Andrew Beauchamp-Proctor

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by liverpool annie, Jan 1, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Captain Andrew (Anthony) Frederick Weatherby Beauchamp-Proctor, VC, DSO, MC and bar, DFC (4 September 1894 – 21 June 1921) was a South African recipient of the Victoria Cross the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was South Africa's leading ace for World War I.

    Beauchamp-Proctor was born 4 September 1894 in Mossel Bay Cape Province the second son of a school teacher. He was attending the University of Cape Town studying engineering when the European war broke out. He took leave from his studies to join the Duke of Edinburgh's Own Rifles. He served as a signalman in the German South-West Africa campaign.
    In August 1915 he was demobilised with an honorable discharge. He promptly went to work with the South African Field Telegraph and re-enrolled in university. He managed to complete his third year of college before re-enlisting, this time into the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), in March 1917.
    He was accepted as an Air Mechanic Third Class. From there he passed on to pilot training at the School of Military Aeronautics at Oxford in England, where he was also commissioned. He managed to learn to fly despite his wiry stature of five feet two inches. His aircraft seating was altered to accommodate him; his seat was raised so he had a better view from the cockpit and so he could reach controls. Blocks of wood were also fastened on his rudder bar so he could reach it.
    On 10 June 1917, he soloed, when he had just over five hours flying time. He crashed upon landing, wiping out the landing gear. Nevertheless, he continued to fly solo. He was passed on to a bomber squadron, Number 84, with a little under ten hours flying experience.
    When he joined 84 Squadron in July 1917, it was re-forming as a fighter squadron.

    On 23 September 1917, the unit went to France flying SE5s. Under the command of Major William Sholto Douglas the unit became one of the most effective scout squadrons in the RFC/RAF during 1918. The squadron would be credited with a victory total of 323, and would produce 25 aces. However, Beauchamp-Proctor would be pre-eminent, with almost triple the number of successes of the second leading ace. He was not particularly esteemed as a flier, but was a deadly shot.
    Beauchamp-Proctor's piloting skills can be judged by the fact he had three landing accidents before he ever shot down an enemy plane. Beauchamp-Proctor continued to fly the SE5 with modifications to the aircraft's seat and controls, something his Philadelphia-born American squadron mate, Joseph "Child Yank" Boudwin, who stood only two inches taller, also had to use. The alterations to relatively primitive controls could have contributed to Beaucham-Proctor's poor airmanship.
    His initial confirmed victory did not come until the turn of the year. On 3 January 1918, he sent a German two-seater 'down out of control'. He then claimed victories 4 more times in February, becoming an ace on its final day. Only one of his first 5 victories resulted in the destruction of an enemy; the other 4 were planes sent down as 'out of control'.
    March brought him 4 more victories; 3 of them were scored within five minutes on the 17th. He tallied one kill in April.
    Among his 11 victories for the month of May were 5 on 19 May. On that morning, he knocked an enemy observation plane out of the battle; fifteen minutes later, he destroyed an Albatros D.V scout. That evening, at about 6:35 PM, he downed 3 more Albatros D.Vs. By the 31st, his roll had climbed to 21 victims--16 fighters and 5 observation aircraft.
    The next day marked a change of focus for him; he shot down an observation balloon. For the remainder of his career, he would choose to blind the enemy, choosing to concentrate on shooting down kite balloons and observation aircraft. Also notable is the drop in his "out of control" victories; from here on out, the record shows destruction after destruction of the enemy. His June string would only run to the 13th, but in that time, he would destroy 4 balloons, an observation two-seater and a fighter. Only one fighter went down out of control.

    On the 22nd, he was awarded the Military Cross.

