- from Hugh Halliday's notes
(The last article on this page tells what Laddie Lucas thought of Screwball)
Solid Bank of Planes Sweeps Over Channel
"When asked if he cared about medals Beurling said the DFM was "the one gong that means something. You know what it means? It means all the time I spent trying to earn money for flying time to get a license. It means that trip across Canada on the rods and the Seattle hoosegow and the long trek back. It means my attempts to get into the Canadian, Chinese, and Finnish Air Forces and three trips across the Atlantic in a munitions ship to get into the RAF. It means all the months of training in England and the hell of a time I had to get posted to a front where I could get some fighting and prove to everybody else what I had known for years about myself. Yes, sir. That's the real one, that D.F.M. That's the one I treasure more than all the others. I figure I won that one the hard way. The others came along in 'due course!' "
(Roberts - I dug up the citation and took it along to show the hero. It said: "Sergeant Beurling has displayed great skill and courage in the face of the enemy." It described engagements recorded in earlier paragraphs, up to July 6th, at which time he had destroyed five enemy aircraft and damaged three others over Occupied France and at Malta. The young man read the document and grinned. "Lots of two-dollar words, huh?" was his comment.
- from "Malta Spitfire" - G Beurling & L Roberts)
Sergeant George Frederick, DFM (128707) - Bar to DFM
Awarded as per London Gazette dated 4 September 1942
Since being awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal in July 1942, Sergeant Beurling has destroyed a further nine enemy aircraft, bringing his total victories to seventeen. One of his exploits was the destruction of four enemy fighters in one day. During his brief combats he also damaged a further two hostile aircraft. His courage and determination are a source of inspiration to all.
Cairo, October 15, 1942 (AP) — Axis air losses
over Malta increased to ninety-four since Sunday with the destruction
of thirteen more enemy craft over the rocky island fortress this morning
as the Germans and Italians strove mightily to reinforce and supply
their stalled army in Egypt.
Nine Axis aircraft went down in the morning's fighting, three of them before the guns of Pilot Officer George Beurling of Verdun, Que., the Canadian ace who knocked down Malta's 1,000th victim three days ago. Beurling now has accounted for twenty-nine of the enemy.
Beurling destroyed two Messerschmitt 109's and a Junkers 88 before being forced to bail out of his bullet-riddled fighter, the Air Ministry's News Service said.
He got wet as he fell into the sea, it added, but he was picked up soon little the worse for wear.
Beurling has scored all but two of his victories since he came to Malta.
In the afternoon two more Axis planes were downed and the day's total was five fighters and six bombers. Night results added two unspecified aircraft to the score.
Malta has undergone more than 3,000 air raids since Italy entered the war, and has accounted for more than 1,000 planes.
The intensified air siege was in its fifth day after the R.A.F. had shot down twenty-three Axis planes during four enemy swoops on Malta Wednesday, losing only five Spitfires from which three pilots were saved.
Heavy United States bombers in daylight Wednesday again attacked Tobruk — chief Axis supply base and destination of Axis convoys. A large merchant ship was hit directly by two bombs and a nearby lighter was destroyed.
German reports that Marshal Erwin Rommel had returned to the front lines in Egypt in the Alamein sector eighty miles west of Alexandria were seen as connected with the intensification of Axis efforts to build up his striking force.
The battlefront remained quiet while the quartermasters of both sides feverishly built their armies for what is expected to be the most withering campaign of the desert.
London, Oct. 16, 1942 (CP) — An easy going young
Canadian with tousled hair has officially become top man in the air
defenses of Malta, after receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross for
shooting down twenty-nine Axis planes.
He is 20-year-old Pilot Officer George Beurling of Verdun, Que., but he is better known in the R.A.F. as "Screwball" and "Buzzy."
Already his name is mentioned with those of Douglas Bader, the legless pilot who led a Canadian fighter squadron and who now is imprisoned in Germany, and the famous Paddy Finucane, Irish ace, who became a legend in Britain before a chance-shot downed him off the Coast of France.
Beurling shot down three Axis planes Wednesday over Malta before he baled out of his riddled plane, duplicating the toll he took Monday. All but two of his victories have been scored over Malta, where he has been fighting since June. Beurling never finished high school and thus was ineligible for a commission in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He worked his way to England on a cattleboat and entered the R.A.F.
Last month when his group captain told him he was to receive a commission, the Ace replied:
"I'm not material for a commission, sir."
"You're going to get it all the same," was the reply.
He became a pilot officer soon afterward.
A Canadian pilot who has fought beside Beurling ever since he went to Malta described him thus:
"George is the most untidy R.A.F. pilot I have ever seen. His hair looks as if it was never brushed and he is careless about his clothes. In fact, he is careless about everything but flying. But gee, what a flier!"
The citation on his D.F.C. read: "His determination and will to win have won the admiration of his colleagues. This officer has set an example in keeping with the highest traditions of the R.A.F.
P/O George Frederick, DFM (128707) - Distinguished Flying Cross
Awarded as per London Gazette dated 16 October 1942
Since being awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Medal, this officer has shot down a further three hostile aircraft, bringing his total victories to twenty. One day in September 1942 he and another pilot engaged four enemy fighters. In the ensuing combat Pilot Officer Beurling destroyed two of them. A relentless fighter, whose determination and will has won admiration of his colleagues. This officer has set an example in keeping with the highest traditions of the Royal Air Force.
P/O George Frederick, DFC, DFM (128707) - Distinguished Service
Awarded as per London Gazette dated 3 November 1942
Since being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Pilot Officer Beurling has destroyed a further six enemy aircraft, bringing his total victories to 28. During one sortie on October 13, 1942, he shot down a Junkers 88 and two Messerschmitt 109s. The following day, in a head-on attack on enemy bombers, he destroyed one of them before he observed his leader being attacked by an enemy fighter. Although wounded, Pilot Officer Beurling destroyed the fighter, Then, climbing again, although his aircraft was hit by enemy fire, he shot down another fighter before his own aircraft was so damaged that he was forced to abandon it. He descended safely on to the sea and was rescued. This officer's skill and daring are unexcelled.
Ottawa, Nov. 14, 1942 - (CP) - R.C.A.F. headquarters said last night that Flight Lieut. Henry W. McLeod of Regina, a flying mate of P/O George Beurling, had shot down 12 enemy planes over Malta to October 26 and was unofficially credited with 15 "probables." McLeod, headquarters said, is believed to have destroyed another enemy plans since October 26, while F/O J. F. McElroy, of Kamloops, B.C., is unofficially credited with shooting down five planes to October 19. McElroy was born at Port Arthur, Ont. He and McLeod are members of the R.C.A.F., and Beurling is serving with the R.A.F.
Late November 1942 - Verdun Arena
Beurling makes a well received speech to his hometown crowd as well as the CBC microphones
"I came right up underneath his tail. I was going faster than he was; about fifty yards behind. I was tending to overshoot. I weaved off to the right, and he looked out to his left. I weaved to the left and he looked out to his right. So, he still didn't know I was there. About this time I closed up to about thirty yards, and I was on his portside coming in at about a fifteen-degree angle. Well, twenty-five to thirty yards in the air looks as if you're right on top of him because there is no background, no perspective there and it looks pretty close. I could see all the details in his face because he turned and looked at me just as I had a bead on him. One of my can shells caught him in the face and blew his head right off. The body slumped and the slipstream caught the neck, the stub of the neck, and the blood streamed down the side of the cockpit. It was a great sight anyway, the red blood down the white fuselage. I must say it gives you a feeling of satisfaction when you actually blow their brains out."
Owen Sound, Dec. 5, 1942 — A veteran of the battles of Malta, and companion of the leading Canadian flyer, Pilot Officer George Beurling, D.S.O., D.F.C., Pilot Officer Stanley Shewell recently received his promotion, according to word received by Mrs. Shewell Thursday. Going overseas Pilot Officer Shewell has in January of this year, been reported in many operations at Malta. He received special recognition from Pilot Officer Beurling for his bravery when, as companions, they shot down several Italian planes.
London, Dec. 30, 1942 - (CP) – Canada wrote her name in the air in 1942. Over every battle-front of the world, in Europe, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and the Africas, in Russia, the far East and at home, young airmen of the Dominion spread their sturdy wings with a glory unsurpassed in the nation's history.
Protected Canadian Army
Overseas exploits of the ever-expanding Royal Canadian Air Force, are too numerous to catalogue in a short review of the manifold accomplishments of the service during a year that saw Canada's fighter pilots fly in protective cover over their own soldiers for the first time in this war. This was at Dieppe, which also saw Canada's army cooperation squadrons in heavy action for the first time.
Canadian bomber crews turned in superb performances in countless raids over enemy territory. Canadian coastal command aircraft continued to harass successfully enemy shipping in the North Sea. Canadian reconnaissance squadrons obtained valuable information in dangerous forays into the enemy's backyard.
Air Vice-Marshal W. A. Curtis of Toronto, deputy air officer commanding-in-chief, said this of the Canadian air force's greatest year:
"The year brought an expansion in R.C.A.F., overseas personnel and operations that is nothing short of spectacular. The torrent of skilled manpower that the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan has spilled into these islands is now overflowing into every air front in the world at war. Our men have not only distinguished themselves above these islands, far out into the seas surrounding them and deep into enemy territory, but they are now adding fresh laurels to the R.C.A.F.'s record by the part they are playing in the sagas of Malta, North Africa, India and a dozen other lesser battle-fronts. This year, accordingly, has seen the R.C.A.F. overseas fulfilling the hope that burns in the hearts of the Canadian people; an ever-increasing and ever more effective contribution toward the achievement of victory and the return of peace."
Record of Valor
The contribution by the R.C.A.F. to the year's air successes of the United Nations may be measured by the number of awards for bravery won by Canadians. In the last 12 months, 280 Canadian flyers, members of the R.C.A.F. and Canadians in the Royal Air Force, were decorated and 29 others were mentioned in dispatches.
The year produced one outstanding Canadian hero, blond Pilot Officer Frederick George Beurling, D.S.O., D.F.C., D.F.M. and bar, 21-year-old Verdun, Que., fighter ace who led the defenders of the valiant island of Malta. One of the war's greatest fighter pilots, Beurling destroyed 291/3. He now is home in Canada.
