Victor Beamish from Coleraine was one of a small band of near-legendary figures in the RAF in WW2. He was lost in 1942. His three brothers George, Charles, and Cecil all served with distinction in the RAF. On the same day, a Commando raid on St Nazaire took place. Three NI men were lost. See also post today on Billy Stevens who was taken POW off on St Nazaire and later escaped from Colditz. Photo – Victor Beamish with pilots of 249: L to R: Sgt.M Maciejowski, Sgt. M Popek, Beamish, P/O JJ Solak.
Representing their comrades who died on this day
+CLAY, John (Jack).
11 RIR. Rifleman. Died 28/03/1916. Aged 18 He was the son of Mary Clay and the late Thomas Clay of the Post Office, Lambeg, Lisburn, and brother of Thomas Clay, who also served. Born and living in Lambeg, he enlisted in Lisburn at the start of the war embarking for France from Bordon in October 1915.
After his death the Rev. A. Gibson, an Army Chaplain, writing to the Rev. J.J.C. Breakey the minister of First Lisburn Presbyterian Church stated, “I was urgently called upon to visit [Jack Clay] in the field hospital where I found him seriously wounded. He was not suffering undue pain then but was in a very drowsy way. He roused himself to talk to me. … He was very weak, but I was glad to be with him. He told me that he came from Lambeg and that you were his minister. I did not worry him with many questions.
“I talked to him and had prayer with him. He died very soon afterwards. … he seemed a very nice lad”. The Rev. Gibson conducted Jack Clay’s burial service, “in a little cemetery some five miles or so behind the lines. I have arranged,” he added, “that his grave be marked with his name etc. upon it”.
Mrs. Clay also received letters of condolence from two of her son’s officers. Captain Arthur Charley (from a local family) wrote, “Your son was always a smart, quiet hard working fellow … and his loss will be greatly felt, both from a military standpoint and also as a friend, as I know he was greatly liked by the other men in his platoon and company”.
Using similar language, Lieutenant F.R. Webb described him as, “one of those quiet, descent, willing young chaps who can be ill spared at the present time and we all feel his loss deeply. I am sure though that you will find consolation in the fact that he died doing his duty”.
Mrs. Clay appears as well to have been involved with the Hilden-Lambeg Work Society which provided comforts for soldiers. The secretary had a notice included in the Lisburn Standard on the 25/08/1916 saying how difficult it was to keep track of men who were sick and wounded and asked relatives to forward addresses to Mrs. Clay at Lambeg Post Office. She may also have had a daughter who helped in the work. A Miss Clay of Lambeg is mentioned in the News Letter on the 04/07/1916 as a contributor to comforts sent out to soldiers in 11 RIR in the first half of 1916.
Jack Clay was buried in Forceville Communal Cemetery Extension, France. The Rev. Gibson appears to have been true to his word. There is no inscription on the existing headstone but according to the CWGC register, there was one on the original wooden cross. “Soldier rest, thy warfare o’er, sleep the sleep that knows no breaking, dream of fighting fields no more, day of toil and night of waiting.”
+McGRATH, John Robert
RN. Stoker 1st Class. SS103926. HMS Conquest. Died 28/03/1916. Age 28. Drowned as a result of the capsizing of the ship’s cutter in a blizzard. Enrolled 02/10/1906 for 5 and 7 years. Served to 01/10/1911. Joined RFR 02/10/1911. War service in Pembroke II, Aeolus Royal Arthur, and Conquest (15/06/1915 – 28/03/1916). Born in Kilkenny. Son of Annie McGrath, Ludlow St., Belfast, and the late Thomas McGrath. All Saints Walton-on-the-Naze Churchyard.
