It is with Deep regret that we have to report the death of Wing Commander H J S Beazley DFC . John was one of the first to join the squadron after it was reformed. He served with the Squadron from 1939 until 1941. He flew with 249 Squadron from RAF Stations Boscombe Down And North Weald during the Battle of Britain.
He was an active member of the association and will be greatly missed.
Our Sympathy and Condolences go out to his Wife, Family Friends and Colleagues.
In a remarkably long wartime career as a combat pilot which involved him in the air defence of Britain in 1940 and Malta in 1941, service in North Africa in 1943 and command of a fighter station in the Far East theatre in 1944, John Beazley served during the Battle of Britain with 249 Squadron, the RAF’s top scoring fighter unit of the war.
It was also 249’s proud claim that it won Fighter Command’s only wartime Victoria Cross, that of Flight Lieutenant James Nicholson, who remained with his blazing aircraft until he had shot down a Messerschmitt 110 with which he was in combat, only baling out when he saw it go down in flames.
Beazley was himself shot down during the Battle of Britain, and was later badly wounded during an air battle over Essex. But he returned to the front line on both occasions, and later commanded 249 Squadron in Malta.
Hugh John Sherard Beazley was born the son of a judge in 1916, and educated at Cheltenham and Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he read history. He joined the University air squadron in 1936 and learnt to fly with the RAF Volunteer Reserve.
When war came he was commissioned in the RAF and after training at Cranwell was posted to 249 Squadron which had been re-formed as a fighter squadron on May 16, 1940, less than a week after Germany’s Blitzkrieg had opened on the Western Front.
Flying in August from Boscombe Down, Wiltshire, where Nicholson won his VC, and in September based at North Weald in Essex, 249’s Hurricanes were in the thick of the action, often flying four sorties a day. On September 2 Beazley’s aircraft was hit by cannon fire while he was tackling enemy fighters over Rochester, and he was compelled to “hit the silk”, but parachuted safely to earth.
He was back in action within 48 hours, but on September 27 he was badly wounded in the foot when his aircraft was hit while he was attacking a Messerschmitt 110. He managed to nurse his Hurricane back to North Weald, but had to spend five months in hospital while his injuries healed. He was to suffer problems with his injury for the rest of his life.
He re-joined his squadron in March 1941, not long afterwards to embark with it in the carrier Ark Royal en route to Malta. On May 21 the squadron’s Hurricanes flew off the carrier for the three-hour flight to the beleaguered island. They all touched down safely, but their destination, Ta Qali airfield, was assailed by the Luftwaffe soon after they had landed, and 249 lost several aircraft on the ground to a strafing attack. At this stage the squadron was still flying its now obsolete Hurricane Is but in June it received some Mk IIs and was able to regain some advantage over the Axis attackers for most of the rest of the year, claiming the 1,000th aircraft to fall to Malta’s defences.
However, towards the end of the year, 249’s losses began to rise steeply and Beazley saw many of his comrades and friends killed or wounded. A fine leader, he was promoted to acting squadron leaderand given command of 249 in December 1941. He led it until February 1942 when he was rested from operations after ten months in action and 215 operational sorties, including combat victories over Ju88, Me109 and Me110, bringing his total claims to seven, with others shared.
After a period on Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder’s staff he was restless to get back to flying, and in December 1942 he converted to the twin-engined Beaufighter in the night fighter role. He was posted to 89 Squadron the Middle East where its Beaufighters were highly effective in night air defence and intruder sorties ranging as far as Malta and Sicily.
With German night fighters retreating northwards in October 1943 the squadron was sent to Ceylon to take part in night air operations in South East Asia, and in March 1944 Beazley was promoted to wing commander and appointed station commander of RAF Minneriya. He had by that time been awarded the DFC.
Towards the end of the war higher rank and further staff jobs beckoned, but Beazley wanted to keep flying, and opted for Transport Command where he flew Dakotas in Europe and in the Middle and Far East until his demobilisation in 1946.
After a period with the family shipping company he joined the Colonial Office and served for ten years in Nigeria where he became a Senior Resident. After Nigeria’s independence he qualified as a chartered accountant in 1960 and worked as finance director for the British Electric Traction Company until his retirement in 1981. Active in the Conservative Party in Hertfordshire, he served as a councillor and then chairman of Hoddesdon District Council and was chairman of the Broxbourne Conservative Association.
Beazley was also a trustee and treasurer of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. As such he played an active role in helping to establish the Battle of Britain Memorial on the White Cliffs at Capel-le-Ferne, near Folkestone.
He married, in 1947, Mary, daughter of Admiral Sir Bernard Rawlings. He is survived by her and by three children.
Wing Commander John Beazley, DFC, wartime fighter pilot, was born on July 18, 1916. He died on June 13, 2011, aged 94.
“Acknowledgements and thanks to The Times 23 Jun 11”