Beurling was one of four Canadians who won the D.S.O. during the year. The others were Wing-Cmdr. John J. (Moose) Fulton, of Kamloops, B.C., leader of the famous Moose Bomber Squadron, who has been missing since a raid on Hamburg in July; Wing-Cmdr. A. C. Brown, of Winnipeg, CO. of a coastal command squadron, and Wing-Cmdr. Ralph Christie, of North Bay, Ont., with another coastal command squadron. Beurling, Fulton and Brown are members of the R.C.A.F.
Eight Canadians won bars to the D.F.C., four in the R.C.A.F. and four in the R.A.F. Another 142 won the D.F.C., 73 the D.F.M., 30 the A.F.C., eight the A.F.M., two the George Medal and 13 the B.E.M.
See this shot
of Beurling? Read the article that Webb
Waldron wrote after he interviewed Screwball at the hospital.
His parents were there in the hospital room at the time of the
interview and it gives an interesting look into the past to say
the least. Originally in the January 15th 1943 edition of Macleans
Magazine but reprinted in numerous forms in other publications
later. I believe this is the full version.
The following day's edition of The Washington Post magazine [January 16th] ran Leslie Roberts' story "Kid In The Skies." Roberts talked to Buzz at the hospital too [his parents were not in the room] and the pair would eventually became friends of sorts. They collaborated to write the book "Malta Spitfire" which was first Published by Farrar & Rinehart, New York and Toronto in 1943.
By ERNEST G. PAINE, New York, Jan. 30, 1943 - Canadian
airmen are the heroes of Malta, and "Buzz" Beurling, of Montreal,
is the best of them all, Philip Pullicino, 27 year-old Maltese, said
here today. Chief of the special Malta constabulary organized to combat
parachutists, he has arrived in the United States direct from Malta.
"The Canadian fliers are admired and entertained by all Maltese families," Mr. Pullicino declared. "I met any number of Canadians in Malta. I knew your famous Beurling well. He was a grand old friend of mine. He is shy, almost babyish.
"You could tell him to sing a song and he would sing it. You could tell him to go up and get a plane and he would get it. He loved it. Each time he had a day off he used to go to the air field. He would sit there with his chin in his hands and just stare at the planes. I think he wanted to fly all the time."
Young, dark and serious-featured, Mr. Pullicino smiled when he discussed the exploits of his friend, Beurling (whom he knows as "Screwball"). He was wearing the silver "Cross of Malta" in the lapel. Canadians who have flown in the defense of Malta wear a similar cross on their uniforms and are "very proud of it," he said.
Canadian and British fliers now go out from Malta to attack Sicily, Tunisia and Axis shipping in the Mediterranean, he said.
"Malta is one seething mass of offensive spirit," he declared.
Mr. Pullicino experienced no less than 3,200 alerts.
"At the beginning, as you may have heard, we were reported to have three airplanes," he said. "Their names were Faith, Hope and Charity. We soon lost 'Faith' and 'Charity’ but we clung to 'Hope' and 'Hope' brought us Hurricanes and Spitfires."
Mr. Pullicino explained that three days before Italy declared war he started a special constabulary to deal with parachutists. Some 5,000 Maltese volunteered. Anyone who could handle a sports rifle went into the anti-parachutist brigade. Others were assigned to help the police, with the wounded.
"On the walls all over Malta you find signs demanding the bombing of Rome," Mr. Pullicino, said. Maltese, he added, can't understand why the Italians should be spared and there was many a happy smile on the island when news of the bombing of Milan and Genoa was released.
Feb. 23, 1943 - Mosquitos, World's speediest bombers
being built here in Toronto, "will be an important factor in deciding
the war" was the heartening tribute paid this part of the city's
war effort by Canada's greatest air fighter, F/O George F. (Buzz) Beurling,
who received deafening and prolonged acclaim at the Canadian Club luncheon
at the Royal York yesterday.
F/O Beurling, D.S.O., D.F.C., D.F.M. and Bar, hero of Malta and with 29 enemy planes officially to his credit, spoke briefly, obviously ill at ease and, as he has said, much more at home in a cockpit than at a microphone. Since starting his trip across the Dominion a week ago, he said he had been "impressed by what I have seen in the training stations of the R.C.A.F. and the few factories which I have visited.
Saw Planes in Making
"This morning I had an opportunity to see some Mosquitos in the making: In my opinion—and I hope you will accept it as the opinion of a very junior officer in a very large organization—the Mosquitos which are being made here in Toronto will be an important factor in deciding the war."
F/O Beurling leaves today for Winnipeg to continue his tour of R.C.A.F. stations. But he longs to get back to Malta.
"When my present duties are finished I expect to return overseas to do whatever job is assigned to me," he said. "My job is to fly and to fight. I happen to be one of many thousands of fellows, all of them like myself, who take particular pleasure in making things as tough as possible for the Jerries and the Eyeties. I have seen what they have done in Great Britain and what they have done to Malta. When the final score is added up, I don't think we will have come off second best in any respect."
He was taking back with him, he said, "the tremendous feeling of confidence that the boys on our side have the best training and the best equipment in the world."
Tell of Men's Spirit
Just back from Britain after service at R.C.A.F. fighter and bomber stations, Sqdn.-Ldr. J. D. Parks, former Toronto minister, and Sqdn.-Ldr. G. Vlastos, a professor of philosophy at Queen's University before the war, painted stirring pictures of the indomitable spirit of Canadian aircrews and ground crews alike.
"They're men of a team where the game is a game for keeps and the stakes are life and death," said Sqdn.-Ldr. Parks. "These men are reborn to be airborne." He paid special tribute to the ground crew at embattled Malta, forced to hide in the fox-holes, dash out to do a job then back to shelter again. "They'll do their job and do it well." Humility adorned these men, he said, articulate only in the letters they write to be delivered if ...
Courage, intelligence, modesty, comradeship, sense of humor and sense of significance of their great task, these were the attributes of great airmen, said Squadron Leader Vlastos. Tough and sentimental too, they were, he said, recalling the grimly humorous comment of Squadron Leader Lloyd V. Chadburn, DFC, of Aurora. When someone praised the lovely takeoff of bomber squadrons headed for a raid in Germany: “It's a hell of a lovelier sight to see us come back”
His message from these men, said the speaker, was that they regard their work as "a kind of division of labor. The folks back home have their own job—to win the peace and make this a place to which they can return with pride and satisfaction." Sqdn.-Ldr. Panet Raymond, member of the team, was also a guest at the luncheon.
Valetta, Malta, April 28, 1943 —(BUP)— Canadian airmen
form one quarter of Malta's flying garrison and serve in every squadron
stationed on the island.
The Canadians, members of both the R.A.F. and the R.C.A.F., are given a considerable share of the credit for the defense of the island against the constant air attacks of last year, and are playing an important part in its present offensive role.
Every time a fighter or bomber formation takes off from the island's airfields, Canadians form part of the crews.
Not including the island's top ace, F/O George Beurling, D.S.O., D.F.C., D.F.M. and bar, who is a member of the R.A.F., airmen of the R.C.A.F. have won 16 D.F.C.s, four bars to the D.F.C. and eight D.F.M.s on Malta since Italy entered the war in 1940.
London, May 15, 1943 —(CP Cable)— A large
draft of reinforcements for the R.C.A.F. has recently debarked at a
British port, it was disclosed today. The Atlantic crossing was uneventful.
The airmen were mostly gunners, who will help man the four and two-engined bombers striking at the heart of Germany.
Among those arriving were F/O George Beurling of Verdun, Que., Canada's greatest ace of this war, with 29 destroyed enemy planes to his credit. He had spent the winter at home after being injured in the heel when shot down over Malta last autumn.
Wing-Cmdr. Thomas Davis, of Montreal, who is taking up a new post as director of accounts and finance at R.C.A.F. headquarters, also arrived.
Every province was represented, and the flyers were in high spirits as they trooped off their ships and headed for a reception center in south England, where they will remain until posted to their squadrons.
LONDON, May 25, 1943 (C.P.) — Flying Officer
George "Buzz'' Beurling of Verdun. Que., Canadian fighter ace,
is a wizard at shooting down enemy aircraft, but when it comes to trying
to find a hotel room in crowded London, that's something else again.
The young Canadian flier has just had the experience of having to spend the night in a London Park because he was unable to find a place to sleep.
The Star, relating the story in its gossip column, said Beurling reached a London station early in the morning from Trinidad where he had been doing propaganda work for the R.C.A.F. Carrying his bags and equipment, he went from hotel to hotel and club to club. Everywhere he was told. "We are full up."
So he set off for the park, sat on a seat with his equipment by his side, and was awakened by one of the park attendants.
LONDON, May 25, 1943 — (CP Cable) —
The first fighting man to be given four decorations at once at
a royal investiture, Flying Officer George Beurling received the
D.S.O., D.F.C., and D.F.M. and Bar from the King at a recent ceremony
in Buckingham Palace.
Beurling told the newsmen:
Beurling Gets 4 Medals From King At One Time
SOMEWHERE IN ENGLAND, June 10, 1943 - (C.P. Cable)
- George Beurling has had as close a call as he has ever had - during
a practice flight at a flying training station.
It happened when he jumped 1400 feet from a flaming Spitfire with a parachute that tore on the way down and refused to open until the air ace was about 600 or 700 feet above a corn field. It was in this cornfield that he finally landed near the wreckage of his machine.
The young flying officer, who escaped uninjured, qualified for a double membership in the Caterpillar Club early in the week, but news of his leap came known only today.
The Verdun Que., ace bailed out once last year during the battle of Malta. It was there that he ... (unreadable few lines. Probably something like "kicked ass" but not so eloquent -jf)
His second parachute drop was all over in 12 seconds and the lanky Canadian tapered off his latest exploit by sipping a hot drink with the farmer in whose cornfield he landed.
The fact that some of his corn was ruined didn't bother the farmer who, on the contrary, was highly pleased to be able to entertain such a personage.
Beurling's fame was known to members of the household. When the flier walked up to the farm house he was greeted by a lad who exclaimed: "Gee whiz, Screwball Beurling.''
