February 8, 1924 - January 21, 1945
Percy Harold Kearse was the son of Harold and Emily Kearse of Burlington, Ontario. He had three brothers and two sisters. The family was Presbyterian. His father had died in 1929, and his mother remarried. In England, on November 2, 1943, Percy married Dorothy, aged 23. She moved to Ontario by 1947.
He was educated at Burlington High School. He wanted to be an accountant after the war. He enjoyed rugby, basketball and swimming. He listed his hobbies as mechanics and carpentry. "A good type of Canadian Soldier. Very young to have attained Sgt Rank." Kearse had gone from school to the army (for one year) to the RCAF by March 1942.He stood 5'11", weighed 165 pounds, had blue eyes and brown hair. On his RCAF attestation papers, he was 'below average' from a medical stand point.
Kearse was at No. 5 AFU, Course 89 from January 8, 1944 to February 5, 1944. He had been posted from 17 (P) AFU, then later posted to 1601 Fight. He was assessed 80/100 on his character and leadership. His flying tests: 67.9%. He was evaluated: "A keen and conscientious officer. Average as pilot with no particular faults. Night flying steady and safe. Formation and navigation average. Gunnery: good average and improving with every flight."
At the end of January 1945, Dorothy Kearse, who was still living in Middlestone Moor, Spennymoor, Co. Durham, England received a letter from H. O. Gooding, the Squadron Leader of 440 Squadron explaining the circumstances of her husband's death. "In the early afternoon of the 21st of January, 1945, your husband took off [in Typhoon PD601] on a bombing mission over enemy territory [Monfort, Holland, 25 1/2 miles north of Aachen, Germany]. Just after he released his bombs over the target, his aircraft was seen to explode in the air, possibly the result of anti-aircraft fire. I regret most deeply to say that no parachute was observed from his aircraft. On returning to base, we were forced to post him as missing, believed killed. Since he has been with my Squadron, Percy has participated in many sorties against the enemy and has certainly contributed his share towards our great cause....Percy was admired and respected by both his fellow pilots and our ground crew and his cheerfulness and infectious smile could be counted on during difficult times." W/C Harris also wrote her a letter with similar details.
On February 14, 1945, W/C Harris wrote to the Senior Officer, No. 1 MR&E Services, RAF Unit in Paris, France. "Information has been received through Rear Headquarters 7th Armoured Division which states that two identity cards and two photographs of the above noted [P/O Kearse] were found in Monfort. It is understood that his plane crashed into a house....The report further states that it is impossible to identify the body as although there were human remains, these were very scanty."
In April 1945, W/C Harris wrote another letter to the same department noted above. "...an identity disc for this Officer has been received in this Branch through GHQ, 2nd Echelon, 21st Army Group. This disc was found by the 1/5 Queens in the burnt out wreckage of a plane at the southern end of Montfort. The Commander of this Unit states that there is no doubt about the death of this Officer. The disc was discovered on the 25th of January 1945." He suggested the next of kin be made aware.
On August 9, 1946, the location of Percy Kearse and his Typhoon was still be investigated. "In the course of a search at Montfort, it was learnt from the Burgomaster of the above locality that an a/c, believed to be single engine, crashed on January 21, 1945 around 1200 hours. It appears that the a/c was carrying bombs when shot down in flames. A body was found by local inhabitants badly mutilated. He was placed in a blanket and buried in the local church cemetery of Montford. The body was identified as F/O Kearse by his disc. The disc was given to an army officer when the village was liberated a few days later." A ring was also found with the initials PHK engraved on it. "No other information could be obtained concerning the accident because at the time, the Germans were fighting the British Army a few kilometres away, and local inhabitants were sheltering in their cellars. The grave was visited in the church cemetery. There is nothing to identify it. Yet, in a field one kilometre away, the cross of F/O Kearse, along with seven other crosses bearing the names of soldiers, are registered by 35 GRU. The Burgomaster himself did not know the reason why the cross was place in a field when the body was buried in the church cemetery. In the meantime, DDFR&E will be requested to furnish...information as to whether the body is buried in the cemetery and not in the field, where the cross for F/O Kearse had been place. In the event DDFR&E cannot provide information on this case, exhumation of both graves may be necessary." Investigating Officer: F/L J. D. Nadeau.
In July 1947, Dorothy Kearse, now living in Burlington received a letter from W/C W A Dicks. The RCAF sent her the Operation Wings and Certificate in recognition of the "gallant services rendered by" F/O Kearse. "I realize there is little which may be said or done to lessen your sorrow, but it is my hope that these 'Wings', indicative of operations against the enemy, will be a treasured memento of a young life offered on the altar of freedom in defence of his Home and Country."