The son of Mr William Henry Kirby, and his wife Ada. He was educated at Alleyn’s School, Dulwich, South East London, and entered the Royal Engineers at St George’s Barracks, London, on 8th August 1892, and proceeded to South Africa with the Field Troops, Royal Engineers, on mobilization in 1899.
He served throughout the Second Boer War of 1899-1902, and was awarded the DCM for blowing up the Bloemfontein Railway in March 1900. He was then involved in an incident a few months later which would lead to the award of the Victoria Cross (London Gazette, 8th October 1900).
On the morning of the 2nd June, 1900, a party sent to try to cut the Delagoa Bay Railway were retiring, hotly pressed by very superior numbers. During one of the successive retirements of the rearguard, a man, whose horse had been shot, was seen running after his comrades. He was a long way behind the rest of his troop and was under a brisk fire. From among the retiring troop Corporal Kirby turned and rode back to the man's assistance. Although by the time he reached him they were under a heavy fire at close range, Corporal Kirby managed to get the dismounted man up behind him and to take him clear off over the next rise held by our rearguard. This is the third occasion on which Corporal Kirby has displayed gallantry in the face of the enemy.
Kirby was also mentioned several times in despatches, and in July 1900 was promoted to Troop Sergeant Major. He was invested with his Victoria Cross by the Duke of York (later King George V) at Cape Town on 19th August 1901.
In December 1906, he was promoted to Warrant Officer. In 1909 he married Kate Jolly, and they went on to have two sons and two daughters. In 1911, he was commissioned from the ranks. Promoted to Quartermaster, he was posted to the Air Battalion, Royal Engineers, at Farnborough, and in 1912 he was gazetted to the Royal Flying Corps, in which he became a Squadron Commander. He served in the Great War in France during 1916-1917, and was promoted to Captain on 1st January 1917. He was also then promoted to temporary Lieutenant-Colonel by the end of the war.
Kirby was later awarded the Commander of the British Empire, and retired to live in Kent in later life. He died at his home, 3 Crescent Road, Sidcup on 8th July 1956, aged 84. He was cremated at South London Crematorium, Streatham, and his ashes were scattered in the Main Garden. His medals were purchased in a private sale by the Ashcroft Trust in 2003, and are displayed in the Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.