The youngster is a cadet in the Air Training Corps and knows all of the war aces. He has a picture of Beurling prominently displayed in his bedroom.
Plane in Flames
Beurling, who is at a gunnery school where he may become an instructor instead of going back to his first love—fighting Axis airmen—was doing a little tactical practice with a fellow Canadian, Flt. Lt. Robert Buckham, D.F.C., of Vancouver when there was an explosion and cooling fluid began to pour from the radiator. Soon the aircraft was blanketed in flames.
"I rolled the Spitfire on its back and put it into a steep dive and bailed out," Beurling related, "Boy did I pull that old ripcord fast because I was only 1,400 feet up.
"Somehow the 'chute got a tear in it on its way down but I didn't have time to care about anything because in 12 seconds or so I landed in a corn field.
"I guess the 'chute must have opened when I was only about 600 or 700 feet off the desk top.
"During the last few seconds of the drop I remembered to fall with one leg up in the air in order to protect my heel. You may remember it was damaged last year over Malta in a scrap.
"It has healed nicely and I didn't want to go around limping again.
Beurling landed a few yards from his aircraft. As soon as he had looked at it he went to the farm house where he had the farmer, a member of the R.F.C. in the last war, spent a longtime talking shop.
Buckham, who was with him at the time, in another plane, said he saw Beurling about 50 yards from him when Screwball's Spitfire blew up.
"He called me on his radiotelephone saying that he was bailing out," said Buckham. "I followed him down and was sure relieved to see him make such a comfortable landing in the corn." Beurling is Canada's leading war ace with 29 planes to his credit. Last month he received four decorations at a Buckingham Palace investiture.
Rednal, July 1943. One night, after drinking in the mess, Beurling bet the boys he could fly just as well drunk as he could sober. Unfortunately, he couldn't walk so he was carried out to his Spitfire and helped into the cockpit. He fired the "Spiter" up and after managing a shaky take off, went into a series of beautiful aerial maneuvers and assorted acrobatics. He came in for a perfect landing and was again carried from the cockpit, still too drunk to walk. He did however win the bet.
( Check out the whole story here [sorry, the link is no longer working]. In an interview which is linked to this page somewhere, Beurling claimed he never drank and calls these stories "all lies". Which only shows this story was around back in the day. It makes ye wonder ...)
Valetta, Malta, July 20, 1943 — (CP Cable) —
A quartet of Empire night-flying sharpshooters, including a Canadian,
shot down 29 Axis planes over Sicily in four nights of the past week,
it was disclosed today. The feat included the R.A.F. individual record
of five destroyed in one night.
The Canadian member of the four is F/O Johnny Turnbull, one-time bank clerk, of St. Thomas, Ont., who bagged a total of six, including three Junkers-88's last Wednesday night. On that night aircraft based on Malta got 12 enemy planes.
The record-smasher was Ian Allan, a squadron leader from Glasgow, who shot down five enemy planes in exactly 100 minutes for a total bag of 10 for the week. He gave all credit for his exploit to F/O George Beurling, of Verdun, Que., because "I was lucky enough to take a course under him just before coming here and he taught me all I know about shooting."
(Beurling, back in Britain after spending the winter in Canada, is teaching gunnery at an English air school. He shot down 29 planes during his tours on active operations, 26 of them over Malta.)
The two others of the quartet are Paddy Green, an English wing commander, with a total of seven, and a South African wing commander, Jasper Reid, with six.
Turnbull, a Beaufighter pilot, participated in the North African campaign where he recorded a score of 11 destroyed. He gave a simple formula for his Sicilian success:
"Enemy planes are easier to find in Sicily than Africa because they are forced to fly higher and therefore are easier to find in the moonlight."
London, Sept. 1, 1943 - (CP) – F/O George (Buzz)
Beurling of Verdun, Que., one of Canada's ace airmen, who rolled up
the impressive score of 27 enemy planes shot down over Malta, was sworn
in today as a member of the R.C.A.F.
Beurling had been a member of the R.A.F., which accepted him after the R.C.A.F. rejected the Verdun airman because he did not have the required educational qualifications.
But today he transferred to the R.C.A.F. in a brief ceremony at its headquarters in London.
Why He Makes Change
After the ceremony Beurling explained why he made the change.
"Only by transferring can I get back into the air," he said. The air ace had been protesting vigorously since he was assigned to an instructor's job in an R.A.F. gunnery school after his return from Canada.
The oath was administered by Air Vice Marshal W. A. Curtis, deputy air officer commanding, at R.C.A.F. headquarter. The oath actually was taken five times so the R.C.A.F. photographic unit could be sure it was recorded properly.
Last May Beurling became the first fighting man in history to be given four decorations at once at an investiture. He received the D.S.O., D.F.C. and D.F.M. & Bar from the King.
Beurling's total score was 29 planes. He batted two while flying in Britain before his transfer to Malta.
Main Interest Is Flying
The Verdun airman's interest, first, last and all the time, is flying.
Last October he made a name for himself in Malta by downing six enemy planes in one week.
A Canadian who served with Beurling before he went to Malta said: "George is the most untidy R.A.F. pilot I have ever seen. His hair looks as if it's never brushed, and he is careless about his clothes. In fact, he is careless about everything but flying. But, gee, what a flier."
Beurling suffered a heel wound after bailing out of his Spitfire over Malta in October. A short time later, he escaped uninjured when a transport plane crashed at Gibraltar.
Subsequently, he went to Canada on leave and was given a tumultuous welcome at Verdun and an official reception at Ottawa.
Back in Britain, he attended a gunnery school. During a practice flight last June his Spitfire caught fire [in 1948 Beurling revealed that he was actually shot down (accidentally) by Bob Buckham. Buckham had been killed in a plane crash earlier in the year] and he bailed out. It was a close call for the air ace who had survived many combats in the sky. His parachute tore on the way down and refused to open until he was about 600 feet from a corn field, but he landed uninjured.
London, Sept. 24, 1943 - (CP) - Canadian flying aces
in some of the most productive aerial fighting since the days of the
Battle of Britain three years ago destroyed five enemy fighters today
in widespread actions over France.
F/O George (Buzz) Beurling of Verdun, Que., marked his long-sought return to action by shooting down a Focke-Wulf 190 to raise his score of enemy planes to 30.
Maintaining the blistering pace set by R.C.A.F. night Mosquito fliers, the Canadian pilots knocked out of the sky 5 of the 20 enemy planes downed by Fighter Command during the day.
Three of four German fighters shot down Thursday night were victims of Canadian airmen. F/L M. W. Beveridge of Montreal destroyed two and F/O J. R. F. Johnson of Omemee, Ont., got one.
Flying with the Wolf Squadron under S/L Norman Fowlow of Windsor, N.S., Beurling saw the FW-190 above him. He circled and tore off the enemy's port wing with a single burst.
W/C L. V. Chadburn of Aurora, Ont., and F/L J. D. Mitchner of Saskatoon shared one of the day's bag. The others fell to W/C Hugh Godefroy of Toronto, who has just taken over command of a Canadian fighter wing; F/L Robert Buckham of Vancouver, leader of the Red Indian Squadron, and W/C E. F. J. Charles of Vancouver, who flies with the R.A.F.
Buckham, who also was credited with damaging one plane, blew an FW190 to bits after chasing it from 20,000 feet almost to the ground (sounds like Beurling's tutelage paid off!). It was his second victory in five days.
In one of the sweeps by Godefroy's squadron - he was squadron leader of the Wolf Squadron before his new appointment – P/O William F. Cook of Clinton, Ont., dived his Spitfire to low level to put out of service a French freight engine, although flak from the train broke part of one wing.
Beurling had been yearning to get back into combat flying ever since he was stationed in Malta where he ran his score of enemy planes downed from two to 29.
He transferred from the R.A.F. to the R.C.A.F. on Sept 1 to "get back into the air." He had been assigned to an instructor's job in an R.A.F. gunner school after his return to Britain from a leave in Canada.
LONDON, Nov. 1, 1943 — (C.P. Cable) — F/O George Beurling,
Canada's leading air ace with 30 German planes to his credit, has been
promoted to flight lieutenant and placed in command of a flight in the
R.C.A.F.'s famous Wolf Fighter Squadron, it was announced tonight.
The Verdun, Que. flier, who made his reputation as a cold, calculating air warrior when flying with the R.A.F. over Malta, downed his 30th plane last Sept 24 when flying with that same Wolf Squadron.
It was the first time he had been in aerial combat for months and came soon after he transferred from the R.A.F. to the R.C.A.F. to "get back into the air."
"I was sitting in my office on the field on another dreary day with the ceiling overcast at eight hundred feet, catching up on paper work. Hearing the sound of an engine, I looked out through the window and saw the Tiger Moth just about air-borne. With its wingtip just off the grass, it turned towards me, flew straight at my window and zoomed over the rooftop. In a minute or two I saw it again doing aerobatics. I picked up the phone and called Dispersal.
'The Wing Commander here; who's flying the Tiger Moth?'
'As soon as he gets down, tell him to report to my office.'
I was seething. Beurling had purposely disobeyed me. I had just posted a general order forbidding low aerobatics in the Tiger Moth. An hour later, when I had cooled down, Beurling slumped into the office with a sly grin on his face. He stood in front of me with his arms folded.
'Buzz, why did you purposely disobey my orders?'
'The Tiger Moth's in my Flight; I'm going to fly it when and how I want to. You can't tell me what to do."
'All right, Beurling. You've had fair warning. Go back to your quarters. You're under open arrest.'
Throwing his head back to get the hair out of his eyes, with a wide grin on his face, he sauntered out.
Within an hour of sending the signal for Court Martial, I got a phone call from RCAF Headquarters. It was Air Marshal Breadner, the RCAF's Commander-in-Chief.
'Godefroy, what's this I hear about you putting Beurling up for Court Martial?'
'That's right, Sir!'
' We can't do that. Mackenzie King did everything but crown him before he was sent back over here.'
'As long as I'm Wing Commander Flying of 127 Air Field and he's on this Station, I will proceed with Court Martial. I couldn't care less if you decide to override me, but I will not allow him to fly again in this Wing, and he will be replaced as Flight Commander.'
