the Battle of Britain

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The Battle of Britain was a military campaign of the Second World War, when the Royal Air Force (RAF) defended the United Kingdom (UK) against the German Air Force (Luftwaffe).

The British officially recognise its duration as from 10 July until 31 October 1940, which overlaps with the period of large-scale night attacks known as the Blitz,while German historians do not accept this subdivision and regard it as a campaign lasting from July 1940 to June 1941.

But rather then going into too much detail, thus article will mainly consist of photographs. I couldn’t possibly add anything more then what is already written about this.

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Not all of the pilots were British .Czech pilots of No. 310 Squadron at RAF Duxford in September 1940..

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The RAF was organised into different ‘Commands’ based on function or role, including Fighter, Bomber and Coastal Commands. While victory in the Battle of Britain was decisively gained by Fighter Command, defence was carried out by the whole of the Royal Air Force.

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During the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe was dealt an almost lethal blow from which it never fully recovered. Although Fighter Command suffered heavy losses and was often outnumbered during actual engagements, the British outproduced the Germans and maintained a level of aircraft production that helped them withstand their losses.

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One of many German maps of the planned invasion of Britain.

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Although not a major contributor to the 1940 air campaign against Britain, Italy did volunteer as many as 170 planes to the effort. In fact, more than five per cent of the 2,500 Axis aircraft committed to the battle were Italian

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Oberleutnant Armin Faber-Oops I did not mean that to happen.

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Oberleutnant Armin Faber was a Luftwaffe pilot in World War II who mistook the Bristol Channel for the English Channel and landed his Focke-Wulf 190 (Fw 190) intact at RAF Pembrey in south Wales. His plane was the first Fw 190 to be captured by the Allies and was tested to reveal any weaknesses that could be exploited.

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Oberleutnant Armin Faber anxiously scanned the ground below, his eyes constantly drawn to the fuel gauge of his Focke-Wulf 190 fighter, hoping desperately to spot an airfield. It was the evening of 23 June 1942 and the Luftwaffe pilot, running perilously low on fuel after an intense dogfight over southern England, was searching for somewhere to put his aircraft down.

Minutes later a feeling of relief washed over him. There in the distance was an aerodrome. He rapidly descended, gently bumped the Fw 190 down onto the grass airstrip, cut his engine and breathed a deep sigh of relief.

No sooner had he done so, however, than a man in blue uniform came running towards his plane, holding what looked like a pistol. Strange, the German pilot thought. Then, as the figure came nearer, he recognised the man’s uniform and his heart instantly sank – it was that of an RAF officer!

Before Faber could restart his engine the man reached the cockpit and shoved a Very pistol in his face. Faber realised that he wasn’t in France at all. In fact, the Luftwaffe pilot had landed at RAF Pembrey in South Wales, home to the RAF’s Air Gunnery School.

 

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In June 1942, Oberleutnant Armin Faber was Gruppen-Adjutant to the commander of the III fighter Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 2 (JG 2, Second Fighter Wing) based in Morlaix in Brittany. On 23 June, he was given special permission to fly a combat mission with 7th Staffel. The unit operated Focke-Wulf 190 fighters.

Faber’s Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-3 of III/JG 2 at RAF Pembrey, June 1942

The Fw 190 had only recently arrived with front line units at this time and its superior performance had caused the Allies so many problems that they were considering mounting a commando raid on a French airfield to capture one for evaluation.

7th Staffel was scrambled to intercept a force of six Bostons on their way back from a bombing mission;

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the Bostons were escorted by three Czechoslovak-manned RAF squadrons, 310 Squadron, 312 Squadron and 313 Squadron commanded by Alois Vašátko.

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All the Bostons returned safely while a fight developed over the English Channel with the escorting Spitfires, which resulted in the loss of two Fw 190s and seven Spitfires, including that of Alois Vašátko, who was killed when he collided with an Fw 190 (the German pilot bailed out and was captured).

