War hero saluted by the family he didn’t live to see

A FAMILY have made a solemn pilgrimage to a Dutch lake to pay tribute to the sacrifice of a young airman none of them ever met.

The wreckage of Jim Boyes' plane in Enkhuizen. (www.yorkshirepost.co.uk)

The wreckage of Jim Boyes’ plane in Enkhuizen. (www.yorkshirepost.co.uk)


James Boyes was a 25-year-old gunner when his Stirling bomber was attacked by a German fighter plane on his first mission shortly before dawn on April 27, 1943.

Sgt Boyes and the six other crew members perished in the assault which saw the plane plummet into the waters of the Ijsselmeer off Lelystad. A short time after the crash the bodies of four of the crewmen were washed ashore but James and two others have never been identified.

As the eldest of five brothers, young James was destined to head up the family business, W Boyes and Co, a thriving department store which started in Scarborough and by the time of the Second World War had spread to York and Hull.

The Boyes family were just one of countless numbers shattered by personal loss and whose members’ futures were fated to change as a result of war. James’s tragic death led to second son Peter, who fought in the Army right across Europe and in Africa, leaving his chosen career in London to join the family firm.

Today the family-run firm is well known with 45 stores throughout the North and Midlands.

To mark the 70th anniversary of James Boyes’s death, 23 members of his family, covering three generations, travelled to Holland and chartered a 35-metre sailing barge.

After a couple of hours on the water they came to the approximate place where the plane crashed. There they laid a wreath and conducted their own ceremony with music and readings, including some of the poetry James had written for his parents.

Andrew Boyes, chairman and joint managing director of W Boyes and one of James’s many nephews, said: “It was a lovely sail but when we got to the spot we all just naturally became rather solemn. It was very moving and we were all aware of, and felt very grateful for, the sacrifice James made – and all the others.

“It was clear from the poetry he sent his parents that he did not expect to survive the war.

“I understand conditions on these planes were grim. It must have been pretty lonely in his post as mid-upper gunner and survival rates for these men were awful.”

At the same time James was being remembered in Holland, a private ceremony was under way at the war memorial on Oliver’s Mount in Scarborough.

Andrew’s cousin, Robin, another of the company’s working family members who lives in Crossgates, near Scarborough, and his young daughter, Lola, laid a wreath for James.

The five Boyes brothers were a close band with all having attended Scarborough College.

In a way they typified the nightmare scenario of those war years as all but one, a farmer who was not allowed to go to war, served in the forces.

All are now dead but the details of James’s war career and crash were recently researched by another of Andrew’s cousins, Jim Boyes, a retired lecturer and folk musician now living in Belgium, who owes his name to his heroic uncle.

It was his efforts, roughly coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the crash of bomber BF383, which led to the family’s act of remembrance.

“Cousin Jim plans to continue his research so perhaps we will learn more,” said Andrew, who was accompanied on the trip by his wife, Maggie. The couple live in Cloughton, near Scarborough, while his sister Carol Boyes, a buyer with the company, and cousin Tim Boyes and his wife Kate all live in the nearby village of Scalby.

Tim recently retired as joint MD, a position he shared with Andrew, and his role was taken by Andrew’s son, Richard Boyes.

James Boyes is commemorated on the RAF memorial at Runnymede, in Surrey, and at Oliver’s Mount and Scalby war memorials.

His name is also inscribed in the No. 3 Bomber Command Roll of Honour in Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire and is recorded in the RAF book of remembrance at the RAF Central Church in London.

Bron: www.yorkshirepost.co.uk

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