 1942.

The first operational squadron arrived shortly afterwards, they were the Canadians of 431 Squadron who arrived in November 1942, leaving in July 1943 for Tholthorpe with their Wellingtons. Bomber Command was expanding rapidly when the newly formed 578 Squadron arrived in February 1944 with its huge four engined Halifax aircraft. Soon, aircrew and ground staff were to outnumber the local population by about ten to one.

During its fourteen months of occupation of RAF Burn, the Squadron flew 2,722 sorties against the strongly armed enemy, suffering grievous losses of aircraft and 219 aircrew but making a substantial contribution to the final victory.

Few operational Squadrons can have excelled the record of that of 578 in so short a period, during which its aircrews earned 79 Distinguished Flying Medals, 144 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 2 Distinguished Service Orders and the ultimate recognition for valour, the Victoria Cross, awarded posthumously to Pilot Officer C J Barton, the only Halifax Bomber pilot to be so honoured. The President of the United States of America ordered the posthumous award of the Silver Star for Gallantry in Action to the first Commanding Officer, Wing Commander DSS Wilkerson DSO, DFC

When the Squadron was stood down in March 1945, such was the spirit of camaraderie and mutual respect which had been created within itself and the local civilian community, that the 578 Squadron Burn Association was formed to keep the memory alive. This is still strongly supported by veterans, some of whom, even at an advanced age, are prepared to travel from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States of America as well as all parts of the United Kingdom, to attend the annual Reunion in May.

Following many years of research by individual members, the Association is proud to present the following pages which briefly describe how 578 Squadron was formed, the airfield at Burn, the Halifax aircraft flown there from and the airmen who crewed and serviced them. A list and brief report is given on every operation flown against the enemy, losses sustained, honours and awards gained, personal experiences and other subjects worthy of the record.

The majority of the content of this web-site has been gathered from the sections of the 578 Squadron book "Based at Burn MkII" by Hugh Cawdron and in co-operation with the Squadron Association Newsletter "THE LK TIMES"

An appeal:  We would welcome any information about 578 Squadron, your stories, information or whatever…. We are particularly interested in making contact with former members, and obtaining images from that time, indeed, anything to do with personnel,  the aircraft they flew or serviced and the local wartime population.