Pilot Officer Henry Denys Beames was born in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, on September 9, 1921, to parents Rev. William Stanley and Gertrude Elizabeth Beames (née Brown). Henry had one older brother, Thomas Bernard Axford, and one younger brother, Hugh William, as well as two younger sisters, Katherine Mary Elisabeth and Caroline Helen.
At the beginning of World War II Beames served in the fall of 1940 with the 5th Coastal Brigade, Nanaimo, B.C., before enlisting for active service with the Royal Canadian Air Force on May 2, 1941, in Vancouver, B.C. He spent the remainder of 1941 training in Canada before shipping overseas in January of 1942 to complete his pilot training with the British Royal Air Force.
While serving in England, Beames married Brenda Harvey on October 9, 1942. Their son Michael Denys Beames was born June 22, 1943.
On February 20, 1944, Beames was on a mission to Leipzig, Germany, with the #434 Bluenose Squadron when their Halifax aircraft #LL 257 went missing. It was later determined that Beames had been killed, along with P/O G.C. Hatch (Canadian), P/O R.G. Jennings (Canadian), Sgt. E.H. Davies, and Sgt. W. Oliver. Two other crew members, Canadians F/O W.J. Gallagher and F/Sgt. D.L. Temple survived and were taken as Prisoners of War. Beames was buried at Hanover (Limmer) British Military Cemetery, Hanover, Germany.
All but two of the letters were written by Beames to Jill Leir, initially in Penticton, B.C., and later at the St. Paul’s School of Nursing in Vancouver. While Beames often addresses Jill as his wife in his letters, e.g. “To my dear wife,” they were not actually married, although collection content suggests they became engaged shortly before Beames was posted overseas. There is nothing in the collection materials to indicate that Beames ever told Jill of his marriage in England, or of the birth of his son, as he continued writing romantically to her throughout this time period.
P/O Beames’ service record (Serv/Reg# J18779) can be viewed/downloaded in pdf format through Library and Archives Canada.
Burial information is available at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
A memorial page honouring Beames can be visited online at the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.
The service record of Beames’ brother, Sick Berth Attendant Thomas Bernard Axford Beames, Royal Canadian Navy, is not open to public access at this time. (Rank given here is as of 1944 – final service rank unknown).
Aircrew flying with Beames on February 20, 1940:
R.C.A.F. P/O George Charles Hatch service record (Serv/Reg# J88705)
R.C.A.F. F/O W.J. Gallagher (Serv/Reg# J14780) – service record not open to public access at this time.
R.C.A.F. P/O Reginald George Jennings service record (Serv/Reg# J88334)
R.C.A.F. F/Sgt D.L. Temple (Serv/Reg# R162985) – service record not open to public access at this time.
R.A.F. Sgt. Evan Hugh Davies (Serv/Reg# 1652436) burial information at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
R.A.F. Sgt. William Oliver (Serv/Reg# 1562387) burial information at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.