During the combat, Faber became disoriented and separated from the other German aircraft. He was attacked by Sergeant František Trejtnar of 310 Squadron. In his efforts to shake off the Spitfire, Faber flew north over Exeter in Devon. After much high-speed maneuvering, Faber, with only one cannon working, pulled an Immelmann turn into the sun and shot down his pursuer in a head-on attack.

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Trejnar bailed out safely, although he had a shrapnel wound in his arm and sustained a broken leg on landing; his Spitfire crashed near the village of Black Dog, Devon.M

Meanwhile, the disorientated Faber now mistook the Bristol Channel for the English Channel and flew north instead of south. Thinking South Wales was France, he turned towards the nearest airfield – RAF Pembrey.

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Observers on the ground could not believe their eyes as Faber waggled his wings in a victory celebration, lowered the Focke-Wulf’s undercarriage and landed.

The Pembrey Duty Pilot, Sergeant Jeffreys, identified the aircraft as German while it was landing and he ordered his men to signal it to park in the dispersal area. As the Fw 190 slowed, he jumped onto its wing and took Faber prisoner with a flare gun (as Pembrey was a training station, Jeffreys had no other weapon to hand).

Faber was later driven to RAF Fairwood Common for interrogation under the escort of Group Captain David Atcherley (twin brother of Richard Atcherley).

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Atcherley, fearful of an escape attempt, aimed his revolver at Faber for the entire journey. This was possibly unwise as at one point, the car hit a pothole, causing the weapon to fire; the shot only narrowly missed Faber.

What the RAF needed was an intact Fw 190 so that they could unpick the technical secrets of Hitler’s new super-fighter. But how to get hold of one? Various schemes were put forward, one of the more outlandish being proposed by Squadron Leader and decorated ‘ace’ Paul Richey, which sounds like a plot straight out of Dad’s Army.

His plan was for a German-speaking RAF pilot, wearing Luftwaffe uniform, to fly a captured Messerschmitt fighter (of which the RAF possessed several) made to look as if it had been damaged in combat, into France and land at an Fw 190 aerodrome. The “German” pilot, would then “taxi in to where the 190s were, let off a stream of German, say he was a Colonel so-and-so, and wanted a new aeroplane as there was a heavy raid coming this way. With any luck, an airman would see him into a Focke Wulf…and he’d take off and head for home..

But Richey plan was not required because Armin Faber delivered the RAF with the FW 190,’free of charge’.

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Imber friendly fire incident

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The Imber friendly fire incident took place on the 13 April 1942 at Imber, England, during the Second World War. One of the Royal Air Force fighter aircraft taking part in a firepower demonstration accidentally opened fire on a crowd of spectators, killing 25 and wounding 71. Pilot error and bad weather were blamed for the incident

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On 13 April 1942 the weather was hazy and six Royal Air Force (RAF) Hawker Hurricanes from No. 175 Squadron RAF and six Supermarine Spitfires from No. 234 Squadron RAF were being used for a demonstration of tactical airpower at Imber, a British Army training ground on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.

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The event was a dress rehearsal for an upcoming visit by Winston Churchill and General George Marshall, Chief of Staff of the United States Army and attended by a number of military personnel.

The Spitfires overflew followed by the Hurricanes. Five of the Hurricanes hit the correct targets: several armoured vehicles and mock tanks. The pilot of the sixth Hurricane opened fire at the spectators before continuing with the demonstration. Casualties were 25 military personnel killed and 71 wounded.

The following day the War Office and Air Ministry issued a joint statement:

During combined excercises to-day in Southern England there was an unfortunate accident in which a number of soldiers, including some members of the Home Guard, were killed and other injured. The next-of-kin have been informed.[4]

First reports were that 14 had died with forty to fifty injured but this was later revised to 23 killed on the day (16 officers and seven soldiers). Four of the officers were members of the Home Guard.Two other officers died from wounds in the next few days, one on the 14 April the other (a Home Guard officer) on the 15 April to bring the total deaths to 25.