'I don't blame you, Godefroy. Tell him to pack his bags and report to RCAF headquarters.'
A short time later, I got a call from Buck McNair :
'Hughie, Breadner tells me you've turfed Beurling,' he said, laughing. 'He asked me if I would take him. What do you think?'
'Well, Buck, you heard me bragging about what a good job he did as Gunnery Officer. The mistake I made was giving him a Flight. You know as well as I do you can't let one pilot purposely disobey your orders. If you limit him to being in charge of gunnery and fly like any other pilot in the Wing, maybe he'd be happy. But for God's sake, don't let him fly the Tiger Moth.'
'With all the trouble I've had, Hughie, and all these new pilots, I could use some experience. I think I'll have a go at him. Cheers!"
From "Lucky 13" - by Hugh Godefroy
LONDON, Dec. 22, 1943 — (C.P. Cable) —
Flying Officer Andy MacKenzie of Montreal
was originally credited with two kills and one probable success in last
Monday's operations by Canadian fighters against the Germans over the
But today on evidence of his flying companions the probable became a positive kill and MacKenzie was officially credited with destruction of three planes.
The revision left the score for the daylight operations at eight German planes shot down and four Canadian fighters missing.
MacKenzie is one of the finest marksmen in the Red Indian squadron and has been squadron gunnery officer almost from the time he joined the outfit. He credits F/L George Beurling of Verdun, Que., Canada's leading ace of the war with 30 planes destroyed, for his marksmanship. "George made out one of his special tables for me, a combination of speeds and angle degrees," Mackenzie said. "I studied it religiously, and still do as a matter of fact, because a guy hasn't much time to figure out those things up there."
Bob Middlemiss & George Beurling while with 403 (RCAF) squadron in England - late 1943.
These two also flew together in 249 (RAF) squadron during the defence of Malta in 1942
London, December 30, 1943 – (CP Cable) –
Canada's top ranking fighter ace flight lieutenant George Beurling of
Verdun, Quebec shot down his 31st enemy plane today, one of four
destroyed by RCAF fighters.
One of Beurling's squadron mates, F/O William Bliss of Toronto, shot down another while the other two successful pilots were F/O Hart Finley of Montreal and P/O Claude Weaver of Oklahoma City.
The combats, from which all the Canadian Planes returned, took place southeast of Paris, where enemy fighters attempted to intercept United States heavy bombers returning from an attack on Germany. Beurling and Bliss shot down Focke-Wulf 190s, while Finley and Weaver destroyed Messerschmitt 109's.
Beurling, who destroyed the Nazi after a 20 mile chase, saw the enemy blow up after one short burst. The pilot bailed out.
It was the first enemy playing downed by Beurling since he celebrated his return to action September 24 by getting his 30th. He had been yearning to get back into combat flying ever since he was stationed in Malta, where he ran his score of downed planes from two to 29.
He transferred from the RAF to the RCAF September 1 to get back into the air. Before that, he had been assigned to an instructor's job in an RAF gunnery school after his return to Britain from a leave in Canada.
Played With Uplands
Pilot Officer Hart Finley is known to all football fans, having played the 1942 season here with the Uplands RCAF team in this city's Senior Football League. Finley played outside wing. The uplands team won the local championship and later bowed to Toronto RCAF Hurricanes in the Eastern Canada final at Toronto.
Feb. 29, 1944 - The Canadian Spitfire pilot got the
German in his sights. He held him there for a split second and then
he pushed the button on his guns. The German flew away.
Back on the station in England, Buzz Beurling talked to the pilot.
"How much deflection did you give him?" he asked.
"Two and a quarter rings"
"What was your air speed?"
"What was the angle off?"
The Canadian pilot told Beurling.
"No wonder you missed him," Buzz snorted. "You should have given him two and three-tenths rings. It's a piece of cake. You'da killed him."
Hot Pilot; Fine Fellow
This was one of the stories Flt.-Sgt. J. E. (Duke) Graybiel of Toronto told about F/O George Beurling, Canada's top ace, with whom he flew last summer on the Wolf Squadron. Beurling is a hot pilot in all respects, says Graybiel, and a fine fellow to beet. Graybiel would much rather talk about Beurling than about Graybiel.
"A piece of cake; that's his favorite phrase," says Graybiel.
"Somebody asked him once what to do when a Jerry bounces you from behind. So Buzz told him: "Just a nice vertical roll to lose air speed and when he overshoots, you're lying on your back and you fire. It's a piece of cake."
Sold Car to "Buzz"
Graybiel was on Spitfires a year and then he was hurt and spent some time in hospital. He doesn't want to talk about the details. He'd rather point out, for instance, that he sold Beurling his car last summer.
"It was an English Ford and he made me promise never to tell how much he paid me for it." Graybiel was grinning. He left the idea he had made a fine deal.
The British people treated him "awfully well." One family traveled 60 miles every day to see him in hospital. Now on leave at his Windermere Ave. home, he is looking forward to getting back overseas with the boys.
London, March 23, 1944 (CP Cable) — A cocky Canadian
with a killer's eye, Flight-Lieut. George ("Buzz") Beurling,
of Verdun, Que., is top-ranking R.A.F. - R.C.A.F. fighter-pilot of the
war still on operations with 31 planes to his credit, according to the
latest tabulations by air correspondents.
But chasing closely is an unidentified Polish pilot, an R.A.F. sergeant whose identity cannot be divulged until after the war, and who has knocked down 28 planes. [But not TOO closely because, unknown to the author, the "Pole" mentioned was actually Czech pilot Josef Frantisek, KiFA October 8th, 1940 -jf]
Beurling, now flight commander in a Britain-based R.C.A.F. Spitfire squadron, is the youthful leader of a new group of straight-shooting aces who are rapidly taking over the spots vacated as Battle of Britain pilots are killed, taken prisoner or leave operations.
The Canadian, whose left breast is covered with medal ribbons, is only one short of the top figure of 32 hung up by such colorful daredevils as Group Capt. A. G. (Sailor) Malan, who is now off operations, and Squadron-Ldr. Paddy Finucane, youthful Irishman who survived hundreds of flights and fights only to fall to a chance bullet over the French coast.
Ottawa, May 4, 1944 (CP) — Flt. Lt. George (Buzz)
Beurling, multi-decorated ace from Verdun, Que., is slated to leave
operational flying in Britain to teach his deadly flying gunnery tactics
to fledging R.C.A.F. trainees in Canada, it was learned reliably here
No announcement was made as to when Beurling would arrive in Canada or to which station he would be posted. Beurling, with a score of 31 enemy planes to his credit, is the leading R.C.A.F. ace, although he made his biggest kill while flying at Malta with the R.A.F.
He has the D.S.O., D.F.C., D.F.M. and Bar. He was originally turned down by the R.C.A.F. when he failed to meet educational standards then in force. So he shipped to Britain aboard a cattle boat and eventually entered the R.A.F.
Forced to bail out over Malta in 1942, Beurling suffered a heel injury which was accentuated in a later crash when a transport taking him from Malta to Britain cracked up at Gibraltar. He was flown back to Canada and after a period of recuperation in a Montreal hospital, he made a tour of Canada and then returned to Britain where he transferred to the R.C.A.F.
On his return to Britain he first instructed gunnery and then went back onto operations adding two planes to his previous score of 29.
May 5, 1944 - Flt. Lt. George (Buzz) Beurling multi-decorated
ace from Verdun, Que., is slated to leave operational flying in Britain,
to teach his deadly flying-gunnery tactics to fledgling R.C.A.F. trainees
in Canada, it was learned reliably here yesterday.
No announcement, was made as to when Bending would arrive in Canada or to which station he would be posted. Beurling with a score of 31 enemy planes to his credit is the leading R.C.A.F. ace, although he made his biggest kill while flying at Malta with the R.A.F. He has the D.S.O., D.F.C., D.F.M. and Bar.
London, May 6, 1944 — (CP) — Wing-Cmdr. J. E. (Johnny) Johnson, an Englishman who leads a Canadian Spitfire wing, became the leading ace among R.A.F. and R.C.A.F. pilots still on operations when he shot down his 28th Nazi plane yesterday. Johnson was leading a Canadian force which destroyed four enemy aircraft. Until he went off operations recently, Flight-Lieut. George Beurling, of Verdun, Que., held the lead with 31 planes. Beurling is returning to Canada.
BY KENNETH C. CRAGG, OTTAWA, May 7, 1944 — From
an airman's view — and he had a lot of it leading the City of
Windsor Spitfire Squadron over the Anzio Beachhead — Sqdn. Ldr.
Albert Houle believes the limited success of
Allied arms there was due to the speed with which the Germans moved
supporting divisions into the threatened section.
Sqdn. Ldr. Houle and Flt. LT. George (Buzz) Beurling, Verdun Que., were two of 200 R.C.A.F. officers and men repatriated for leave, to become instructors or ground crew who will train for air crew.
Beurling left the train at Montreal to visit his parents and will continue to Ottawa tomorrow. He is back in Canada to teach his deadly deflection gunnery skill to fledgling fighter pilots, but no announcement has been made as to which station he will be posted.
Montreal, May 8, 1944 (CP) — Flt. Lt. George
(Buzz) Beurling, back home in Canada for instructional duties with the
R.C.A.F., thinks the "Germans are beaten," and says there's
"no fun anymore" because the German pilots won't fight. He
declares the bombers are doing the real job.
But the Canadian fighter ace who has shot down 31 enemy planes wants no part of a bomber for himself, he said in an interview today. "No sir, you couldn't get me in a bomber for all the tea in China. They're too dangerous. "There's nothing as safe as a fighter. Give me a fast fighter any day."
Duels Are Side Shows
"The bombers are doing the real job. They're the ones who are putting Germany out of action. Fighter duels are just side shows compared to the continuous pounding of Germany by the bombers. The Germans are beaten. Why don't they admit it?"
While he talked, the holder of the D.S.O., D.F.M., and D.F.C. and Bar, toyed with a nickel, left his chair to walk up and down the room and I stopped to give a reassuring look at his mother in the kitchen of the Beurling home in suburban Verdun.
