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BEIRNES, Jack Rife Squadron Leader, No.438 Squadron, C13458 Distinguished Flying Cross RCAF Personnel Awards 1939-1949
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BEIRNES, S/L Jack Rife (C13458) - Distinguished Flying Cross - No.438 Squadron - Award effective 24 October 1944 as per London Gazette of that date and AFRO 2637/44 dated 8 December 1944 - Born 24 November 1914, Birtle, Manitoba.; pre-war home in Tofield, Alberta where he was educated, 1921-1936. Prewar he was employed as a pipefitter, farm labour, and for 13 years was a clerk in Rexall drug store (his father was a pharmacist) . He was also an Army Cadet, Tofield, 4 September 1927 to 22 November 1933 and built model aircraft. Applied to be an RCAF motor mechanic, 1934. Rejected. Assessment read, "He does not possess the nervous and physical stability necessary to withstand the stress of flying duties". Obtained Private Pilot's license, Edmonton and Northern Alberta Aero Club, June 1936. He acquired this to apply for a Short Service Commission in the RAF, having visited the UK in 1935 to enlist. At the time of his 1936 application he had 13.25 hours dual, 5.10 hours solo. He tried to enlist in RAF again in 1937 without success. As of 11 January 1940, when he applied again for the RCAF, he reported having 35 hours solo flying, 14 hours dual. Enlisted in Edmonton, 13 April 1940. Posted to No.1 Manning Depot, 16 April 1940; to No.1 ITS, Toronto, 29 April 1940; promoted to LAC, 24 May 1940 and posted to Edmonton Flying Club; to No.1 SFTS, Camp Borden, 20 July 1940; to Station Trenton, 22 October 1940. Qualified for RCAF pilots wings, 30 November 1940 and promoted Sergeant. To No.1 ANS, Rivers, 1 December 1940 as staff pilot; to No.2 ANS, Pennfield Ridge, 12 August 1941 as staff pilot; promoted WO2, 1 December 1941; to No.118 (Fighter) Squadron, Dartmouth, 16 December 1941, subsequently serving there and Annette Island to 26 October 1943 (commissioned 1 July 1942, promoted Flying Officer, 12 October 1942 and Flight Lieutenant, 1 October 1943; married Gweldolen Firth, Edmonton, 12 September 1942). Posted to "Y" Depot, Halifax , 27 October 1943. Embarked from Canada, 1 November 1943; arrived in UK on 9 November 1943. With No.438 Squadron, 20 November 1943 to 14 November 1944 (promoted Squadron Leader, 13 October 1944). Repatriated to Canada, 15 November 1944 and placed on strength of Station Lachine to 4 January 1945. With No.2 Air Command, Winnipeg, 5-10 January 1945; with No.8 Repair Depot, Winnipeg, 10 January to 11 March 1945; to "Y" Depot, Moncton, 12 March 1945. Embarks from Canada, 18 March 1945; arrives in UK - 26 March 1945; to No.83 GSU, 5 April 1945; to No.438 Squadron, 6 April 1945. Killed in flying accident with No.438 Squadron, 1 June 1945 (Typhoon SW393); airborne on a practice flight, 1035-1045; 2,600 feet. Black smoke seen from exhaust; engine failed; tried to force land in a field. Starboard wing dropped and he crashed. Aircraft cartwheeled. He died 10 minutes later. Buried in Denmark. RCAF photo PL-22804 (ex UK-6828 dated 14 December 1943) taken after arrival in UK as a flight commander. Photo PL-22808 (ex UK-6832 dated 14 December 1943) is of “three pilots of the Wildcat Squadron” - F/L J.R. Beirnes (Tofield, Alberta), P/O J.C.W. Hope (Westmount, Quebec) and P/O J.E. Cornelison (Windsor, Ontario). Photo PL-28975 (ex Uk-9797 dated 17 April 1944) shows him telling squadron mates about first operational flight over occupied territory. Photo PL-40908 (ex UK-8287 dated 23 February 1944) shows him in Hurricane cockpit. Award presented to next of kin, 9 December 1947. In July, 1944, Squadron Leader 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 cloud the attack was well pressed home and the bridge destroyed. In this well executed operation, Squadron Leader 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 Grimbosq. NOTE: Public Record Office Air 2/9160 has recommendation drafted 26 August 1945 when he had flown 136 sorties (144 operational hours). This officer has completed nearly three years with his squadron, serving in Alaska and Canada before operating in No.83 Group. He was a Flight Commander when the squadron, equipped with Typhoon bombers, became