The Court of Inquiry found the pilot, 21-year-old Sergeant William McLachlan was guilty of making an error of judgement and that the weather at the time contributed to the incident. The pilot of the Hurricane had misidentified the spectators as dummies, thinking that they were part of the demonstration when he opened fire.

An inquest held at Warminster into the deaths recorded that the deaths were caused by gunshot wounds and attributed to misadventure. The RAF pilot told the inquest he lost sight of the aeroplane he was following in the haze and realised he had made a mistake after he fired. The coroner also pointed out that, contrary to rumour, the pilot was British and not American.

 

Operation Oyster-The Bombing of Philips Eindhoven

 

For 10 years I worked for Philips and was not aware of this bit of the company’s history, although I worked in a different plant in another city, the links to Eindhoven were substantial because HQ was located there.

On this day 74 years ago the Philips Radio Works in Eindhoven, in the Netherlands was bombed by the RAF.It was a daring low-level attack which turned out to be a notable success for the allies as it cost the Germans an estimated six months loss of production.

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On 6th December 1942 the RAF mounted Operation Oyster, a daylight low level bombing raid on the Philips electronic company in Eindhoven, Holland. It was hoped that this approach would minimise casualties amongst Dutch civilians. It also provided the opportunity to build a well photographed publicity exercise around the whole raid. The Mosquito was developing quite a reputation for this low level work, although only a small proportion of the aircraft on the raid were of this type.

Squadroner Leader Charles Patterson was one of the more experienced pilots taking part, his observers seat was occupied by Flying Officer Jimmy Hill from RAF Film Unit – the footage from this raid can be seen be seen in the video below:

93 aircraft took part in the raid;
47 (PV-1) Venturas Mk. Is of RAF No. 21, RAAF No. 464 and RNZAF No. 487 Squadrons.

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36 (A-20) Boston IIIs of Nos. 88, 107, and 226 Squadrons

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10 Mosquito Mk. IVs of No.105 and No.139 Squadrons;
83 aircraft dropped bombs and one Mosquito was a photographic aircraft.
Eindhoven is beyond the range of fighter escort so the raid was flown at low level and in clear weather conditions.

Bombing had to be very accurate to only cause damage to factories in the complex as the Factories were in the middle of the town.
Normally they were also full of Dutch workers under Nazi guard so the raid was carried out on a Sunday to try and reduce civilian casualties.
Unfortunately some bombs fell in nearby streets killing 148 Dutch people and 7 German soldiers.
Full production at the factory was not reached again until six months after the raid..

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/03/15/forgotten-history-frits-philips/

Roald Dahl-WWII Flying Ace and Spy.

For decades I have been enjoying his stories from ‘Charlie and the chocolate factory’ and ‘BfG’ to the creepy ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ stories.

In all those years I never realized that Roald Dahl had actively been involved in WWII,it was only because of the release of the new movie ‘BfG’ I looked into Roald Dahl’s life again.

Roald Dahl (13 September 1916 – 23 November 1990) was a British novelist, short story writer, poet, screenwriter, and fighter pilot. His books have sold over 200 million copies worldwide.

Born in Wales to Norwegian parents, Dahl served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, in which he became a flying ace and intelligence officer, rising to the rank of acting wing commander. He rose to prominence in the 1940s with works for both children and adults and he became one of the world’s best-selling authors. He has been referred to as “one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century”. His awards for contribution to literature include the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and the British Book Awards’Children’s Author of the Year in 1990. In 2008, The Times placed Dahl 16th on its list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945.

Following the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, Roald Dahl enlisted in the RAF ,something which would have a huge effect on his life in many ways.

It was in November 1939 that Roald decided to enlist in the Royal Air Force (RAF) at 23 years old. He travelled to Nairobi for his medical and a month later commenced flying training in Tiger Moths alongside 15 other men of a similar age.

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Dahl loved flying, and once described it as “marvellous fun” in a letter sent to his mother during his flying training. Despite being so tall (well over 6ft) he still managed to squeeze himself into the airplane cockpit and the other men in his squadron gave him the nickname “Lofty”.