"There's no place like home,"' he emphasized when he looked at her.
Depressed by Inaction
"The inactivity over there was getting me down," he said grinning. "We never hunt the Huns anymore. They've lost all their spirit. As soon as we spot one during our regular sweeps over the Channel, Occupied France, Holland or Belgium, he dives away and stays away.
"There's no fun anymore. You can't shoot down Huns if they don't show up, can you?
"Since I've been back in Britain from my last furlough, I've seen only three of them. When I say see, I mean near enough to engage, and I was lucky enough, to shoot them down. Yes sir, Lady Luck rides with me right on my tail."
"I sure would like to go to the Pacific where there's still plenty of action," he mused. Then to his mother: "Don't worry, mom; guess I'll stay over here for a while — till I get itchy feet again."
Vancouver, May 28, 1944 - (CP) Flt. Lt. George (Buzz)
Beurling, Canada's ace fighter pilot, now spending a short leave at
Vancouver, said in an interview here Saturday that "the fellows
who drink liquor crack up more often than the ones who don't."
"You can't fight as well," said Beurling, Who never takes a drink.
But the Verdun, Que., pilot doesn't limit the soft stuff. He drank between 25 and 30 soft drinks yesterday during a hunting trip.
Vancouver, May 28, 1944 - (CP) - A Chinese-Canadian
boy's dream of following in the footsteps of that ace airman, Flt. Lt.
George (Buzz) Beurling was revealed here as 64 members of Vancouver's
Rotary Air Cadet squadron assembled for their weekly drill.
One flight of the squadron is made up of Vancouver-born Chinese boys—the only Chinese air cadet flight in Canada.
Sixteen-year-old Allan Wong, who works days in a Vancouver war plant, said he had a special reason for becoming an air cadet. He remembers a summer day five years ago when he first met Buzz Beurling, who had come to Vancouver to try to get into the Chinese air force,
"He gave me a book and I've still got it," Allan said. "Buzz and my brother, Gim, tried to get into the Chinese air force together, but both were turned down."
It was then that Buzz went to England and joined the R.A.F.
Ottawa, July 23, 1944 (CP) - Flt Lt. George (Buzz)
Beurling, Canada's leading air ace from Verdun, Que., will be a civilian
and a war veteran at 22 in three weeks.
That's how long it will take to complete the formalities launched Saturday when the RCAF announced approval of the Maltese Falcon's request that he be permitted to resign his commission "to facilitate his rehabilitation in civil life."
There was no immediate statement from Buzz himself on his future, but the official air force statement indicated a civilian aviation post was in prospect. It spoke of his rehabilitation to civil life, his desire to obtain permanent employment, and said certain opportunities for civilian employment had been made available to him.
Dislikes Instructional work
However, there was a report from Montreal that Buzz was considering offering his services to the Chinese Air Force. It is known he didn't like instructional work in Canada. He has emphatically told a Canadian Press reporter on many occasions that he did not relish the idea of some day piloting a commercial transport on peaceful air routes and he described this as "truck driving."
He also once said that when this war was over perhaps he'd "have to go and find another war" because the excitement of aerial combat was in his blood and he didn't like the idea of having no fighting to do. He certainly fought successfully and in bringing down 32 enemy planes he was a ranking Allied ace and had picked up some of the Empire's most cherished decorations — the Distinguished Service Order, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Flying Medal and Bar. The air force statement acknowledged his contribution by saying Buzz had "already done his part, in helping to win the war."
Buzz gained the perfection of few fighting pilots. In his early 'teens he ran the streets of Verdun with model planes "buzzing" until he won his famous nickname. Then he washed down air taxis at Cartierville, on Montreal Island. After many attempts and three complete Atlantic crossings on cattle boats he was finally accepted in the RAF.
The cool-eyed blond was an unorthodox type from the start, and was described by those who didn't know him too well as a "showoff." But they probably didn't understand the boy's temperament. He had read flying exploits and aerial tactics when his schoolmates were reading Boy Scout books. But Buzz didn't get too much schooling and that's one reason the RCAF turned him down and he had to try the RAF.
When he did get into the air he had confidence in the knowledge of his perfection as pilot and marksman, and his enthusiasm could not be contained. He didn't like "brass hats" too well either, and he describes in his book, "Malta Spitfire," his several scrapes involving low flying and banking up the side of a control tower.
He started piling up his big score in Britain with his famous deflection shooting where split-second mathematical calculations and superb flying put his bullets and the enemy plane at the same spot at the same time. He was soon in the ace class. He made most of his score on embattled Malta, where he and his small band of comrades took to the air with the odds often 20 to one.
Shot down, he continued his deflection shooting practice with bend pin, elastic band and a moving paper target and when he went into the air again his calculations had been sharpened and he was better than ever.
He came back to Canada for acclaim and recuperation after a crash. Returning to Britain he upped his score again, but in May was repatriated to Canada to instruct. Recently he was posted to St. Hubert, Que., for experience in twin-motored aircraft so that he would be better fitted for a postwar career in civil aviation, an air force statement said.
The officers' board which considered his resignation said his exploits and unequalled fighting record have been "an inspiration to all."
July 24, 1944 - Flight Lieut. George "Buzz" Beurling D.S.O., D.F.C., D.F.M. & Bar, Canada's ace fighter pilot, has resigned from the RCAF. Aged 22, he is credited with shooting down 32 enemy planes, in one day blasting down four aircraft.
By George (Buzz) Burling
Ottawa, July 25, 1944 (CP) - An official of the Chinese
Embassy here said today he was "very interested" in a newspaper
article by Flt. Lt. George (Buzz) Beurling in which Canada's leading
ace expressed a desire to join the Chinese Air Force as soon as he has
completed formalities in connection with the resignation of his commission
in the RCAF.
He added that he thought if Beurling got in touch with the Chinese Embassy here — if the Canadian Government gave its consent — the airman would be advised to apply to the Air Attaché at the Chinese Embassy in Washington
Montreal, July 26, 1944 (CP) - Fred Beurling, father
of Canada's top-flight ace, Buzz Beurling, revealed today that he had
accepted a position in Vancouver and would be moving to the west coast
Mr. Beurling was commenting on a Vancouver dispatch saying that a family conference would be held in Vancouver to discuss the reported intention of the air ace to join the Chinese air force now that he has been granted permission to resign his commission.
That's only a rumour, as far as I'm concerned," said Mr. Beurling in reference to possibilities of his son joining the Chinese air force. "We never know what he's going to do until he's done it."
"I'm not going to Vancouver to discuss his future. I'm going there to work as a bulletin painter. I'll be seeing my brother, Arvid Beurling, there, and my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Gustav Beurling, of Marysville, Wash., will come up to visit, us. I haven't seen them for ten years.
"We no doubt will discuss Buzz' plans, but he'll be making up his own mind. I haven't seen him since it was announced Saturday that he was leaving the R.C.A.F."
Ottawa, Aug. 20, 1944 (CP) — A big, strapping
guy with a deceiving gentleness and a row of decorations got off a train
here today and told newsmen he didn't think he'd have time to get back
in the fighting over Europe because the Germans were fading too fast,
but he hoped to see some service in the Pacific...
... The German Air Force is almost a thing of the past. That's why I'd like to take a crack at the Pacific."
He was interested to learn that Ft. Lt. George (Buzz) Beurling, Canada's leading ace from Verdun, had applied to fly far China in the Pacific. The Moose was with Beurling in Malta. "He'll sure be bad medicine for the Japs, eh?" he grinned.
Fumerton said over the years he had watched a gradual deterioration of the Luftwaffe. Their strength had dwindled perceptibly in the last few months, and the quality of their pilots was low. He thought they seemed to lack training. The enemy would not stay and fight and he thought they must be acting under orders to conserve what was left of the once powerful force "for the next war."
"When you do catch up with them, they are an inferior type of the German airmen we met at the start of the war," the ace declared. He said the Germans' lack of training was probably traceable to their growing lack of training facilities and planes as Allied strategic bombing chewed up their war plants.
The "Messerschmitt Fund"
"It's got so now that the chaps around the English 'dromes ironically speak of "The Messerschmitt Fund" — a mythological scheme to raise money to buy the Germans some planes so we can get some action," he said.
Montreal, Aug. 30, 1944 (Special) — With the
signed and sealed official preliminary papers for United States citizenship
in his pocket, Flt. Lt. "Buzz" Beurling, D.S.O., D.F.C., D.F.M.
and Bar, left here by Colonial Airways plane tonight to change his nationality
because "I always wanted to be an American citizen, and now is
Interviewed as he prepared to leave for the airport, the Verdun fighter ace said his prime objective in going to New York was to see if he could speed up his entry into the Chinese Air Force to "settle a score with the Nips," but he planned to live with his uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Martin Syvertsen of Montana Ave., Port Monmouth, N. J., until he could complete negotiations for American citizenship.
"I plan to contact Owen Johnson of Pan American Airways, who has something to do with the U.S.-China ferry service to see if he can get me into the Chinese air force more quickly," Beurling said. "But barring that, I will join the U.S. Air Corps or the Ferry Service itself - anything to help me get back into action.
Enlistment Speeds Papers
"Of course," he pointed out, "if I enlisted with the U.S. Air Corps I would automatically be an American citizen after 90 days. I might do that, too. They're a good bunch to be with," he added.
The flier, who with the RAF and RCAF shot down 32 enemy planes and won more decorations than any other Canadian airman, listened with interest to tales told by war prisoners recently returned to Canada and stated emphatically, "getting a crack at the Japs is a score it will be a pleasure to settle," and asked: "Aren't they the cruelest devils you ever heard of?"
Although definitely decided that he wants to fight the Japs, he was not at all sure yet that he was going to meet with immediate success across the border.
"I don't know yet that all this will get me to China any faster," he said, "but I have been out of action for a long time now. The first five days back here in Canada were enough to make me itch for action and here I have been running around doing nothing for months. I've had enough of that and I hope I make it faster with contacts on the other side of the line."
Beurling will stay in New York for a few days to contact people he says might be able to speed him on his way, and then visit his relatives in New Jersey for some time.
"I plan to make the occasional trip back here to visit my parents, but from now on until I get my papers or am on my way to fight the Sons of Heaven I will spend most of my time in the United States," he said.
