This week we caught up with Mr David Birt. A former Veteran, I was told he has a plaque from the French Government thanking David for his service. “It’s been quite an exciting life I’ve lived, I often think about it and think it has been great.”
Name: David Birt
Where and when were you born? Yorkshire, England in 1925
What are the most important lessons you've learned in life? Oooh.. that’s a difficult one to answer, I’ve learnt a lot of lessons *laughs* I’m learning lessons even now, people keep telling me *slaps wrist* ooh don’t do that David! *laughs* Probably behaving yourself and remember that you are talking to other people so be kind.
What is your favourite childhood memory? They built an Airfield when I was a boy, right next to our Village. There were a lot of people using it, I thought that was great to watch them flying around, landing and taking off. I had, believe it or not 12 brothers and sisters, we had a huge family we always got along very well. I am the ninth child and the only one who left England. My sister who still lives in England, I ring every week on the phone - on Fridays, we have a great chat. *smiles*
I did go to school for a year or two when I was very young, my Dad took me away from school and kept me home. He also somehow managed to keep people at bay who came around to see where I was, he managed to satisfy them telling them he was teaching me. It was only me, everyone else went to school.
What big world events were the most memorable while you were growing up? Oh, my goodness, the Second World War, I caught the last two years of that, I was 18. That’s where I lost my hearing. I was an operator on the six-inch gun cruiser, we did various invasions of Europe, I used to stand on the aerial on the outside and I never used to wear hearing aids, you didn’t in those days.
That was the Normandy Invasion, the Germans took over Europe and we had to go back, and the men landing was in the Normandy part of France in 1944. I was on the leading cruiser that led the British and Canadians in. Seven of my brothers were also in the war.
What was your favourite thing to do for fun when you were younger? We used to play a lot of games, cricket mainly. We had quite a bit of lawn at home and we played cricket on it.
What was your first job? I had a funny Father and he didn’t want me to leave home, I eventually left to become an apprentice Die Sinker. The War was coming to an end in 1942 and I thought if I don’t join up, I’m going to miss out so I went and joined the Navy I worked in the Navy for four years, when I came out I couldn’t get a job because the market was full, so I went back into the Airforce to learn a trade and I had to sign on for a minimum of eight years, they taught me a lot in the Airforce.
In the Airforce I became a radar mechanic I suppose you’d call it, I used to keep the radar sets working, they were always going wrong in those days.
What was your favourite job? In the days gone by for a number of years I went around to people’s houses repairing their television sets, eventually they made televisions that didn’t go wrong, before the late 1950s they were always going wrong (when they used valves). It was my favourite job because you would go around to people’s houses, maybe four or more a day, you met an awful lot of people.
What’s a favourite memory from later in life? Funnily enough during the Berlin Airlift. Russia got control of Berlin it was located in the ‘Russian zone’. We used to supply the Berlin people with food and supplies because the Russians wouldn’t help them, we would fly in on a Transporter Aircraft. I really enjoyed the feeling of helping the people.
What are you most proud of? My two daughters, they are great. In the year of 1970 they both moved to Australia and I followed them here, I just wanted to stay with my family. I visit them quite frequently and they visit me, that’s what I look forward to most out of anything. Australia is amazing, you are free.
What life advice would you pass along to your grandchildren? I don’t like telling people what they’ve got to do, that’s a difficult one. I always let them live life themselves, I’m always here for help if it’s needed.
Who is the person who influenced your life the most? Why? I think who really influenced me were the people when I went to a Citizens Advice Bureau and it was them that helped me find a job.
How would you describe yourself? Ooh, that’s a difficult one as well *laughs* I think I really look forward to helping people, so I would say I would always like to help people where possible.