Andrew Beauchamp-Proctor

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Andrew Frederick Weatherby Beauchamp-Proctor
Andrew Beauchamp-Proctor VC IWM Q 067596.jpg
Nickname(s) Proccy
Born (1894-09-04)4 September 1894
Mossel Bay, South Africa
Died 21 June 1921(1921-06-21) (aged 26)
RAF Hendon, England
Place of burial Mafikeng, South Africa
Allegiance  Union of South Africa
Service/branch South African Army
Royal Flying Corps
Years of service 1914-1915
1917-1921
Rank Flight Lieutenant
Unit Duke of Edinburgh's Own Rifles
No. 84 Squadron RAF
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Victoria Cross
Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross and Bar
Distinguished Flying Cross

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; he was credited with 54 aerial victories.

Early life[edit]

Beauchamp-Proctor was born 4 September 1894 in Mossel Bay, Cape Province, the second son of a school teacher and attended the oldest school in the country, South African College Schools, Cape Town, where he was a resident of the oldest residence in the Country, College House Residence (where his father was warden). He was studying engineering at University of Cape Town 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 (1.57 m). 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.

France 1917-18[edit]

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 Beauchamp-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 3 August, he was granted one of the first ever Distinguished Flying Crosses.

The break in his victory string lasted almost a month, as he went on home leave and helped a recruitment drive for the RAF. On 8 August, he returned and resumed with tally number 29, another balloon. On 9 August 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. The threesome got involved in a heated engagement at 2:00 pm, that involved them in combat against Fokker D.VII fighters of JG I, led that day by the future Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring. Beauchamp-Proctor would claim an additional 14 aircraft, 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.

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.

Beauchamp-Proctor's victory list ran to a total of 54; 2 (and 1 shared) captured enemy aircraft, 13 (and 3 shared) balloons destroyed, 15 (and 1 shared) aircraft destroyed, and 15 (and 1 shared) aircraft 'out of control'.[1]

His 16 balloons downed made him the leading British Empire balloon buster.

On 2 November, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, crowned by the Victoria Cross later in the month, on the 30th.

Post war[edit]

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.

Death[edit]

Beauchamp-Proctor was killed on 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[2] 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.

Citations[edit]

Military Cross[edit]

"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. While on offensive patrol he observed an enemy two-seater plane attempting to cross our lines. He engaged it and opened fire, with the result that it fell over on its side and crashed to earth. On a later occasion, when on patrol, he observed three enemy scouts attacking one of our bombing machines. He attacked one of these, and after firing 100 rounds in it, it fell over on its back and was seen to descend in that position from 5,000 feet. He then attacked another group of hostile scouts, one of which he shot down completely out of control, and another crumpled up and crashed to earth. In addition to these, he has destroyed another hostile machine, and shot down three completely out of control. He has at all times displayed the utmost dash and initiative, and is a patrol leader of great merit and resource."

MC citation, Supplement to the London Gazette, 22 June 1918

Distinguished Flying Cross[edit]

"Lt. (T./Capt.) Andrew Weatherby Beauchamp-Proctor, M.C. A brilliant and fearless leader of our offensive patrols. His formation has destroyed thirteen enemy machines and brought down thirteen more out of control in a period of a few months. On a recent morning his patrol of five aeroplanes attacked an enemy formation of thirty machines and was successful in destroying two of them. In the evening he again attacked an enemy formation with great dash, destroying one machine and forcing two others to collide, resulting in their destruction."

DFC citation, Supplement to the London Gazette, 3 August 1918

Distinguished Service Order[edit]

"A fighting pilot of great skill, and a splendid leader. He rendered brilliant service on 22 August, when his Flight was detailed to neutralise hostile balloons. Having shot down one balloon in flames, he attacked the occupants of five others in succession with machine-gun fire, compelling the occupants in each case to take to parachutes. He then drove down another balloon to within fifty feet of the ground, when it burst into flames. In all he has accounted for thirty-three enemy machines and seven balloons."

DSO citation, Supplement to the London Gazette, 2 November 1918

Victoria Cross[edit]

"Between 8 August 1918, and 8 October 1918, this officer proved himself victor in twenty-six decisive combats, destroying twelve enemy kite balloons, ten enemy aircraft, and driving down four other enemy aircraft completely out of control. Between 1 October 1918, and 5 October 1918, he destroyed two enemy scouts, burnt three enemy kite balloons, and drove down one enemy scout completely out of control. On 1 October 1918, in a general engagement with about twenty-eight machines, he crashed one Fokker biplane near Fontaine and a second near Ramicourt; on 2 October he burnt a hostile balloon near Selvjgny; on 3 October he drove down, completely out of control, an enemy scout near Mont d'Origny, and burnt a hostile balloon; on 5 October, the third hostile balloon near Bohain. On 8 October 1918, while flying home at a low altitude, after destroying an enemy two-seater near Maretz, he was painfully wounded in the arm by machine-gun fire, but, continuing, he landed safely at his-aerodrome, and after making his report was admitted to hospital. In all he has proved himself conqueror over fifty-four foes, destroying twenty-two enemy machines, sixteen enemy kite balloons, and driving down sixteen enemy aircraft completely out of control. Captain Beauchamp-Proctor's work in attacking enemy troops on the ground and in reconnaissance during the withdrawal following on the Battle of St. Quentin from 21 March 1918, and during the victorious advance of our Armies commencing on 8 August, has been almost unsurpassed in its Brilliancy, and. as such has made an impression on those serving in his squadron and those around him that will not be easily forgotten. Capt. Beauchamp-Proctor was awarded Military Cross on 22 June 1918; D.F. Cross on 2 July 1918; Bar to M.C. on 16 September 1918; and Distinguished Service Order on 2 November 1918."[3]

VC citation, Supplement to the London Gazette, 30 November 1918

References[edit]

Citations
  1. ^ 'Above the Trenches'; Shores, Franks & Guest. page 68.
  2. ^ "84 Squadron profile". Retrieved January 14, 2013. 
  3. ^ London Gazette (31042): 2. November 1918 http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/31042/supplements/14204 |url= missing title (help). 
Bibliography

References/External links[edit]