Byerly, Robert Bennet
|Robert Bennet Byerly|
|20 March 1916 – 8 May 1945|
Lieutenant Robert Bennet Byerly (20 March 1916 - 8 May 1945) was an American citizen who served as a soldier with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals and the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War.
Robert Byerly was born and lived in the United States of America. A graduate of the University of Chicago, he worked as a journalist and a school teacher prior to the Second World War.
Byerly came to Canada and volunteered with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals in April 1941. He later volunteered for S.O.E. and completed his training and intensive wireless instruction in England in late 1943.
When the Germans managed to infiltrate or capture resistance groups, they tried to deceive the Allies by continuing to operate the wireless sets undetected by the masters in London. In the winter of 1943/44 they were particularly effective at this and, for reasons still not adequately explained, they managed to operate four sets in this manner. This resulted in not only the loss of valuable supplies but also the capture of a number of S.O.E. agents, one of them being Byerly.
On the night of 7 February 1944, four agents including Byerly were dropped near Chartres France to an awaiting Gestapo "reception committee." They were first questioned by the local Gestapo and then later more severely at the notorious prison at 3 bis, Place des Etats-Unis in Paris. As they had been captured immediately upon arrival, they knew little of the local resistance activities and could not provide useful information.
In July 1944 Byerly was among those crowded into box cars and shipped by train to the East and away from the advancing Allies, most likely to the Gross Rosen concentration camp in Poland. It is believed that he was executed in September 1944 although his official date of death is recorded as 8 May 1945 at the end of hostilities.
Lt Byerly, having no known grave, is commemorated at the Brookwood Memorial.
Lt Byerly is also commemorated at the Valencay SOE Memorial which is dedicated to the members of the Special Operations Executive F Section who lost their lives working to liberate France during World War II. He is also listed on the SOE memorial at Gross-Rosen concentration camp.
- Byerly's SOE personnel record lists his death as May 8, 1946 but the Canadian Virtual War Memorial lists his date of death as May 8, 1945.
- Byerly is listed on the SOE memorial at Gross-Rosen, where he is presumed to have been executed, however SOE expert Nigel Perrin cites a possibly contradictory deposition from the commandant of the Sicherheitsdienst in Paris, Josef Kieffer, which stated that Byerly was transported to Rawicz, and an unverified claim from a prisoner that he met him at Flossenbürg concentration camp in Germany.
- Mace, Martin. Grehan, John. Unearthing Churchill's secret army: the official list of SOE casualties and their stories. Pen & Sword Military publisher: Barnsley, South Yorkshire. 2012. ISBN 1783376643.
- MacLaren, Roy. Canadians Behind Enemy Lines 1939-1945. Vancouver and London: University of British Columbia Press. 1983. ISBN 0774811005.
- Robert Byerly Wikipedia Article
- Lieutenant Robert Byerly Canadian Virtual War Memorial page
- Perrin, Nigel. The Lost Agents of Gross-Rosen.