Gordon Highlanders, 2nd Btn.Private. S/43495. Formerly 20644 Cameron Highlanders. Died 28/03/1917 while fighting with the 7th Division in an attack at Longatte. Born on 16/04/1892 at Kilcreen (also Killycreen), a townland that lies between Glarryford and Dunloy, the son of labourer Patrick Mooney and Lizzie nee Ross. Census returns suggest the family may have moved to Scotland well before the Great War. Patrick lived in Glasgow and enlisted in Inverness. HAC Cemetery, Ecoust-St. Mein, Pas de Calais, France
36 Signal Company RE. Lance Corporal. 57969. Died 28/03/1918. Born in Ballinderry Co. Antrim, he enlisted at Belfast, probably in 1914. Son of Mary and Thomas James Griffin, Sloan Street, Lisburn whose remains are buried in Blaris Old Cemetery. Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France,, panels 10 to 13
+HAMILTON, Robert Ainslie
Royal Army Service Corps, Attd. 5th Bn. K.O.Y.L.I. Lieutenant. Died 28/03/1918. Aged 23. Son of Robert J. Hamilton, F.R.C.S.E, Rodney Street, Liverpool and grandson of Robert Hamilton, F.R.C.S, Magherabuoy, Portrush. Pozieres Memorial Panels 59-60
+McDONALD, James Robinson
Royal Army Medical Corps. 37th Field Amb. Private. 70290. Died 28/03/1918 near Albert. Aged 23. His father died when he was very young. His mother was a Tea and Grocer Merchant. Son of Mrs. Margaret Jane McDonald, of Doolargy, Carnteel, Aughnacloy, Co. Tyrone. Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France. Aughnacloy PCI RH
56th Bn. Machine-Gun Corps. Sergeant. 18634. MiD. Died 28/03/1918. Age 23. Born Macosquin. Enlisted Finner Camp. Arras Memorial, Bay 10
+PATTERSON, Robert James
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 10th Btn. Private. 21923. Died 28/03/1918. Aged 18. He was wounded during the retreat from St Quentin and removed to Namps for treatment. Born at Ballymacarrett,18/04/1898. Youngest son of Rachel Patterson nee Powers, of 91, Donegal Rd., Belfast. Namps-au-Val British Cemetery, Somme, France. Moneymore WM
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Private. 23735. Died 28/03/1918. Age 22.
Son of Robert and Elizabeth Seymour, Randalstown. Buried St. Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, France
+WOODS, W J
Royal Engineers, 43rd Broad Gauge Railway Operating Coy.2nd Corporal. 64336. Died 28/03/1918. Aged 30. He was living in Aughnacloy, County Tyrone when he enlisted in Belfast. Born about 1891 in Carrickfergus. His father was a miner. William was one of nine children. Eldest son of William J. and Margaret Woods, of Carrickfergus; husband to Meta Woods, of Mayfair, Cyprus Park, Bloomfield, Belfast. Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France
Royal Ulster Rifles, 6th Btn. Corporal. D/24423. Died 28/03/1940 in a military hospital. The battalion was Home Defence a Home Defence Unit of older men with military experience. He lived with his wife at Rockburn, Ballybeen, Dundonald. A funeral service took place at 1430hrs on 01/04/1940. Dundonald Cemetery
1942 Raid on St Nazaire
The Commando assault on the French port of St Nazaire took place (Op Chariot). Commandos successfully destroyed the heavily defended Normandie dry dock after HMS Campbeltown was rammed into the dock gates. Destroyer HMS Campbeltown (ex USS Buchanan) was expended as an explosive blockship in the raid. The ship had been packed with delayed-action explosives, well-hidden within a steel and concrete case. Of the 611 men who took part, 169 were killed and 89 were awarded decorations, including 5 Victoria Crosses. It was to be one of the most audacious raids of all time.
See on this site – March 28 – POW after St Nazaire raid, he escaped from Colditz. Link in NOTES below
RN. Stoker First Class. C/KX 120120. Died 28/03/1942. Age 19. HMML 447. Raid on Dieppe. A brother Private Alex Broome, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, was a prisoner of the Italians. Son of James and Margaret M. Broome, Olympic Dr., Donegall Ave., Belfast. (Belfast Weekly Telegraph 09/10/1942). Escoublac- La – Baule War Cemetery, Loire-Atlantique, France.
+FINDLEY, William Ritchie
RN. AB. D/SSX19545. HMS Campbeltown. Died 28/03/1942. Age 22. Son of John and Janette Findlay, Belfast. Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 65
AB. RN. D/SSX 26259. Died 28/03/1942. Age 21. H.M.M.L. 262. He had four years of service including Narvik where he had been wounded. His wife resided at Mayo St., Belfast. His father resided at Woodvale Drive, Belfast. (Belfast Weekly Telegraph 24/04/1942). Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 66
+BEAMISH, Francis Victor
RAF. Group Captain. 16089. Died 28/03/1942. Aged 39. 485 (R.N.Z.A.F.) Sqdn. DSO and Bar, DFC, AFC. Victor Beamish was one of a small band of near-legendary figures in the RAF. He was photographed by Cecil Beaton and had his portrait painted by both Cuthbert Orde and Eric Kennington. The citation for the DSO printed in The Times, Wednesday, 13/03/1940 states – “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 13 days, and personally led them on many patrols against the enemy. In June, during an offensive mission over France, six Messerschmitt 109s were destroyed, two of them by Wing Commander Beamish himself, and 12 driven off. One day recently he assisted in the destruction of a Messerschmitt 110, while leading the escort to a convoy, and three days later shot down a Dornier 17. This officer’s outstanding leadership and high courage have inspired all those under his command with great energy and dash”.