Well I have a minimum height for pilots but no maximum, so as you are fit, you’ll do

The doctor at Roald’s RAF medical

On completion of the course he travelled to Iraq for Advanced Training on Hawker Harts, and was then commissioned as a Pilot Officer in the RAF Volunteer Reserve and posted to 80 Squadron based in North Africa to fly “Gloster Gladiators against the Italians in the Western Desert of Libya,” as he says in Going Solo (the Gloster Gladiator “was an out-of-date fighter biplane with a radial engine”).

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In September 1940, Roald’s Gladiator crashed in the Western Desert of North Africa and he received severe injuries to his head, nose and back. Following this he was taken to the Anglo-Swiss Hospital in Alexandria, Egypt where he spent around six months recovering from his injuries, under the care of the hospital staff.

In February 1941, Dahl was discharged from hospital and passed fully fit for flying duties. By this time, 80 Squadron had been transferred to the Greek campaign and based at Eleusina, near Athens. The squadron was now equipped with Hawker Hurricanes.

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Dahl flew a replacement Hurricane across the Mediterranean Sea in April 1941, after seven hours flying Hurricanes. By this stage in the Greek campaign, the RAF had only 18 combat aircraft in Greece: 14 Hurricanes and four Bristol Blenheim light bombers. Dahl saw his first aerial combat on 15 April 1941, while flying alone over the city of Chalcis. He attacked six Junkers Ju-88s that were bombing ships and shot one down. On 16 April in another air battle, he shot down another Ju-88.

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On 20 April 1941, Dahl took part in the “Battle of Athens”, alongside the highest-scoring British Commonwealth ace of World War II, Pat Pattle, and Dahl’s friend David Coke. Of 12 Hurricanes involved, five were shot down and four of their pilots killed, including Pattle.

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Greek observers on the ground counted 22 German aircraft downed, but because of the confusion of the aerial engagement, none of the pilots knew which aircraft they had shot down. Dahl described it as “an endless blur of enemy fighters whizzing towards me from every side

In May, as the Germans were pressing on Athens, Dahl was evacuated to Egypt. His squadron was reassembled in Haifa. From there, Dahl flew sorties every day for a period of four weeks, shooting down a Vichy French Air Force Potez 63 on 8 June

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and another Ju-88 on 15 June, but he then began to get severe headaches that caused him to black out. He was invalided home to Britain. Though at this time Dahl was only a pilot officer on probation, in September 1941 he was simultaneously confirmed as a pilot officer and promoted to war substantive flying officer.

One year after being discharged from the RAF, Roald was posted to the British Embassy in Washington D.C. as an Assistant Air Attaché, where a chance encounter with the writer C.S. Forester led to the publication of his first short story, Shot Down Over Libya (also known as A Piece of Cake).

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C. S. Forester, was also working to aid the British war effort. The Saturday Evening Post had asked Forester to write a story based on Dahl’s flying experiences; Forester asked Dahl to write down some RAF anecdotes so that he could shape them into a story. After Forester read what Dahl had given him, he decided to publish the story exactly as Dahl had written it. The original title of the article was “A Piece of Cake” but the title was changed to “Shot Down Over Libya” to make it sound more dramatic, despite the fact that Dahl had not actually been shot down; it appeared in 1 August issue of the Post. He shared a house at 1610 34th Street, NW, in Georgetown, with another attaché. Dahl socialized with Texas publisher and oilman Charles E. Marsh at his house at 2136 R Street, NW, and the Marsh country estate in Virginia.

Dahl was promoted to flight lieutenant (war-substantive) in August. During the war, Forester worked for the British Information Service and was writing propaganda for the Allied cause, mainly for American consumption. This work introduced Dahl to espionage and the activities of the Canadian spymaster William Stephenson, known by the codename “Intrepid”.

