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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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438 Squadron Typhoon Ib SW393 Sq/Ldr. Jack Rife Beirnes DFC and bar

Operation: Formation Flying

Date: 01st June 1945 (Friday)

Unit: No. 438 Squadron (motto: 'Going Down'). 83 Group, Second Tactical Air Force

Type: Typhoon Ib

Serial: SW393

Code: F3-B

Base: B.166 Flensburg

Location: Skelde, Sønderborg, Denmark

Pilot: Sq/Ldr. Jack Rife Beirnes DFC and bar. C/13458 RCAF Age 30. Killed


Took off at 10:35 hours to carry out formation practice with the remainder of his squadron. At 10:45 hours, he was leading Blue section of the said formation when his engine stopped. He then proceeded to make a normal forced landing first turning to port then to starboard.

While turning starboard near the ground he was seen to try to lift his starboard wing but was unable to do so because of low air speed. His wing then hit the ground and his aircraft turned over and broke up.

Cause of accident:

Engine failed while flying formation, reason being stated in technical report. Aircraft struck ground in the manner as stated above due to error in judgement on the part of the pilot. He died of multiple injuries about the head and face.

DFC Citation:

'In July 1944, Sq/Ldr. Beirnes led a formation of aircraft in an attack on a vital railway bridge over the river Orne, just south of Caen. In spite of intense anti-aircraft fire and much low clod, the attack was pressed home and the bridge destroyed. In this well executed operation, Sq/Ldr. Beirnes displayed a high degree of skill, courage and leadership. In August 1944, this officer again proved his skill when leading a formation in an attack against enemy mortar positions near the Forest of Grimsbosq, Normandy'.

Burial details:

Sq/Ldr. Jack Rife Beirnes DFC and bar. Aabenraa Cemetery. Allied Military Plot. Row 6. Grave 14. Born 24th November 1914 in Birtle, Manitoba. Member of the Edmonton and Northern Alberta Aero Club when he obtained his private Pilot Licence in June 1936. Enlisted on the 13th April 1940 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Son of Arthur Appleton Beirnes (died 23rd January 1955, age 71) and Nellie Mellis Beirnes (née Wood - died 20th February 1950, age 63). Brother of Arthur Dudley (died 20th June 1983, age 70) and Donald (1). Husband of Gwendolyn Beirnes (née Firth, later Graesser - died 19th April 2017, age 99), father of Gordon Donald, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

(1): Fl/Sgt. Donald Wood Beirnes R/61113 RCAF wa lost earlier on in the war. One of two 82 squadron Blenhems lost on this operation. Blenheim IV Z7689 was on a ferry flight from Egypt to Malta when it went missing with all three crew. Understood to have possibly been shot down by Hptm. Rolf Jung of Stab 1./NJG on the 04th January 1942.

Other crew members:
20 year old, Observer Sgt. Paul Chaning-Pearce 927024 RAFVR, W/Op. Sgt. John James Henry Robbins 931136 RAFVR. All three crew remembered on the Alamein War Memorial.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the National Archives, Kew, Government of Canada, Paradie RCAF Archives, The Typhoon Project.

Pages regarding 1945 losses
Pages detailing RCAF Losses

Other sources as quoted below:

KTY 05-07-2023

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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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