Henry (“Harry”) Elliott Byers was born on 16 January 1894 at Limerick Road, Naas, Co Kildare, Ireland, second son of Henry Elliott and Frances Hannah Byers of Dublin. His father had been a Sergeant Instructor in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers but in the 1911 census he is recorded as a managing salesman in the sowing machine trade. He had one elder and five younger brothers, two elder and three younger sisters. He was educated at the Diocesan School, Molesworth Street, Dublin and according to the 1911 Census of Ireland, at 17, was a Boy Clerk in HM’s Inland Revenue, his parents’ address being 4 Everton Avenue off Ellesmere Avenue, Glasnevin, Dublin.

With his elder brother, he enlisted in the Royal Highlanders as a Private (No.1558) and went to France on 2 May 1915. He returned in February 1916 and was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant on 6 July 1916 in the 3rd Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. Attached to the Royal Flying Corps, he attended the Training School at Reading on 12 August 1916. From there he went to No.3 Reserve Aeroplane Squadron at Netheravon, Wiltshire and from then on 31 October 1916 to No.16 Reserve Aeroplane Squadron at Beaulieu, Hampshire.

Henry was killed in a flying accident on 12 November 1916 when his Cutiss JN-3 (G-1255) machine went out of control at 3,500 feet and nose-dived to the ground. At the Inquest, Captain O.A. Westondarp, CO of the flying station said: “He had been on one flight alone before and had been up with others for a considerable time past. He was sufficiently skilled to go up alone. The deceased was particularly keen and asked that he might go up again as he had been up alone in the morning. It was a particularly fine day for flying.”

Lieutenant M. Hallegrin said: “On Sunday afternoon about 3.40 he saw the deceased’s machine make a vertical nose dive from a height of about 3,500 feet. When about 1,000 feet from the ground the machine seemed to right itself again and went along for a little distance in flying position. The machine then veered to the left and nose dived again, disappearing amidst the trees.”

The doctor who examined the body about 15 minutes after the accident in the copse said; “Death was instantaneous and deceased probably lost consciousness in the air as he came down.”!

The jury returned a verdict that “the deceased’s death was due to a fracture of the skull and other injuries, owing to the aeroplane in which he was flying accidentally falling to the ground.”

Henry is buried in Grangegorman Military Cemetery, Dublin (Officers Plot, C of E, Grave 5). (His elder brother 265205 Sergeant George Elliott Byers, 6th Battalion Royal Highlanders, was killed in action near Bapaume on 21 March 1918; his younger brother Benjamin Elliott also served as a Private in the same regiment). He was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals.

Biography by Nick Deacon