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249 Plaque

David Calvert has recently visited the National  Memorial Arboretum and after making enquiries whether there was a memorial to the squadron was sent a photograph of the squadron Plaque.

David has generously arranged for the plaque to be restored to it’s original condition. Our thanks to David.

T.C.

James Nicolson

The 16th of August will see the 74th anniversary of our VC’s action

LEST WE FORGET

RAF North Weald September 1940

249 Squadron Aircrew lead by  C.O. Squadron Leader John Grandy

Battle of Britain

Nicolson VC - 2

Lest We Forget

Today 16th  August, 2013 is the 73rd anniversary of our VC’s action

Twenty three year old Flight Lieutenant James Nicolson won the only V.C. of the Battle of Britain on 16th August 1940. His aircraft was set on fire during an action with the enemy near Southampton, he was about to bale out when he saw an Me 109 and settled back into the burning cockpit to shoot it down.

“Flight Lieutenant James Brindley NICOLSON (39329) No. 249 Squadron.

During an engagement with the enemy near Southampton on 16th August, 1940, Flight Lieutenant Nicolson’s aircraft was hit by four cannon shells, two of which wounded him whilst another set fire to the gravity tank. When about to abandon his aircraft owing to flames in the cockpit he sighted an enemy fighter. This he attacked and shot down, although as a result of staying in his burning aircraft he sustained serious burns to his hands, face, neck and legs.

Flight Lieutenant Nicolson has always displayed great enthusiasm for air fighting and this incident shows that he possesses courage and determination of a high order. By continuing to engage the enemy after he had been wounded and his aircraft set on fire, he displayed exceptional gallantry and disregard for the safety of his own life.”

It was perhaps an unexceptional act of bravery amongst so many fighting to defend Britain that summer – yet it was unique because it was witnessed by a number of people on the ground. The need for witnesses to corroborate individual acts of bravery meant that very few RAF crew were nominated for an award of valour. Nicolson was the only fighter pilot to receive the award during the Second World War. He was also one of only two recipients to win the award whilst in British territory, the other being Leading Seaman Jack Mantle of HMS Foylebank on 4th July 1940.

Nicolson was wounded in the eye and foot in the first attack that set his aircraft on fire, and his hands were so badly burnt that he was unable to release his parachute once he landed. Yet his ordeal was not over – he was peppered in the leg by a shotgun fired by an enthusiastic member of the Home Guard who was the first to approach him.

He made a good recovery and was extremely modest about the award – he had to be reminded that it was a discipline offence to be improperly dressed when he was slow to sew the medal ribbon onto his uniform.

Nicolson was later promoted to Wing Commander. He died in May 1945 whilst an observer on an aircraft that crashed into the sea off Burma.

It is with regret That I have to announce the Death of  Squadron Leader Graham Leggett. He passed away in May of this year.

Our condolences and Sympathy to his family and Friends.

Sqdn Ldr Leggett

“Percival Graham Leggett was born on the 24th of February 1921 and joined the RAFVR In June 1939 as an Airman under training Pilot. He was called up for active duty on 1 September 1939 and he completed his training in September 1940. On the 18 September 1940 Leggett crashed at Oldbury on Severn in Gloucestershire but was unhurt. Leggett was posted to No.615 Squadron at RAF Prestick in Scotland then to 245 Squadron at RAF Aldergrove on 28 September and then to No.46 Squadron at RAF Stapleford on 18 October 1940. He claimed a Fiat BR.20 and probably destroyed and shared in the destruction of another on 11 November 1940. Leggett was then posted to No.145 Squadron in late November 1940 and then to No.96 Squadron on 18 December 1940. Flying his Hurricane off Ark Royal, Leggett joined 249 Squadron in Malta in June 1941 and was in action that same afternoon. In July he increased his Battle of Britain score by shooting down a Macchi C.200 but was shot down in December, bailing out with minor injuries. He was posted to the Desert Air Force just before El Alamein. An RAFVR pilot, Leggett had flown both Hurricanes and Defiants before his posting to Malta. He stayed on in the RAF commanding 73 Squadron on Vampires, retiring in 1958 as a Squadron Leader.”

  Paul Lovell has contacted our Chairman, Terry Gill. Paul recently bought from America via a well known auction web site, a silver plated cup which has written on it:

B FLIGHT

249
G C SQUADRON
Apart from,  made in England and EPNS (Meaning Silver Plated), there is an
unreadable stamp on it, but sadly no date. The Gold Coast reference puts it
as 1941 onwards. See photograph.

Does anyone know of it’s history?

I have been asked to look at the possibility of a visit to the BBMF at RAF Station  RAF Coningsby on the Friday of the Canberra reunion Friday 24th Feb 2012.

All interested persons should contact me at tcullen@tinyworld.co.uk, or telephone 0191 4550229.

See BBMF Web Site at http://www.raf.mod.uk/bbmf/

249 Millennium ATC Squadron Guard of Honour

A memorial service for Wing Commander John Beasley was held at his parish Church in Wormsley on Saturday 16th August 2011. 249 Squadron Association was represented By Our President Air Marshal Sir John Sutton , Chairman Squadron Leader Terry Gill and Hon Secretary Tommy Cullen.

The service was well attended with a congregation of about 200.

249 Squadron Hailsham Millennium ATC Squadron provided a guard of honour.

Air Marshal Sir John Sutton Talking to the Cadets of 249 Millennium Squadron ATC

Wing Commander John Beazley, who has died aged 94, was a Battle of Britain fighter pilot and saw almost continuous action during the Second World War.

The memorial service for Wing Commander Beazley will be held on Saturday 16th July at St Lawrence’s Church, Wormley, Herts. The service will begin at 11.30am, no Flowers please.

Pilots of 249 Squadron, John Beazley is in the centre in between Tom Neil and Squadron Leader John Grandy.

July 18, 1916 – June 13, 2011

See Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/military-obituaries/air-force-obituaries/8626684/Wing-Commander-John-Beazley.html

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”