The airman has never seen his uncle or aunt before and has only heard of them from his mother, but, he expects to like living with them.
Can Make Own Plans
Given a release from the RCAF effective Sept. 15, he said tonight that the air force had given him Permission to do whatever he wished and that on Sept. 16 he was "a civilian and allowed to make any decisions he wished."
In previous interviews he said that he hoped to be on his way to China by Oct. 15, but tonight he was not so certain of success by that date and gave the impression that negotiations with the Chinese authorities here in Canada bad not been so successful.
Casually talking of his last days with the RCAF overseas, the man who made two crossings of the Atlantic on a cattle boat to get into the RAF, said he did not enjoy it at all. "I made 50 operational flights without seeing a thing. You'd fly along with your fingers just itching to press the trigger button and there wouldn't be a thing to get your sights on. That wasn't worth hanging around for," he said.
Settle Matters Later
Asked what he was going to do after the war if he couldn't stand being away from aerial fighting now, he replied: "You know I have been thinking of that. I can't very well start a private war of my own, can I? I thought when I came back to Canada that I would settle down and take it easy, no more fighting and perhaps little flying, but after five days I had enough of that. I guess I'll just have to wait until the war is over to find out," he said. As he stepped into the taxi for the airport he looked back and said laughingly: "Wish me luck, I may need it."
Winnipeg, September, 13, 1944 — (CP) —
Flight-Lieut. George (Buzz) Beurling, 22-year-old Canadian air ace,
said in an interview here last night he was returning to the R.A.F.,
"the only service with which I have ever been completely happy."
"They know how I like to work and they're quite willing to allow me to work in that particular manner," he said.
Beurling, who will visit the west coast before returning to England, expects to be in China within the next two months.
"I want to see some action against Jap fighters — at least they come out and fight — the Germans don't offer opposition any more."
He will be officially released from the R.C.A.F. on September 16, and will join the R.A.F. as a civilian "But I'll go straight into operations."
"I may lose my rank but it will be worth it," he said. "I'm not interested in rank - it doesn't affect your work."
Asked about his post-war plans, Beurling replied, "I guess I'll just bounce from one war into another. You can't leave it alone. After a while, it becomes part of your whole life.
Winnipeg, Sept., 13, 1944 (CP) — George (Buzz)
Beurling, 22-year-old Canadian air ace, said in an interview here today
he resigned from the RCAF because "You can't fight the Huns and
professional jealousy at the same time."
Beurling is returning to the RAF and expects to be in the China theatre "to fight the Japs" within two months.
"I'll always fly," he said, "but the RCAF wanted to get me behind a desk, so I took off my uniform. . . . The people I flew with overseas, those in charge, were the kowtowing type. I'm too independent for that. I never want to let any one get the best of me."
He said professional jealousy of several officers was responsible for the "attempt to get me grounded."
Beurling said he might come back the Canada after the war and do some flying.
"I'll live anywhere west of Calgary. That's Canada to me."
He will leave here for Vancouver tomorrow morning, and after a visit to the West Coast will go to England.
Montreal, Nov. 25, 1944 — Flt. Lt. George (Buzz)
Beurling, Canada's ace of the aerial defense of Malta, disclosed today
that he is to be married "some time before Dec. 15," and at
the same time revealed that a stomach injury has washed him out of any
The bride will be Miss Diana Whittall, Vancouver debutante whom he met on the west coast three years ago during a tour organized by the Canadian Government following his return from Malta. Miss Whittall is the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Norman R. Whittall of Vancouver and granddaughter of Sir James Whittall.
The wedding will take place in Montreal.
Montreal, Nov. 29, 1944 (CP) - George (Buzz) Beurling
of neighboring Verdun was married here today to Mrs. Diana Whittall
Gardner of Vancouver, in a quiet ceremony attended only by two witnesses.
'The ace of the defense of Malta, who has been in civilian clothes for the last week, following his rejection on medical grounds when he attempted to rejoin the RAF, was in his air force uniform for the wedding. He wore the ribbons of his decoration — the DSO, DFC, and DFM and Bar.
The bride wore a dark dress and carried a bouquet of white orchids, sent from Vancouver by her mother. After the ceremony, the couple left for the Laurentians by car.
The ceremony was conducted in St. George's Anglican Church by Archdeacon Gower-Rees. R. O. Johnson, Montreal businessman, gave the bride away and A. W. O'Brien of the Montreal Standard acted as best man.
By FRED BACKHOUSE
London, July 15, 1945 (CP) — Group Captain J. E. (Johnny) Johnson, English-born, former leader of a crack Canadian Spitfire wing, has been officially recognized as "ace of aces" among Allied fighter pilots who fought over Europe.
Final scoring records, compiled by The Canadian Press from figures supplied by the RAF, RCAF, and United States 8th and 9th Air Forces, put this peace-time accountant from the Leicestershire town of Loughborough at the top of the list with 38 German planes destroyed.
Group Capt. Johnson, who so closely identified himself with his otherwise all-Canadian squadron that he wore "Canada" on his shoulder, has often given much of the credit for his success to the Canadians who flew with him. "It's all a combination play" he said. Many of his men themselves became "aces."
Of the first 16 places supplied by the air forces, fourth is held by a Canadian — Flt. Lt. George (Buzz) Beurling, DSO, DFC, DFM and Bar, of Verdun, Que. — and 11 by RAF pilots. For the record, only those with more than 24 "kills" were offered by the three services as their top men. Official final scores are:
S/L M. T. St. J. Pattle (RAF), 40-50 [not on this list -jf]
G/C J. E. Johnson (RAF), 38
G/C A. G. Malan (RAF), 29.5 [no score given –jf]
F/L G. Beurling (RCAF), 30
S/L B. Finucane (RAF), 29
W/C J. R. D. "Bob" Braham (RAF), 29
W/C C. Caldwell (RAF), 28½
W/C Stanford Tuck (RAF), 28
An anonymous Polish sergeant [Czech pilot Josef Frantisek -jf] (RAF), 28
Lt/Col F. S. Gabreski (U.S. 8th), 28
S/L J. H. Lacey (RAF), 28
Capt. Robert Johnson (U.S. 8th), 27 [no score given –jf]
Maj. G. E. Preddy (U.S. 8th), 27 [no score given –jf]
W/C F. R. Carey (RAF), 26
F/L E. S. Lock (RAF), 26
Lt/Col J. C. Meyer (U.S. 8th), 24½
F/L Mungo-Park (RAF), 12 [no score given –jf]
[I have modified the arrangement & scores to be more accurate –jf]
RCAF fighter pilots in the European war with scores of 15 or more German planes destroyed number six according to overseas headquarters in London. In addition, there were two equally high-scoring Canadians in the RAF, both of whom were killed in that service before they could transfer to the RCAF. After Beurling they are:
SL H. W. McLeod, DSO, DFC and Bar, of Regina, 21
S/L V. C. Woodward, DFC and bar, 19
F/O W. L. McKnight, DFC and Bar, of Calgary, 16½
W/C Mark H. Brown, DFC and Bar, of Glenboro, Man., 16.45
W/C J. F. Edwards, DFC and bar, DFM, MiD, 16.1
W/C R. W. McNair, DSO, DFC and two bars, of North Battleford, 16
W/C E. F. J. Charles, DSO, DFC and Bar, Silver Star (U.S.), 15½
F/L Don C. Laubman, DFC and Bar, of Edmonton, 15
The late Wing-Cmdr. Brown is officially credited by the RAF with "at least 18" aircraft destroyed. His score may well have been higher, but uncertainty exists because the records of No. 1 Squadron, RAF, of which he was then commanding officer, were destroyed during the retreat at the time of the collapse of France.
Beurling paints crosses on his Spit for the cameras after his return to england as an RCAF man
--- EUROPE ---
|01 May 1942||one FW 190||destroyed, Calais|
|03 May 1942||one FW 190||probably destroyed, Calais||a|
--- MALTA ---
|12 June 1942||one Bf 109||damaged (Beurling claimed he blew the tail off)|
06 July 1942
|one Ca Z1007
one Bf 109
one MC 202
|damaged (one crewman killed)
destroyed (Romano Pagliani - KIA)
|08 July 1942|| two Bf 109s
one Ju 88
damaged (one engine ablaze)
|10 July 1942||one Bf 109
one MC 202
|destroyed (Hans-Jurgen Frodien - KIA)
destroyed (Sgt. Visentini - WIA)
|13 July 1942||one Re 2001
two MC 202
|destroyed (identified by Beurling as an MC 202)
|23 July 1942||one Re 2001
one Ju 88
|27 July 1942||two MC.202s
| destroyed (Falerio Gelli -POW, Furio Niclot -KIA)
destroyed (Karl-Heinz Preu - KIA)
|29 July 1942||one Bf 109||destroyed (Karl-Heinz Witschke - KIA)|
|8 Aug. 1942||one Bf 109
one Bf 109
|13 Aug. 1942||1/3 Ju 88||destroyed (Hans Schmiedgen & crew - KIA)|
|25 Sept. 1942|| two Bf 109s
one Bf 109
|10 Oct. 1942||two Bf.109s||destroyed||f|
|13 Oct. 1942|| two Bf 109s
one Ju 88
|destroyed (one pilot bailed out)
destroyed (Anton Wilfer & crew - KIA)
|14 Oct. 1942|| one Ju 88
two Bf 109s
| destroyed &
destroyed (Josef Ederer - WIA)
--- EUROPE ---
|24 Sept. 1943||one FW 190||destroyed|
|30 Dec. 1943||one FW 190||destroyed|
|In an article above he says "Since I've been back in Britain
from my last furlough, I've seen only three of them (enemy planes).
When I say see, I mean near enough to engage, and I was lucky enough,
to shoot them down."