    July would pass without incident. On August 3rd, he was granted one of the first ever Distinguished Flying Crosses.
    On August 9 Beauchamp-Proctor was leading No. 84 Squadron on a patrol over their base at Bertangles, with Boudwin and six-foot-four tall Hugh Saunders as wingmen, and got involved in a heated engagement at 2:00 pm, that involved the threesome in combat against Fokker D.VII fighters of JG I, led that day by the future Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering.
    The break in his victory string lasted almost a month, as he went on home leave and helped a recruitment drive for the RFC. On 8 August, he returned and resumed with tally number 29, another balloon. He would claim an additional 14 times, and end the month with his claims list extended to 43.
    One memorable day was the 22nd; he attacked a line of 6 enemy balloon over the British 3rd Corps front. He set the first one afire with his machine guns and forced the other 5 to the ground, the observers taking to their parachutes.
    His 15 'kills' for August would include 5 balloons, all destroyed, and 2 more two-seater planes. He was now up to 43 victories.
    September claims would be all balloons- 4 of them.
    In the first few days of October, he would destroy 3 more balloons and 3 Fokker D.VII fighters, one of which burned. Another D.VII spun down out of control.
    On 8 October he was hit by ground fire and wounded in the arm, ending his front line service.
    Beauchamp-Proctor's victory list ran to a total of 54.
    Up until the end of May, he destroyed six enemy planes single-handed, and shared the destruction of two others. He drove ten down out of control, and shared in another 'out of control' victory. Two of his victims were captured. Certainly a creditable record, and like many other aces, with no conquests over balloons. Balloons, with all the anti-aircraft artillery guarding them, and patrolling fighter airplanes ready to intercede for them, were very dangerous targets. Commonly they were hunted by co-ordinated packs of attacking fighters.
    When Beauchamp-Proctor turned to hunting balloons, the record shows what could be almost an entirely different ace. He destroyed 14 balloons himself, and shared in the destruction of 2 others. Scoring solo, he shot down 4 opposing planes in flames, destroyed 4 more, and shared in the destruction of 4 more. In this stretch of 33 claims, he sent down 6 out of control, and had another captured.
    His 16 balloons downed made him the leading British Empire balloon buster.
    On 2 November, he had been awarded a Distinguished Service Order, crowned by the Victoria Cross later in the month, on the 30th.

    He was discharged from hospital in March 1919 and embarked on a four month long lecture tour of the USA, before returning to England and qualifying as a seaplane pilot with a permanent commission as a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF.
    After his VC investiture at Buckingham Palace in November 1919 he was awarded a year’s leave, and this enabled him finish his BSc degree in Engineering.

    Beauchamp-Proctor was killed on the 21 June 1921 in a training accident flying a Sopwith Snipe, in preparation for an air show at the RAF Hendon. His aircraft went into a vicious spin after performing a slow loop, and he was killed in the ensuing crash. At least one observer remarked that the loss of control and subsequent crash of the aircraft could have been linked to Proctor's diminutive size.
    He was originally buried at Upavon, Wiltshire, but in August 1921 his body was returned to South Africa where he was given a state funeral.

    There still exists confusion over Beauchamp-Proctor's given name. For decades he was listed as "Anthony" but more recent scholarship indicates "Andrew", which apparently is the name on his tombstone.

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  2. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Is this fiction ... do you think ?? :rolleyes:

    In the spring of 1917, at the height of World War I, a young South African was recruited by the Royal Flying Corps to be trained as a fighter pilot on the Western Front. His name was Andrew Weatherby Beauchamp-Proctor. A tiny man, who needed cushions in the cockpit of his SE 5A in order to reach the controls, Beauchamp-Proctor proved so proficient, that by the end of the war, he had become the fifth-ranking ace on the Allied side with 54 kills. After recovering from wounds sustained in September 1918, Beauchamp-Proctor attended an investiture at Buckingham Palace at which he was awarded the VC, DSO, MC and DFC - which made him the most highly-decorated South African of all time. Also present on this occasion was Winston Churchill, then Secretary of State for War and Air. Beauchamp-Proctor then disappeared from sight until 1922, when he returned to England and rejoined the Royal Air Force. Because of his special flying skills, he was appointed to the RAF aerobatic squadron, then based at Upavon, Wiltshire. Then, while practising for an air display, he lost control of his SE 5A and was killed in the resultant crash. He was buried in the village churchyard. On hearing of the war hero's death, Jan Smuts, then Prime Minister of South Africa, cabled Churchill and asked that the remains be shipped to South Africa for a state funeral. The coffin was duly delivered some six weeks later, and finally interred in Beauchamp-Proctor's hometown of Mafeking. All this is recorded fact. But in 1983 a South African tourist who happened to be visiting Upavon noticed a gravestone in the village churchyard bearing the name of Beauchamp-Proctor. It so happened that he was a native of Mafeking and clearly remembered seeing the pilot's tomb there. Intrigued, he talked to the local vicar, who in turn contacted his Bishop. It transpired that no diocesan authority had ever been given for the exhumation of the remains, nor had there been any order from the Home Office. Which grave is the true resting place of Andrew Weatherby Beachamp-Proctor? How can a body be buried in two places 6,000 miles apart and why is an old man in the village of Upavon so upset by the appearance of the young man from Mafeking?

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