During the war, Dahl supplied intelligence from Washington to Stephenson and his organisation known as British Security Coordination, which was part of MI6. He said in the 1980s that he promoted Britain’s interests and message in the United States and combatted the “America First” movement, working with such other well-known officers as Ian Fleming and David Ogilvy.

Dahl was once sent back to Britain by British Embassy officials, supposedly for misconduct – “I got booted out by the big boys,” he said. Stephenson promptly sent him back to Washington—with a promotion to wing commander. Towards the end of the war, Dahl wrote some of the history of the secret organisation and he and Stephenson remained friends for decades after the war.

Upon the war’s conclusion, Dahl held the rank of a temporary wing commander (substantive flight lieutenant). Owing to the seriousness of his accident in 1940, he was pronounced unfit for further service and was invalided out of the RAF in August 1946. He left the service with the substantive rank of squadron leader.His record of five aerial victories, qualifying him as a flying ace, has been confirmed by post-war research and cross-referenced in Axis records, although it is most likely that he scored more than that during 20 April 1941 when 22 German aircraft were shot down.

The Beamish Brothers-Irish RAF heroes

Sometimes it is difficult enough to find a compelling story relating to WWII. But then there are times when you are having your lunch and are listening to a radio show.

On the Irish radio talk show, Liveline, a lady called in to talk about the ordeal her 98 year old mother had to go through in the A&E dept.(Accident & Emergency) in the local hospital. That story was compelling enough. However, yesterday there was a call back where the lady was asked how her mother was at the moment, then the story got a new twist. It emerged that the 98 woman was the widow of one of the Beamish brother and the sister in law of the other 3. Unfortunately it wasn’t clear how her husband had been but looking at the ages I presume it was Cecil.

Below is the story of the 4 brothers.

The 4 x Irish Beamish brothers (Victor, George, Charles, and Cecil) were truly remarkable as both sportsmen and RAF officers:

Group Captain Francis Victor Beamish  (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

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Beamish was born at Dunmanway, County Cork on 27 September 1903 the son of Francis George Beamish and Mary Elizabeth Beamish. He attended Coleraine Academical Institution.

Of the 4 brothers is was the most decorated and well known.

Victor Beamish. Gp Capt Francis Victor Beamish flew in the Battle of Britain and became a ‘fighter ace’ by scoring 10 victories. Victor was station commander at RAF North Weald and RAF Kenley and was awarded the DSO (plus bar), DFC and AFC before being killed in action on 28 Mar 1942 leading the Kenley Wing.

Graduated from Cranwell 1923, retired from RAF on health grounds 1933, rejoined 1937, commanded 64 Squadron, AFC 1-1-38. Commanded 504 Squadron. Became OC North Weald 7-6-40 and flew operationally whenever possible.

He went to Canada on 22nd March 1929 on exchange with an RCAF officer. When he returned two years later he was posted to 25 Squadron at Hawkinge as a Flight Commander.

In January 1932 Beamish was appointed Personal Assistant to the AOC at Uxbridge. A year later he went into hospital at Uxbridge, suffering from tuberculosis, with the result that he had to retire from the RAF on 18th October 1933.
Very unhappy at this, Beamish got a job as civilian assistant at 2 FTS Digby, later returning to Ireland in 1936 to become civilian adjutant at RAF Aldergrove on 18th May. This was a non-flying appointment in the Air Force Reserve. Beamish was sufficiently recovered to be reinstated with full flying status as a Flight Lieutenant on 27th January 1937 and was posted to command 2 Armament Training Camp and Met Flight at Aldergrove. His comeback was complete when he was given command of 64 Squadron at Church Fenton on 8th December 1937. He was awarded the AFC (gazetted 1st January 1938) for establishing the Met Flight.
After a course at RAF Staff College, Andover, he took command of 504 Squadron at Digby on 13th September 1939. He returned to Canada in mid-January 1940 on Air Staff duties but, back in the UK, he took over RAF North Weald on 7th June 1940. Beamish flew operational sorties with his station squadrons whenever he could.
On 18th June he claimed two Me109’s destroyed, on 9th July a Me110 damaged, on the 12th a Do17 shot down, on 18th August a probable Ju88, on the 24th a Do17 damaged and on the 30th two probable Me110’s. On 6th September Beamish claimed two Ju87’s, on the 11th a probable He111, on the 15th a share in a He111 and on the 18th and 27th probable Me109’s. He damaged a Me109 on 12th October, probably destroyed one and damaged another on the 25th and probably shot down another on the 30th.

