Wing Commander FV Beamish
|Born||27 September 1903|
|Died||28 March 1942 (aged 38)|
English Channel, near Calais, occupied France
|Service/||Royal Air Force|
|Years of service||1921–1933|
|Commands held||RAF Kenley (1942)|
RAF Debden (1941)
RAF North Weald (1940–41)
No. 504 Squadron RAF (1938–40)
No. 64 Squadron RAF (1937–38)
|Battles/wars||Second World War|
|Awards||Distinguished Service Order & Bar|
Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Force Cross
Mentioned in Despatches
Group Captain Francis Victor Beamish, DSO & Bar, DFC, AFC (27 September 1903 – 28 March 1942) was a Royal Air Force fighter pilot and flying ace of the Second World War. After flying during the Battle of Britain he continued to lead fighter operations until he was killed in action in 1942.
Royal Air Force career
Beamish entered the RAF College, Cranwell as a flight cadet on 14 September 1921. After graduation in August 1923 he was granted a permanent commission as pilot officer on 15 August 1923, and posted to 4 (Army Co-operation) Squadron at RAF Farnborough on 18 September 1923. In January 1925 Beamish was posted to the RAF School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum for a brief posting before being promoted flying officer on 15 February 1925, joining No. 31 Squadron RAF at Ambala, India on 18 November 1925. He transferred to No. 60 Squadron RAF at Kohat in April 1926. Returning to England in October 1926 Beamish participated in a course at the Central Flying School, RAF Wittering before commencing a tour as an instructor at No. 5 Flying Training School, RAF Sealand.
Beamish played rugby union for Harlequins, Leicester, Hampshire, Royal Air Force and Irish Trials for several years. He was the eldest of the Beamish brothers who were all accomplished sportsmen and RAF officers; his brothers being George, Charles and Cecil.
On 16 September 1927 Beamish returned to RAF Cranwell as a member of the staff and promoted flight lieutenant on 12 December 1928, He was posted to Canada on 22 March 1929 on exchange with an RCAF officer. Returning two years later he was posted to No. 25 Squadron RAF at RAF Hawkinge as a Flight Commander. In January 1932 he was appointed Personal Assistant to the AOC at RAF Uxbridge. In 1933 he was admitted to hospital at Uxbridge, due to tuberculosis, having to relinquish his commission on 18 October 1933 due to ill-health.
In 1934 Beamish secured a civilian post at No. 2 Flying Training School RAF Digby which he held until appointed civilian adjutant at RAF Aldergrove on 18 May 1936 simultaneously being granted a commission as flight lieutenant in the Reserve of Air Force Officers. A notice in the London Gazette in February 1937 recorded that Flight Lieutenant Francis Victor Beamish (RAF retired) had been reinstated on the active list as a flight lieutenant with effect from 27 January 1937 (with seniority dated 23 March 1932, having relinquished his commission with the Reserve of Air Force Officers, Having recovered his health he was reinstated with full flying status and posted to command No. 2 Armament Training Camp and then Meteorological Flight at RAF Aldergrove. He was appointed to command No. 64 Squadron RAF at RAF Church Fenton on 8 December 1937.
Beamish completed a course at RAF Staff College, Andover and was appointed to command No. 504 Squadron RAF at RAF Digby on 13 September 1939 before sailing to Canada in January 1940 on staff duty, he was Mentioned in Despatches on 20 February 1940 for his service in command,. Beamish was promoted Wing Commander on 1 March 1940, and returned to England assuming command of RAF North Weald on 7 June 1940.
As evidenced by his tally as a fighter pilot he took every opportunity to fly operationally. On 18 June 1940 he claimed two Messerschmitt Bf 109s destroyed, on 9 July 1940 one Messerschmitt Bf 110 damaged, then on 12 July 1940 a Dornier Do 17 bomber shot down. In action during the height of the Battle of Britain on 18 August 1940 Beamish claimed a probable Junkers Ju 88, on 24 August 1940 a Dornier Do 17 bomber damaged and on 30 August 1940 two probable Messerschmitt Bf 110s. On 6 September 1940 Beamish claimed two Junkers Ju 87s, on 11 September 1940 a probable Heinkel He 111 bomber, on 15 September 1940 a shared Heinkel He 111 and on 18 September 1940 and 27 September 1940 he scored probable Messerschmitt Bf 109s. Beamish damaged a Messerschmitt Bf 109 on 12 October 1940, on 25 October 1940 he probably destroyed a Messerschmitt Bf 109 and damaged another finally probably shooting down another on 30 October 1940.
Wing Commander Beamish took over command of a Royal Air Force station after two squadrons there had been intensively engaged in successful fighting operations over France for thirteen days and personally led them on many patrols against the enemy. In June, 1940, during an offensive mission over France, six Messerschmitt Bf 109s were destroyed, two of them by Wing Commander Beamish himself and twelve driven off. One day recently he assisted in the destruction of a Messerschmitt Bf 110 whilst leading the escort to a convoy and three days later he shot down a Dornier Do 17. This officer's outstanding leadership and high courage have inspired all those under his command with great energy and dash.
The work of this station commander has been outstanding. He has displayed exceptional keenness in his engagements against the enemy and has recently destroyed one and possibly a further seven enemy aircraft. His coolness and courage have proved an inspiration to all.