He was awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Service Order in August, 1941 – “Gp/Capt. Beamish commanded an R.A.F. station from October, 1940, to March, 1941, and 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 probably destroyed two more enemy aircraft. The courage and devotion to duty displayed by Gr/Capt. Beamish are of the highest order, and he has set a magnificent example” The references in the London Gazette are dated – 20/02/1940; 12/03/1940; 23/07/1940 and 08/11/1940
One of four noted airmen brothers. Son of Francis George Beamish, and of Mary Elizabeth Beamish, of Castlerock, Co. Derry, and later at Kildollagh, Coleraine. Francis Victor Beamish was born at Dunmanway, County Cork on 27/09/1903. His father was the headmaster of Dunmanway Model School and later was appointed an Inspector of Schools. He and his family moved to Castlerock. Francis attended the Coleraine Academical Institute and then entered the RAF College, Cranwell as a Flight Cadet on 14/09/1921. His three brothers George, Charles, and Cecil all served with distinction in the RAF – Air Marshal Sir George Robert Beamish KCB CBE, Group Captain Charles Eric St John Beamish, and Air Vice Marshal Cecil Howard Beamish CB FDSRCS. Runnymeade Memorial, Panel 64.
+GRAHAM, John Thompson
RAFVR. Flight Sergeant. 968335. Died 28/03/1942. Aged 29. 7 Sqdn. Son of Joseph and Bessie Isabel Graham, of Newtownards. Runnymeade Memorial, Panel 74, Newtownards WM
+McVEIGH, Patrick Joseph
RAF. Corporal. 625810. Died 28/03/1942. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Mcveigh, of Mayobridge, Co. Down. Bulawayo (Athlone) Cemetery, Zimbabwe (formerley Rhodesia)
+SIDNEY-SMITH, Desmond Edwin
RAFVR. Sergeant. 1056817. Died 28/03/1942. Aged 20. 7 Sqd 20. Son of Tredgar and Irene Sidney Smith, of Sydenham, Belfast. Runnymede Memorial, Panel 93.
Royal Ulster Rifles, 2nd Btn. Rifleman. 7045462. Died 29/03/1945. Aged 30. Born in London. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
PAKENHAM, Hercules Arthur
Royal Irish Rifles, Lieutenant-Colonel. When WW1 broke out he raised and commanded the 11th (Service) Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. He was a son of the late Lieutenant-General T. H. Pakenham, C.B., who fought in the Crimea, and afterwards represented the County of Antrim in Parliament, and a grandson of Lieutenant-General the Honourable Sir Hercules Pakenham, K.C.B.
Lieutenant-Colonel Pakenham was prominently identified with the U.V.F. in South Antrim before the war, and on the formation of the Ulster Division, he assumed command of the South Antrim Battalion. He was invalided for a period.
He worked for MI5 during the latter part of the war. In 1917 he was MI5’s liaison at the French War Ministry. In early 1918 he became head of MI5’s Washington DC office. He was awarded the Order of St Michael and St George (Lisburn Standard 15/01/1917).
He lived at Langford Lodge, Crumlin. He died 28/03/1937
28/03/1916 – Destroyer HMS Medusa collided with HMS Laverock off the Danish North Sea coast and sank while under tow. No casualties.
28/03/1917 – The French repulse the Germans at Maisons de Champagne, but lose a few trenches to the Germans. The French recapture Hill 304 at Verdun.
28/03/1939 – Madrid falls to Francisco Franco’s Nazi-backed Nationalists ending three years of civil war in Spain in which German air tactics were trialed.
28/03/1941 – A Royal Navy fleet under Admiral Cunningham in HMS Warspite inflicted the Italian Navy’s largest ever defeat at the Battle of Cape Matapan off the coast of Greece. Cunningham lost only 3 men and no ships whilst the Italians lost 5 ships and over 2,300 men.
28/03/1942 – The Commando assault on the French port of St Nazaire took place (Op Chariot). Commandos successfully destroyed the heavily defended Normandie dry dock after HMS Campbeltown was rammed into the dock gates. Destroyer HMS Campbeltown (ex USS Buchanan) was expended as an explosive blockship in the raid. The ship had been packed with delayed-action explosives, well-hidden within a steel and concrete case. Of the 611 men who took part, 169 were killed and 89 were awarded decorations, including 5 Victoria Crosses. It was to be one of the most audacious raids of all time.
28/03/ 1944 – Submarine HMS Syrtis disappeared with all her 48 crew in the Norwegian Sea, presumed mined and sunk.
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