Peter Beck (schoolmaster)

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For others of the same name, see Peter Beck.

Francis Peter Beck CVO (27 June 1909 – 17 May 2002) was an English soldier and schoolmaster.

In the 1930s Beck was a peace campaigner, but in 1938, a year before the Second World War, he joined the British Army. After the war he became head master of Cheam School, serving there from 1947 to 1963.


The son of Arthur C. Beck CVO, of Heydon, Norfolk, nephew of Captain Frank Beck, Beck was educated at Gresham's School (where he was a cadet CSM in the Officers' Training Corps)[1] and Magdalene College, Cambridge.[2] There, he graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1931[3] and proceeded to Master of Arts in 1944.[4] In 1932, while working at Sandringham, he became a member and local representative of the New Commonwealth Society, a group campaigning to secure world peace by giving the League of Nations a military capability.[5] This led to his working closely with Sir Norman Angell, the Labour member of parliament, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 1933.[6]

Prince Charles in 1957, the year he joined Beck's school

In December 1938 Beck was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Royal Norfolk Regiment.[1] During the Second World War, he continued to serve in the same regiment, becoming adjutant of its 1st Battalion. In 1942 he passed the Staff College,[7] and from 1942 to 1946 was brigade major of the 35th and 1st Army Tank Brigades.[2]

In 1947 he was appointed as head master of Cheam. On 23 September 1957, he found himself at the centre of intense press interest when Prince Charles, Duke of Cornwall, then aged eight, arrived at his school, accompanied by his parents, Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.[2] Beck called a press conference at the school and made an unsuccessful appeal to the news media to be left in peace, but in the eighty-eight days of Charles's first term, no fewer than sixty-eight of them saw stories about the prince and the school carried in a national newspaper.[8] Beck twice caned Charles for "ragging".[2]

Beck retired from Cheam in 1963,[2] a year after being appointed a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.[9] In 1959 he had resigned his commission in the Regular Army Reserve of Officers.[10] In retirement he lived at Hopton House, near Diss, Norfolk, dying in 2002 at the age of 92.[2]

Private life[edit]

In 1946 Beck married Anne Frances, a daughter of Douglas Crossman, of Royston, Hertfordshire.[7] They had one son, Philip, and one daughter, Mary.[2]

In retirement, Beck became the Secretary of the West Suffolk Horse Show Society.[11]


  1. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 34578. p. 7787. 9 December 1938. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "PETER BECK Headmaster who caned Prince Charles – twice" (obituary) in The Times dated 4 June 2002, p. 27, from The Times Digital Archive, accessed 16 September 2013
  3. ^ The Cambridge University Calendar (University of Cambridge, 1932), p. 502
  4. ^ Cambridge University List of Members up to 31 December 1988 (University of Cambridge, 1989), p. 88
  5. ^ Annual Report of the New Commonwealth Volume 1 (1932), p. 42
  6. ^ Norman Angell, The Unseen Assassins (1935), p. 94
  7. ^ a b 'Beck, Francis Peter, c.v.o.' in Kelly's Handbook to the Titled, Landed and Official Classes (London: Kelly's Directories, 1969), p. 237
  8. ^ Anthony Holden, Prince Charles (1979), p. 119
  9. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 42683. p. 4311. 2 June 1962. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  10. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 41777. p. 4795. 31 July 1959. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  11. ^ Country Life, vol. 153 (1973), p. 653

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