On 7 November 1940 Beamish collided with Pilot Officer TF Neil of No. 249 Squadron RAF whilst on patrol and made a forced-landing at Leeds Castle in Kent. In all his sorties in 1940, he was damaged by enemy action three times, on each occasion getting his aircraft down safely. On 11 November 1940 an attack was carried out by Italian aircraft based in Belgium during which Beamish claimed a probable Fiat CR 42 bi-plane fighter. On 13 November 1940 he damaged a Messerschmitt Bf 109 near Dover. On 10 January 1941 he shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 109 but was posted to HQ No. 11 Group RAF on 17 March 1941. Beamish was unable to fly regularly by now but occasionally flew over occupied Europe and claimed a probable Messerschmitt Bf 109 near Mardyck on 9 August 1941.
Group Captain Beamish commanded a Royal Air Force Station from October 1940 to March, 1941 and during that period carried out 71 operational sorties in which he destroyed an enemy fighter, probably destroyed three other hostile aircraft and damaged others. Since his appointment to Group headquarters he has taken part in further sorties and has probably destroyed two more enemy aircraft. The courage and devotion to duty displayed by Group Captain Beamish are of the highest order and he has set a magnificent example.
Beamish was appointed to command RAF Kenley on 25 January 1942 and was able to fly more frequently with his squadrons. Accompanied by flying ace Wing Commander RF Boyd he took off on the morning of 12 February 1942 on a reconnaissance flight during which they chased two Messerschmitt Bf 109s before sighting part of the German Fleet making its 'Channel Dash'. The ships had been reported ten minutes earlier by two pilots of No. 91 Squadron RAF but the report had not been fully believed until such senior confirmation was received. Attacks were then planned.
On 13 February 1942 Beamish shared in the destruction of a Heinkel He 115 float plane over the Channel. On 9 March 1942 he claimed a Focke-Wulf Fw 190 destroyed claiming a second one and a Messerschmitt Bf 109 on 26 March 1942.
Killed in action
On 28 March 1942 Beamish was leading the Kenley Wing and flying with No. 485 Squadron RAF (New Zealand) when he sighted a formation of Messerschmitt Bf 109s and Focke-Wulf Fw 190s just south of Calais. In the battle which followed Beamish was attacked and damaged by a Messerschmitt Bf 109 and requested a position over the radio before last being seen entering a cloud near Calais.
- Air Force Cross on 1 January 1938.
- Mentioned in Despatches on 20 February 1940.
- Distinguished Service Order on 23 July 1940.
- Distinguished Flying Cross on 8 November 1940.
- Bar to the Distinguished Service Order on 2 September 1941.
- Franks, Norman (1997). Royal Air Force Fighter Command Losses, Volume 1. Earl Shilton: Midland Counties. ISBN 1-857800559.
- Shores, Christopher (1994). Aces High. London: Grub Street. ISBN 1-898697-00-0.
- Foreman, John (2003). RAF Fighter Command Victory Claims, Part One. Walton-on-Thames: Red Kite. ISBN 0-9538061-8-9.
- Foreman, John (1988). Battle of Britain - the forgotten months. New Malden: Air Research. ISBN 1871187028.
- Mason, Francis (1969). Battle Over Britain. London: McWhirter Brothers. ISBN 0-901928-00-3.
- Foreman, John (1996). The Fighter Command War Diaries. Walton-on-Thames: Air Research. ISBN 1-871187-34-6.
- Shores, Christopher (1999). Aces High, Volume 2. London: Grub Street. ISBN 1-898697-00-0.
- Wynn, Kenneth (1989). Men of the Battle of Britain. Norfolk: Gliddon. ISBN 1473847672.
- Ramsey, Winston (1989). Battle of Britain: Then and Now -V. London: After The Battle. ISBN 0-900913-46-0.
- Ramsey, Winston (1989). The Blitz: Then and Now –Volume 2. London: After The Battle. ISBN 0-900913-54-1.
- Foreman, John (2005). RAF Fighter Command Victory Claims, Part Two. Walton-on-Thames: Red Kite. ISBN 0-9546201-5-1.
- Battle of Britain Museum – FV Beamish
- ‘BEAMISH, Wing-Comdr (Acting Gp-Captain) Francis Victor’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2007; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2013 ; online edn, June 2013 accessed 7 Jan 2014
- Shores (1994), p.119
- "No. 32863". The London Gazette. 18 September 1923. p. 6279.
- "No. 33030". The London Gazette. 17 March 1925. p. 1881.
- Battle of Britain Memorial – Victor Beamish
- "No. 33446". The London Gazette. 11 December 1928. p. 8173.
- "No. 33987". The London Gazette. 17 October 1933. p. 6694.
- "No. 34294". The London Gazette. 16 June 1936. p. 3841.
- "No. 34369". The London Gazette. 9 February 1937. p. 895.
- "No. 34374". The London Gazette. 20 February 1937. p. 1261.
- "No. 824". The Belfast Gazette. 9 April 1937. p. 111.
- "No. 864". The Belfast Gazette. 14 January 1938. p. 15.
- "No. 34469". The London Gazette. 31 December 1937. p. 19.
- "No. 34795". The London Gazette (Supplement). 20 February 1940. p. 1056.
- "No. 34810". The London Gazette. 12 March 1940. p. 1473.
- UnitHistories website – FV Beamish
- "No. 34903". The London Gazette. 23 July 1940. p. 4529.
- "No. 34987". The London Gazette. 8 November 1940. p. 6440.
- Google books – Aces High – p.119
- "No. 35263". The London Gazette. 2 September 1941. p. 5103.
- MOD RAF Website – FV Beamish
- Foreman (2005), various
- CWGC details G/Capt FV Beamish DSO* DFC AFC