Assuming it's not a typo, apparently he felt he had 3 claims, not 2, after returning to combat in Europe -jf
|a||In Malta Spitfire, Beurling stated that his original claim was upgraded to "destroyed" three weeks later. There is nothing in documents to confirm this; the Combat Report bears no annotation that would have accompanied upgrading|
|b||This claim does not appear in Air Ministry documents, which do show him with a Ju.88 damaged on 10 July 1942. Shores, however, agrees that the date was 8 July 1942|
|c||Beurling stated that all these were on 12 July 1942 but Air Ministry and Shores give the date as 13 July|
|d||Hitchins noted that Air Ministry credited Beurling with 1/4 credit, Beurling in his book said he damaged a Ju.88 (no mention of others) and Shores gives him credit for half-shares in two damaged Ju.88s (Malta: The Spitfire Year, p.426)|
|e||Not substantiated by Air Ministry or Shores|
|f||Beurling gave the date as 9 Oct '42 but Air Ministry information showed no claims that day; Shores confirms the kills but dates them as 10 Oct '42|
Claim notes by Hugh Halliday & Chris Shores
After The War
"In December 1947 I was in the Laurentians above Montreal skiing. At the end of a day we went into Grey Rock's Inn for a hot drink. I saw a familiar face: George Beurling.
He seemed glad to see me and came straight over and inquired about my activities since last we'd met. He told me he was going to the Middle East on the invitation of the Israelis. They had P-51's, and he would be doing dive bombing and strafing against no fighter opposition. He invited me to come. I would get $1,000 for crossing the Atlantic, and after eight weeks' flying, I could come home with a net $8,000. As I thought about it, he watched me with those ice-blue eyes of his. Finally, with a slight smile, he said:
'There's only one hitch, Hughie. This time you'll be flying behind me!'
I told him I would think about it.
When I related the conversation to Connie, she said she would take the children and go back to Scotland if I went!
On May 21, 1948, the front page of the Montreal Gazette reported that George Beurling and his friend, an American fighter pilot, Len Cohen, were dead. His engine cut on take-off, and in a desperate attempt to get his Norseman back on to the field he spun it. Sabotage was suspected.
Technically, I consider George one of the greatest fighter pilots I have ever known."
From "Lucky 13" - by Hugh Godefroy
Ottawa, Jan. 31, 1948 (CP) — Senate records today
disclosed that the wife of George (Buzz) Beurling, No.1 Canadian fighter
pilot of the Second World War, is seeking a divorce from the former
A native of Vancouver, now living in Westmount, Que., and doing stenographic work, Mrs. Beurling has petitioned for a divorce from the pilot, who proved to be one of the few aces of the Second World War. A Senate committee on divorce will deal with the case.
One of the most decorated pilots of the war, Beurling made much of his progress while serving in Malta. In all, he shot down 32 enemy planes.
The petition for divorce charges him with adultery.
On May 15th 1948, Macleans Magazine published an article about George Beurling by John Clare called "Eagle For Hire." In the article beurling makes it known he intends to go fight for Israel against the Arabs. 5 days later, near Rome, his plane mysteriously crashes killing him and his buddy Leonard Cohen.
Rome, May 20, 1948 - (CP) - Two test pilots were killed
today when a plane destined for delivery to the Jewish Air Force in
Israel crashed at Urbe airfield. One of the men was believed to have
been George (Buzz) Beurling, Canada's ace of aces among fighter pilots
in the Second World War.
The name of one of the pilots was given here as George Beurling of Montreal. His age was 26. This, coupled with the similarity in names, led to almost certain identification of the dead man as 26-year-old Buzz Beurling, hero of the defense of Malta in the dark days of the war who shot down 31 enemy planes in that conflict.
Beurling, who flashed to fame through hostile war-time skies and who asked little of life but action and adventure, was known to have been on his way to the Middle East to take part in the present fighting between Jews and Arabs for control of Palestine.
In Montreal, Beurling's father expressed belief that there was little doubt that his son had died. "My son told me some time ago that he was heading that way (to Palestine)," said Fred Beurling.
The other man killed in the crash was Leonard J. Cohen, who carried a British passport and flying licence.
The plane, a Norseman type built in Canada as a light transport, had a United States registry number. It arrived at Urbe field from the United Kingdom two days ago with two other planes being ferried to Palestine for use as ambulance aircraft.
G. M. Schuller, Swiss newspaper man who witnessed the crash, said he talked with Beurling before the flight. He said Beurling was not Jewish and had told him that he was flying to Palestine "for fun" before going next week to Switzerland for a vacation.
Rome, May 20, 1948 (CP) — George (Buzz) Beurling
died today as he had lived—adventurously.
Canada's greatest flying ace of the Second Great War crashed to death at the controls of a light aircraft which, eyewitnesses said, he had borrowed for an unauthorized joyride. He died as he was about to participate in his latest adventure, fighting in the air for the Jewish cause in Palestine.
With him died his buddy of the hectic war years, 24-year-old Leonard Cohen of Liverpool. They crashed from 700 feet over Rome's Urbe airfield when the engine failed. The plane burned and when firefighting apparatus reached the scene, was a twisted mass of molten metal. The bodies were burned beyond recognition.
(A report by Arnaldo Cortesi to the New York Times and The Globe and Mail, gave a different version of the circumstances of the crash.
(According to Cortesi's story, the, plane had arrived from Nice two days ago and landed in Rome not only to refuel but also to repair the engine which had some trouble on the way. Repairs were completed this morning and Beurling and Cohen volunteered to test the plane.
(The plane took off normally and everything seemed to be going well. Shortly afterward, however, the engine began to sputter and then stopped altogether. Beurling, who was understood to be at the controls, circled sharply to regain the field and crashed the plane near the entrance to No. 1 hangar. The plane caught fire immediately and burned so fiercely that people present were unable to go to the pilot's assistance. The blaze was eventually brought under control by the airport fire squad, but by that time the pilots had been carbonized.)
There was little doubt of Beurling's identity although police first identified the body of the 26-year-old flying ace as George Beurling of Montreal. Papers listed Beurling's birth date as Dec. 6, 1921, which checked with Beurling's birth date. The Canadian Embassy in Rome said it had no doubt that Beurling was Beurling, the cool-eyed pilot who shot down 31 enemy planes in the Second Great War. In Montreal Beurling's father, Fred Beurling, said there was little doubt that the man who crashed to death in Rome was his son. Fred Beurling said brokenly:
"He told me some time ago that he was heading for Palestine, and that is the way I expected his life to end ... in a blaze of smoke from the thing he loved most ... an airplane. It's tragic; it is heartbreaking."
In Toronto, it was confirmed that Beurling was en route to Palestine. A private Jewish source said that last March 29, Beurling had told him he was to receive $1,000 a month as a combat fighter pilot.
The ill-fated plane, one of three which arrived here two days ago en route to Israel for use as ambulance aircraft, was a Norseman, a five-passenger transport widely used by Canadian bush pilots. It is produced in Canada and was used by the Canadian, British and United States Air Forces during the war.
Reuters News Agency said it was registered in the name of David Miller of Roanoke, Va. Reuters added that it had arrived from Nice May 13 and with its companion aircraft, was grounded by the Italian Government until Thursday. The other two planes took off shortly after the crash to continue their flight to Palestine.
Beurling was not one of the ferry crews which took the planes to Nice from the United Kingdom. He was reported to have been one of a group of fliers waiting in Rome to join the Jewish Air Force. The three planes were to have had a rendezvous with other aircraft in Greece, jumping-off point for Palestine. Beurling had been staying at Rome's Hotel Mediterraneo since May 5.
Eyewitnesses gave this version of the crash:
The Canadian ace, holder of many and decorations and known as Screwball to his fellow pilots in the RAF and RCAF, and Cohen were friends of Albert Lewish, who, Reuters said, was the regular pilot of the crashed plane. The two adventurers borrowed the Norseman for a joyride over Rome,
They were circling Urbe Field when the engine failed. Beurling made a great effort to steady the aircraft but it crashed and burned on the far side of the field.
Lewish witnessed the crash. Visibly shaken, he took off a short time later in one of the two remaining planes. His immediate destination was Brindisi, Italy.
G. M, Schuller, Swiss newspaper man who also saw the plane falter and plummet to the ground, said Beurling had told him that he was flying to Palestine for fun. This was characteristic of the Montrealer, for combat flying always was fun to him.
In Canada some weeks ago he told friends: "I would be glad to get back into combat. I will drop bombs or fire guns for anyone who will pay me."
In New York, Air Marshal W. A. Curtis, chief of air staff of the RCAF, expressed his regret.
Air Marshal Curtis, arriving in New York aboard the liner Queen Mary after six weeks in Europe, termed Beurling Canada's No. 1 fighter ace of the Second Great War, "undoubtedly the greatest precision deflection-shot fighter pilot to serve in the British forces."
Curtis was "very, very sorry to hear of the death of such an outstanding fighter pilot."
The Air Marshal, it has been said, gained Beurling's respect and liking in the service. Curtis recalled that he once extended some fatherly advice to the adventurous Beurling when the latter was about to leave the service late in the war. He excused Beurling's extracurricular activities which brought, him notoriety by saying that he was after all, only a youngster and inexperienced.
Curtis, en route to Ottawa after a six-week inspection trip of RCAF installations in the United Kingdom and a tour of Continental Europe, termed his trip fruitful. He landed in England by air with Viscount Alexander, Governor-General of Canada, and received from the King at a Buckingham Palace investiture the Order of Companion of the Bath. In Paris, France conferred upon him the Legion of Honor.
By BASIL DEAN
(From the Spectator's London News Bureau. Copyright 1948 by the Southam Co. Ltd.)
London, May 21, 1948 — The death of George Beurling in an air crash in Italy shocked me, as it must have shocked everyone who knew him well; but there was something oddly and sadly fitting in the fact that he was killed while on his way to another war.
For George Beurling was a professional soldier in the most precise sense of the word. He was an artist in his trade; and the fact that his medium was air warfare and the only tool he could use was a fighter aeroplane merely restricted his opportunities for following the only calling he knew well. He had the single-mindedness of all artists, and to my certain knowledge he has been looking for a war to get into ever since he left the R.C.A.F. four years ago.
But one thing must be said: The people who ran the R.C.A.F. during the war have got very little credit coming to them for the way they handled Beurling. It is arguable, in fact, that they ruined his career as a fighter pilot and prevented him from earning the crown which, given the chance, he could scarcely have failed to win — the crown as the greatest fighter pilot of World War II.