operational in March 1944. He took part in many operations preceding D Day, including attacks on radar targets and at once showed evidence of unusual enthusiasm and determination. On July 11th this officer led a flight of five aircraft against a vital railway bridge over the River Orne just south of Caen. There was intense heavy and light flak and the cloud base was 5,000 feet. Nevertheless he led a brilliant attack which enabled the flight to score four hits with 1,000-pound bombs which destroyed the bridge. Squadron Leader Beirnes’ bombs were the first to hit the target; his determination and leading on this occasion were of the very highest order. Again on August 7th this officer led a flight against mortar positions near the Forest of Grimbosq. Although his target was small and very difficult to find and the flak defenses were the heaviest in the sector, this attack was pressed home so effectively that a special message of thanks was received from the army. Squadron Leader Beirnes has commanded his squadron since July 28th, 1944. His enthusiasm and magnificent leadership continues to be an inspiration to all his pilots. This was endorsed by G/C Paul Davoud on 26 August 1944 as follows: A highly skilled and determined leader who sets a first-class example to his squadron. Steady and reliable and always enthusiastic. Strongly recommended for an immediate award of the Distinguished Flying Cross. This was endorsed by the Air Officer Commanding, No.83 Group on 30 August 1944 and by Air Marshal A. Coningham on 1 September 1944. Final approval was given on 11 September 1944 by Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Air Commander-in-Chief, Allied Expeditionary Air Force. BEIRNES, S/L Jack Rife, DFC (C13458) - Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross - No.438 Squadron (deceased). Award effective 3 September 1945 as per London Gazette dated 14 September 1944 and AFRO 1672/45 dated 2 November 1945. Now on his third tour of operational duty, this officer has proved to be an outstanding squadron commander. In April 1945 Squadron Leader Beirnes led his squadron on a rail interdiction sortie which severely disrupted the enemy's lines of communication. On another occasion he led an attack on a light cruiser. His squadron scored six hits despite heavy opposition from anti-aircraft fire. The cruiser was set ablaze and was seen to be listing to,port. This officer displayed coolness and courage throughout. ADDITIONAL NOTES: On 8 July 1942 his Commanding Officer in No.118 Squadron, A/L A.D. Nesbitt, described him as "A highly efficient, keen and well trained pilot. A leader both on the ground and in the air". As of 24 January 1943 he was a flight commander with 1,200 hours. However, on 11 June 1943 he was tried by court martial for an incident on 28 March 1943 involving aerobatics below 3,000 feet; he had also damaged Kittyhawk AL226 on 14 February 1943. He lost seniority and was reprimanded for the aerobatics. Charges arising from damage to the aircraft were not proceeded with. His Alaskan tour was calculated at 193 operational hours. His first mission overseas was 20 March 1944 (fighter sweep, Guernsey island, 1 hour) and on five occasions he flew three sorties in one day (6 June, 24 June, 2 August, 9 August and 2 October 1944); he flew four sorties on 18 August 1944, at the height of the Battle of Falaise. Overseas, on 4 June 1944, S/L F.G. Grant described him as "Particularly good flight commander on ground and outstanding in the air. Confident and self-assured on operations". On 27 October 1944, G/C Paul Davoud wrote, "A fine organizer and a brilliant fighter-bomber leader whose judgement was outstanding". His second tour was calculated at 133 hours. His last sortie on that tour had been 9 October 1944 (weather reconnaissance). However, on a Repatriation Form dated 26 October 1944 he claimed one enemy aircraft probably destroyed, that he had been twice damaged by enemy aircraft, ten times damaged by flak. He also stated he had flown 177 hours on Typhoons, 90 hours on Hurricanes, and 188 sorties. This seems excessive, even considering the brevity of some fighter-bomber missions, and may have included some flying on engine tests or other non-combat missions in the operational theatre.