On 7th November 1940 Beamish collided with P/O TF Neil of 249 Squadron 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 11th November 1940, Italian aircraft based in Belgium attempted a raid and Beamish claimed a probable CR42 biplane fighter.

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Two days later he damaged a Me109 near Dover.On 10th January 1941 he shot down a Me109 over the Channel. Beamish was posted to HQ 11 Group on 17th March 1941.

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He was back in action later that year and claimed a probable Me109 near Mardyck on 9th August 1941. He was awarded a Bar to the DSO (gazetted 25th September 1941).

On 25th January 1942 Beamish went to RAF Kenley to take command and again flew with his squadrons. With W/Cdr. RF Boyd he took off on the morning of 12th February ‘to see what was happening on the other side’. After chasing two Me109’s, they saw part of the German Fleet making its ‘Channel Dash’. The ships had been reported ten minutes earlier by two pilots of 91 Squadron but the news was received with complete disbelief at 11 Group. Beamish’s confirmation was enough to set in motion a series of uncoordinated attacks on the German fleet.

On 13th February Beamish had a share in the destruction of a He115 over the Channel. On 9th March he claimed a Fw190 destroyed and another on the 26th, as well as a Me109.

Leading the Kenley Wing and flying with 485 (NZ) Squadron on 28th March, Beamish saw a force of Me109’s and Fw190’s a few miles south of Calais. He turned the Wing towards them. In the ensuing engagement Beamish was seen to be attacked and damaged by a Me109. He requested a vector over the radio and was last seen entering a cloud near Calais. It is presumed that he crashed into the Channel, possibly wounded and perhaps unconscious. He was 38 years old.

In May 2016  the life of RAF Spitfire ace Victor Beamish was celebrated during the Listowel Military Tattoo in a small town of Listowel Co.Kerry Ireland, where a replica of Victor Beamish’s Spitfire was revealed.

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Air Marshal Sir George Robert Beamish,(29 April 1905 – 13 November 1967) was a senior commander in the Royal Air Force from the Second World War to his retirement in the late 1950s.

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Prior to World War II, whilst Beamish was in the RAF, he was a keen rugby unionplayer, playing for Leicester and being capped 26 times for Ireland and was selected for the 1930 British and Irish Lions tour. He was also the chairman of the RAF Rugby Union and an Air Force rugby selector.

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Group Captain Charles Eric St John Beamish (23 June 1908 – 18 May 1984) was an Irish rugby player and Second World War RAF pilot.

 

He gained 12 caps for Ireland as a prop forward and also represented the British and Irish Lions  on their 1936 tour of Argentina.

Air Vice Marshal Cecil Howard Beamish(31 March 1915 – 21 May 1999) was an Irish RAF officer, who served during the Second World war and was later Director of RAF Dental Services 1969–1973.

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He was the youngest of the Beamish brothers, he played rugby for London Irish, the Barbarians and the RAF.

 

All 4 brothers had also been members of the RAF Golf Association.

After the war, many returned home to be branded deserters.

Deserters were found guilty of going absent without leave by a military tribunal.

Their punishment came after the war when many of the soldiers headed home to Ireland.

They were barred from holding jobs paid for by the state, they lost their pension rights and many faced discrimination. In 2012 the Irish government apologised for the way they were treated and in May 2013 a pardon a bill was passed it gave pardon and also granted an amnesty and immunity from prosecution to the almost 5,000 Irish soldiers who fought alongside the allies.