May 10, 1923 - June 3, 1943
Elsie Phyllis James was born on May 10, 1923 in Banff, Alberta, the only surviving child of Sidney George James and his wife, Nellie James. It appears she was a twin, as one child (Betty) was noted to have died in May 1923, 9 days old. A brother, James, died in July 1925, 8 days old. The family lived at 430 Marten Avenue in Banff. The family was Anglican. (Both Mr. and Mr. James were born in England, married in Bristol, England, May 11, 1919. Mr. James had come to Canada in 1914, serving with the Canadian Army during WWI. He was employed as a mechanic and park attendant with the National Parks Department, retiring in 1956. He passed away on April 17, 1957 at the age of 66.)
Phyllis, as she was known, weighed about 130 pounds, standing 5'5" tall. Phyllis had brown hair and hazel eyes. A scar on her right wrist was noted. She had done some nursing and housework, but was unemployed at the time of enlistment.
Her Grade X high school transcripts from Banff: English: C. Social Studies: B; Health and Physical Education: B. Stenograph: B; Typing: B. Home Economics: B; General Mathematics: B; General Science: B; Vocations and Guidance: B.
In July 1942, Phyllis joined the RCAF (WD). Phyllis wrote: "want to be successful in what I undertake" after the war. She had a moderate degree of dental cavities.
F/O W. J. Hoover wrote, "General Duties" then "Education suitable; class score just fair. Does not appear very bright."
On October 30, 1942, LAW James was admitted to Station Hospital until November 3, 1942. She was admitted again on December 5, 1942 until December 11, 1942.
On May 14, 1943, she was admitted to hospital while stationed at No. 11 SFTS in Yorkton, Sasktachewan. Symptoms: enlarged goitre. "Feels quite well otherwise. Beginning in April 1943, patient noticed that her neck was becoming larger. She found that she was unable to button her shirt. She has always been nervous, but states that she is much more so at present. Thinks that she become irritable very easily. Has always be dys. but more so during past month. Has some intolerance to heat and perspires easily. Fatigues very easily. Has lost about 15 pounds during the past two months. Has had occasional difficulty swallowing. Menses are normal with exception that she missed her period for April." Upon her examination that day, she was considered to be well-nourished, quite nervous and jittery.
On May 23: she was feeling noticeably better, stating she was not as nervous or irritable as previous, tired less easily and was not sweating as before. "On observation, her speech and movements are stll quick and jerky. Impression: improving slowly." On May 26: "Patient settling down well. Does not feel nervous now. To have thyroidectomy when operative consent arrives." May 31: "States that she is feeling better than last week; feels that she is less nervous and irritable. Still perspires a lot at meal times. Is able to sleep better now. Pulse still high. Skin is still very moist. Does not seem as jittery or as nervous as previously."
June 3, 1943, LAW James underwent surgery. Condition after surgery: "Stopped anaesthetic about 11:10. Skin sutures being put in. Pulse good. In about a minute, respiration stopped suddenly. Pulse imperceptible in about another minute. Given O2 under pressure. Carmamine by vein and intramuscular adrenalin intra muscular and into heart. Resuscitation attempts stopped at 1130. Head lowered during attempts to restore." Dr. J. H. Davidson, MD
Phyllis died at the Deer Hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba after surgery for a toxic goitre (thyroid). She had acute hyperthyroidism and status lymphaticus, deemed a 'natural death.'
LAW E. Phyllis James was buried in the Banff Cemetery in the family plot. She was buried with a watch, bracelet and ring. Only her father's and her own headstones are now standing.
In the inventory of her personal belongings, clothing, a cigarette lighter, a locket and chain, records, gramophone needles, a gramophone, toiletries, cosmetics, perfume, and a kimono were noted.
A large series of letters began between Mrs. James and the RCAF from June 1943 until December 1945. Mrs. James experienced profound grief, as is evident in her letters.
LAW James's death was investigated to ease Mrs. James's concerns. "In view of the nature of Mrs. James's three letters which are flagged hereunder, it was considered that the fullest possible information should be given her, in an effort to satisfy her that her statements are unwarranted." G/C MacKell
"The enlistment examination and history showed no evidence of any thyroid disease. This airwoman was considered fit in all respects."
