November 26, 1919 - January 23, 1945
Harold 'Bugs' Noel Byers was born in Melita, Manitoba. He had two sisters. Peggy was a CWAC, 20 years old. His other sister lived with their widowed mother, Mrs. Sparrow. He also had two much older half brothers. He was a linesman for Manitoba Power Corporation. After the war, he hoped to fly. On November 28, 1942, he married Frances Muriel Stockden, 24, of Souris, Manitoba. She resided in Vancouver by May 10, 1945.
He was at No. 2 ITS, Regina and passed on to No. 14 EFTS, November 1940.
In March 1942, at No. 12 SFTS, Brandon, Manitoba: "Sincere, conscientious, and highly intelligent."
Between May and August 1944, he was at No. 5 AFU. There he was rated "an above average pilot and an efficient officer. Night flying is exceptionally good. Navigation, formation and aerobatics above average. Gunnery assessment average. Has flown Hurricanes."
By November 1944, he was finished Course 50 at No. 53 OTU overseas. "An above average pilot who is very keen, steady, and reliable. After more experience, he will make a good flight Commander. Close and Battle formation: Very good. Air Combat and Aerobatics: Very good. Reporting: Very good. A thoroughly sound and reliable officer who sets a high example and will be a most useful member of any squadron. Navigation average. Needs practice at compass swinging.
On January 23, 1945, Byers was shot down in Typhoon 1B RB325. P/O N Hughes, J88308, was a witness. "I was flying Red 4 on a dive-bombing mission on the village of Dremmen....A considerable amount of flak was encountered over the target. Red 3 (F/L Byers) was first in on the target. At about 6000 feet during the dive, his aircraft was enveloped in black smoke. I believe his bombs were away before this happened. His aircraft came out of the dive and began to climb straight ahead. All this time, his aircraft was on fire. Between 8000 and 9000 feet, the tail fell off and the remainder cartwheeled into the ground behind German lines. No parachute was seen. I completed my bombing and returned to base."
On January 27, 1945, the S/L of 440 Squadron wrote to Byers's widow, explaining to her the dive bombing mission over enemy territory. "Despite the short space of time [your son] was with my Squadron, Harry became admired and respected by both his fellow pilots and our groundcrew and he made many friends."
In July 1948, Byers's mother wrote a letter about her only son's reburial. "I could understand burial being done at the time as it was in a cotton bag and the war on. But now, they dig my noble son up and bury him again like we do a dog in a bag. Is this boy not truly worthy of a wooden box, one who gave all he had, a young healthy life. I ask you if it were your son, would it not hurt. It hurts so much I shall be bitter to our country as long as I live. I want to know: would I be allowed to bring my son's body home where it belongs? How could I get permission? I feel sure my friends will help me as there seems no chance of me getting over to him. Please let me know. Kindly reply and oblige. Thanking you, Sincerely, Mrs. M. Sparrow, Winnipeg, Manitoba."
She received a reply. "I deeply regret the anxiety and distress you have undergone in the loss of your son. I can assure you however, that your son was reverently reinterred in Nederweert British Military Cemetery in order that the Imperial War Graves Commission would be able to care for his grave in perpetuity. When the Cemetery is taken over by the Imperial War Graves Commission, a consecration ceremony is held. In this way, all those of our Fallen who, through special circumstances concerning their death and burial have not had a suitable funeral, will be given an appropriate Christian burial. The question of returning the remains of personnel who died while serving Overseas was given serious and sympathetic consideration by representatives of the British Empire and it was decided that this would not be possible either at the expense of the Government concerned or of the next-of-kin. You will appreciate, therefore, that exceptions cannot be made...."
Frances Byers requested her husband's luggage and all of his personal effects.
Byers's Service Number is one off from Charles Aistrop (J13484).
More information about Byers can be found in Typhoon and Tempest by Hugh Halliday, on pages 113, 151, 179, and 187.