Wing Commander John Beazley DFC
Wing-Commander John Beazley D.F.C.
Born: July 18th 1916. Died: June 13th 2011 Age 94
Wing Commander John Beazley, was a Battle of Britain fighter pilot and saw almost continuous action during the Second World War.
Beazley joined No 249 Squadron on its formation in May 1940 to fly Hurricanes.
On July 8 he shared in the destruction of an enemy bomber over Yorkshire before the squadron moved to join the main Battle in the south of England.
There the action was ceaseless, with pilots sometimes flying four sorties a day.
On September 2 Beazley probably destroyed a Messerschmitt fighter but was attacked in turn; his Hurricane burst into flames. Beazley bailed out and landed safely near Gillingham – despite being fired on by the local battery.
He was soon back in action, and four days later shared in the destruction of another enemy fighter.
On the 15th he accounted for a Dornier bomber and two days later he shared in the destruction of a Junkers 88.
During the hectic and confused fighting at the height of the Battle, it is probable that he also contributed to the destruction of other enemy aircraft.
On September 27, when attacking a Messerschmitt Bf 110, Beazley was badly wounded in the foot but managed to nurse his aircraft back to North Weald. It was his last contribution in the Battle.
The son of His Honour Sir Hugh Beazley, Hugh John Sherard Beazley was born on July 18 1916. He was educated at Cheltenham College and Pembroke College, Oxford, where he read History, began flying with the University Air Squadron, and played rugby for Richmond.
He was called up on the outbreak of war and completed his training as a pilot before joining No 249 Squadron.
After being wounded, he spent five months in hospital before rejoining the squadron in March 1941 in time to sail for Malta on the carrier Ark Royal.
Despite having an unserviceable air speed indicator, Beazley, along with the rest of the squadron, was launched from the ship on May 21, arriving at Ta’ Qali in Malta after a dangerous three-hour flight.
The effort of defending Malta from incessant German and Italian air attack, making offensive forays to support the Navy, and attacking enemy bases and supply lines in Sicily, was relentless. Those pilots who had also flown in the Battle of Britain considered the fighting over Malta to be at least as intense and dangerous, perhaps more so.
Beazley damaged an Italian bomber, a Messerschmitt Bf 109 and, on an intruder mission over Sicily, destroyed a train.
On January 19 1942 his Hurricane was hit by ground fire during an attack on the Italian airfield at Comiso and he was forced to crash land on his return to Malta.
A month later he probably destroyed a German Junkers 88.
After the loss of the squadron commander in December, Beazley was made 249’s commanding officer but, in February 1942, after 10 months of continuous action and 215 combat sorties over Malta, he was rested.
After serving on Air Marshal Tedder’s staff, Beazley returned to operations in December 1942, flying the twin-engined Beaufighter.
He was posted to No 89 Squadron in North Africa before, in October 1943, travelling with it to join the fighting in South East Asia.
In March 1944 he was awarded a DFC for ‘displaying the highest standard of courage and leadership’ and appointed to command the operational airfield at Minneriya in Ceylon.
In the final stages of the war Beazley was offered further promotion, but since this meant he would have to stop flying, he transferred to Transport Command and flew Dakotas in Europe, the Middle and Far East until 1946, when he left the RAF
He joined the Colonial Office and was posted to Nigeria, where he worked for 10 years, rising to become a Senior Resident.
Beazley loved Nigeria and its people and remained lifelong friends with his Nigerian colleague, Chief Simeon Adebo – later Nigeria’s permanent representative at the UN.
After Independence, he took articles as a chartered accountant, qualifying in 1960. Thereafter he joined the BET group, where he worked as a finance director until his retirement in 1981.
In Hertfordshire, where the Beazley family has lived for five generations, he was an important supporter of the Conservative Party, serving as a councillor and then as chairman of Hoddesdon district council.
He was also president of the Broxbourne Conservative Association, returning an MP to Parliament on successive occasions.
He was a trustee and treasurer of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust, playing a major role in establishing a permanent memorial to ‘The Few’ at Capel-Le-Ferne on the white cliffs near Dover, a place of deep significance to pilots.
A keen golfer, sailor and fisherman, his great passion was his adopted county of Cornwall, the home of his wife. Nothing gave him more pleasure than walking and maintaining the family land at Clerkenwater near Bodmin.
He was unfailingly polite and helpful to those historians and aficionados of the Battle who visited him in his later years, trying to piece together his log book with those against whom he fought.
A modest man, he always denied that he had been brave, insisting that on the whole he had been frightened.
Despite retaining fond memories of the enormous generosity of the local people in Malta, he refused to return to the island after the war, saying that it had been a terrifying time and that he had lost too many friends there.
When pressed by one visitor, who pointed out that he had accumulated a great number of medals, he paused and replied: ‘Well, it was rather a long war.’
He married, in 1947, Mary Rawlings, daughter of Admiral Sir Bernard Rawlings; she survives him with their two sons and one daughter.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard of the Spixworthonian Language School.