September 3, 1943: "Sir: Your letter received a few days ago in regards to my beloved daughter Miss E. P. James's belongings that are missing. I may state I have already put the matter into the hands of the RCMP to investigate...I am sorry I am late in answering but my heart is way too bad for me to write when needed to at once. I have heard several times that more than one persons at several units lose their belongings but I may add that if the doctors at Deer Lodge had taken time to see what they were doing, all this grief could have been avoided and my darling’s life spared and my health...I am sparing no time or feelings of anyone who will steal off a dead person who never did anyone any harm in her life. I will continue a search for them as will Major Lynne. If I drop dead over it and whoever has her goods will pay for it dearly. It’s the lowest meanest contemptible trick ever paid anyone and my girl never lied to me over her goods in reference to her -- her clothes being soiled. They were filthy dirty and never left by Phyllis this way. She was far too fussy and her housecoats were ripped to pieces. I figure the Air Force sure knows how to be callous, cruel and heartless to anyone in their services and rub dirt in plenty. No wonder the Army hates the Air Force. The balance of my daughter’s allowance I believe will be 2 months pay (Aug and Sept) at $7/month. But all that could go aside if I could only have my darling here. I will give you a list of things same as the police have." Items missing included a leather bound Bible, a hankie case (fur) in the shape of a monkey, a Scripture History Book, silk scarves, autograph and address books, and one pair each of fancy pillowcases and face towels, HIS and HERS.
September 12, 1943: Dear Sir, I wrote you a week ago last Thursday about my daughter's missing personal things. Will you please advise me if you received the list of things and whether you believe me or not about the missing articles as her girl chums here in Banff remember her saying that she had these things. I am not asking or trying to get what doesn’t belong to me but want what does. It's hard enough to be without her but alone her belongings. So please see into matter real soon and let me know about money due me of hers. I am sure it's the lowest amount...ever played on anyone to steal from the dead. Trusting for a reply soon.
November 12, 1943: Dear Sir, Your letter of October 4th received some two weeks ago. Am very sorry not to have answered it. I have been unable to do so owing to the fact I was away in Calgary under doctor’s care. In regards the attached slip in receipt for my daughter’s goods received by me earlier, I must state I still feel very uncertain over doing so until something is done more than I feel has been to either recompense me for this loss as I myself have sent her several dollars worth of gifts as well as what her and Major Lynne, her future hubby, gifts being lost. It's quite useless to try to convince me she lost them before or after she arrived at Yorkton as she was a very careful girl with anything given her by anyone she loved and through anything of. In regards the Hankie case I spoke of, fur shaped of monkey Major Lynne gave it to her just before Xmas 1942 and a silk scarf and no one is making her a liar just to shield someone else’s crime. I am not going to argue with you over anything much but I either bet reconfirmed or I don’t sign anything as not a third of stuff has come home. In regards to her clothes needing laundering and you state they were found that way maybe so but not the state I found them in and never left by her that way and I may be you don’t provide a laundry to do them to send to her parents. No, you weren't asked to but she never left her clothes messed in and she always tried to keep herself clean but she never had enough time to do her things, poor child slaved for 12 to 15 hours per day. In reference to her allowance due me and her War Saving Certificate and P.O. Savings, you state I should have received it about three weeks ago, but it has not arrived and I need it to fix things up for her comforts and please kindly see into it at once and as soon as things are settled over her missing gifts. I’ll sign papers due you but not before and I may also state that I don’t expect L.A.W. De Marsh in at her unit to be blamed for the goods lost as she is blameless.
November 16, 1943: Dear Sir, Please find enclosed the receipt for cheque for $54.28 for which I thank you very much. You will see I have signed it as requested. But your letter and other papers to be signed are satisfactory. I have consulste a lawyer in Calgary as I am acting on his advise as how to fill in all papers. You may also know the money is put into the bank for use to fix my beloved daughter’s grave in the spring as the Government here is going to help me fix her grave properly and build it and keep it in good condition in years to come should anything happen to me which I hope will be before long so I can be with her for good. You can see I don’t want any cash for myself she earned. She shall have it, bless her. I never made it a job to take anything from her unless I really needed, if hard up as I am. All mine is hers now and for ever after. Again, thanks for same cheque.
December 12, 1945: Sir, I received the gratuity check due my beloved darling daughter. E. Phyllis James, for part of her Services in this War. I may say thank you for myself and her, and wish you to know I have placed it in a bank here for use to help to finish up the comforts for her in the spring and am doing just what I feel is my duty to my dearest girl in this and the other world, as you no doubt have already heard I didn’t spend one cent of her money she sent me from the Air Force last year, but built her a comfy home and fixed her up as nice as I could. Her body belongs to me, just as much as her spirit visits me; all my money I have put to keep her fixed here with flowers, she loved so dearly and as long as I live she’ll never want what I can buy or do for her, all that I ask still is revenge for those who helped to kill her, the one I love so dearly. Again thank you for check received. Yours truly Mrs. N. James, mother
For many years, Mrs. James placed a memorium into local papers including 1946, 1948, 1952, 1955 and 1959, remembering her daughter. A fiance was mentioned: Major Lawrence L. Lynne, late of Vancouver, then living in Bellingham, Washington, USA, plus a friend, Mary De Marsh of Ottawa, Ontario.