I first met Beurling early in 1942, shortly after he had finished his training and when he was still an unknown sergeant serving with the R.C.A.F.'s No. 403 Spitfire squadron, at North Weald, in the main London defence ring.
I was a public relations officer at the time, and I remember the squadron intelligence officer mentioning casually to me that Sergeant Beurling was a man to watch. "He'll do big things," he said.
Beurling left the squadron shortly after that — he and the squadron brass didn't see eye to eye on several things — and after a short spell with another unit went off to Malta. Within a few months, his name was known the world over.
I didn't see him again until he came back, injured, with 28 and one-third aircraft destroyed to his credit. I went to see him in hospital, where he was resting up after an air crash at Gibraltar, and in a two-hour talk he told me about his methods. These are well enough known: the ceaseless training of the eyes to switch from some nearby object and focus on a tiny point some distance away — one particular twig, or maybe a bud on that twig, constant practice in shooting and research into ballistics, careful examination of all enemy aircraft to find their most vulnerable points. This, plus concentration and superb flying, was Beurling's secret.
He stayed around London for a couple of days and was then flown back to Canada — smack into the middle of one of the most tasteless publicity campaigns ever thought up.
In Montreal, this boy — he wasn't yet 21 — with the D.S.O. D.F.C., D.F.M. and Bar on his chest, was paraded through the streets and then plumped down on a throne-like affair in some arena or other. Twenty nine little girls present him with 29 red roses — one for each of the aircraft - had sent down in flames. Bemused, he was then whisked off on a lionizing tour that would have done credit to Barnum and Bailey.
It was no more than poetic justice that the R.C.A.F., which had rejected him once, but had now lost no time in capitalizing on his name and had got him to transfer from the R.A.F., should find that it had a problem child on its hands.
The idea was that Beurling should go to the Central Gunnery School in England and teach other pilots how to shoot. He wanted no part of this, and said so. R.C.A.F. Headquarters in London did their best to persuade him when he came back, and the then Air Vice-Marshal W. A. Curtis (now air marshal and chief of air staff) had several long private talks, but did little more than convince himself that Beurling had been spoiled. At a staff conference one morning, he fixed me with a cold eye and declared that the Beurling affair had sickened him of the press, of public relations and all it's works. Under the circumstances, there wasn't much I could say, since everybody in the public relations branch overseas had been equally nauseated.
Contemptuous Of It
Beurling eventually went to the gunnery school; but the kind of shooting technique he favored was fine if you were a Beurling and practically useless for anyone else. He was openly contemptuous of what he considered were the haphazard and wasteful methods adopted by the R.A.F. for the training of average-to-good fighter pilots.
When he left gunnery school, he went to a Canadian squadron; but the limited opportunities which the sweeps over France of that particular period provided left him restless and chafing. He told me one day that he had a scheme to get himself a Mustang fighter with long-range tanks and do single-handed patrols deep into France; but this was much too unorthodox to fit into any plan the brass-hats might approve.
He was constantly in trouble, much of it undeserved, and when I saw him again it was aboard the Queen Elizabeth on which we were both going back to Canada in the spring of 1944. The R.C.A.F. had sent him home because, to its lasting shame, it could figure no way of using Beurling's altogether exceptional talents.
He left the service shortly afterwards, and when I saw him again it was on Sparks Street in Ottawa in 1945. Beurling was wearing civilian clothes, with the jacket heavily padded at the shoulders, and was full of a new scheme he had thought up to get back into the R.A.F., or, failing that, into the Chinese National Air Force. We chatted for a while over a cup of coffee, but it saddened me to think of this brilliant young pilot so obviously lost in a civilian world in which his extraordinary skill had no place.
By BRUCE WEST, May 21, 1948
To those who knew George "Buzz" Beurling, it was almost a foregone conclusion that somewhere, sometime, he'd die with his boots on.
It was as though he'd been set on a course from the time he was born, a course that was laid on the stars and led through the dangerous places of the sky. The kid from Verdun, P.Q. - who became Canada's top-ranking air fighter, slid into comparative obscurity, and finally died in a blazing aircraft in far-off Rome before he'd even really grown up - wanted to be the best fighter pilot in the world. He never gave much thought to becoming the oldest fighter pilot in the world.
It's a little difficult to write an
obituary on George Beurling and this is why: There were always at least
two George Beurlings. You could think, with sadness, of George Beurling
the grinning kid, the practical joker who once slipped a pile of wet
macaroni into his RAF group captain's bed.
You could think of the lonely kid who always had his eyes on the sky and heard the pulse and throb of aircraft motors even when he was dreaming.
You could think of the youngster who flew when he was 14 years of age and was deeply disappointed when his own country's air force turned him down. That was one Beurling — the husky, healthy youngster full of life, who never drank or smoked.
Then there was the other one — Beurling the fighter pilot, perhaps the coldest, the deadliest human who ever sat behind an aircraft sights and smiled happily, as he watched his foe being blasted to pieces.
He hated discipline and perhaps that
went with his love of the sky and its lack of restrictions and barriers.
Even the spit and, polish of military dress irked him.
His fighting mates maintained he was always slightly bothered even by his casual air force battledress and when he became a commissioned man he could never be rated as a shining example of what the well-dressed officer should wear.
His regulation flat hat ceased to be a regulation flat hat shortly after Beurling had donned it. It was soon stained with sweat and grease and was pulled back at the crown and generally mauled until it looked as though it might have been run several times through a cement mixer.
We first met George Beurling aboard the Queen Elizabeth when he was on his way back to the fighting after almost a year of having his hand shaken by just about every big wig from the Prime Minister of Canada down to the reeve of Timpkin's Corners.
It was during this triumphant tour
that the press of Canada, with the best of intentions, often gave this
bewildered kid a rough ride. He was outspoken and often the things he
said — although they didn't sound so bad coming from Beurling
— looked not so good in cold print.
Aboard the ship that day in 1943, Beurling, then a pilot officer, was introduced to a Wing Commander. He was a chair-borne wing Commander from the accounts branch of the air force. Beurling shook hands with him and after chatting to him for a while, remarked:
"You know, I think all wing commanders are a bunch of ... But you're not so bad."
Observations of this kind, of course, never won many friends nor influenced the higher brass, in any man's air force.
It was in Malta, of course, that Beurling piled up most of his score of 31 enemy aircraft. It was there that he found the precise kind of situation that he was born for. The air was full of the enemy and every allied fighter pilot was mostly on his own.
It was there, during 14 hectic days,
that he shot down 27 German and Italian aircraft, damaged eight and
was credited with three probables. From this aerial Donnybrook he emerged
with the DSO, the DFC, the DFM and Bar — and a bullet wound in
He once told of a typical incident during that historic free-for-all.
"I was flying a Spitfire." he related, "when I came smack on three Italian bombers flying in fairly tight formation. They didn't see me until I was close in behind them and then all of a sudden they spotted me. The hatches started flying open all over the bombers and Italians started popping out to hit the silk. Some of them were wearing bright-colored pyjamas! Gosh! The whole thing startled me so much I only got two of them! The third guy got away!"
There was a typical piece of the Beurling mixture of brashness and modesty. Modest enough to mention casually the two he knocked off. Brash enough to be surprised by the one who got away.
Beurling had many, many close brushes
with death. On the way back to Canada from Malta, to take his bow in
the country whose air force turned him down, he nearly missed the celebrations.
The big transport in which he was riding overshot the runway at Gibraltar,
hung for a split second in the air and then plunged into the sea, carrying
most of its passengers to death.
But not Beurling. He was sitting in a rear part of the plane close to an emergency hatch and during that brief moment before the plunge the superb reflex actions that had made Beurling one of the greatest living fighter pilots helped him go right on living. He sprung open the hatch in the twinkling of an eye and dived into the sea from the faltering aircraft. His injuries: A break in the plaster cast attached to his wounded foot.
There was another close call which,
to the best of our knowledge, has never been recorded. It was at the
RAF gunnery school in England, where Beurling had been posted to teach
the rookies how to shoot fast and accurately, shortly after his return
from his Canadian tour.
He had been busy instructing an eager young student (Bobby Buckham -jf) how you went about the job of catching up to an adversary when he tried to spin away from you. When the whole thing had been thoroughly gone over on the ground, Beurling and his pupil climbed in fighter planes and went aloft.
When they'd reached sufficient altitude, they went into a dogfight. The idea was that the pupil should shoot at Beurling with his camera guns, after which his score would be checked on the film when they reached the ground. Beurling went into his spin and the pupil followed him down. When the fighter ace came out of the spin a few hundred feet above the ground, the pupil was waiting for him. He'd learned his lesson well but there was one flaw in his training technique.
He got a little excited and pressed
the release for live bullets instead of for his camera.
"The first thing I knew," Buzz related, "there were bullets going through my ship."
A moment later the tank of his glycol cooling system began spurting over the hot engine.
"I rolled her over and hit the silk," said Buzz.
The plane crashed and burned and Beurling, who didn't have any too much altitude to spare, landed safely in his parachute—the top-notch ace shot down by his own pupil. It may give another clue to Beurling's character when it is said that he never reported the details of his mishap to his superior officer. Neither did he mention it to the jittery kid he had trained too well. He merely reported that his glycol tank had sprung a leak and had forced him to abandon his plane. That was the story and neither Beurling nor his pupil ever discussed it further between them.
All the time he was posted to the
gunnery school, he was itching to get back into combat. He used to drop
into our apartment in London during those days in1943 and sit around
morosely. He often sounded like a kid boxer who had been barred from
the ring by some stuffy commission.
"I'm in top shape!" he'd complain. "Boy, if I could get a Heinie in my sights light now, he wouldn't stand a chance."
During one of his trips to London he met Col. Tommy Hitchcock of the U.S. Army Air Force. Col. Hitchcock (famous polo player of prewar days who lost his life in an air crash during the last stages of the war) took quite a shine to Beurling.
"There's a friend of mine who commands a station not far from your spot." said Hitchcock. "If you get a chance, drop in and say hello to him for me."
A few days later Beurling got a 48-hour
pass and dropped around to see Hitchcock's friend. The United States
colonel was a bluff and hearty man, according to Buzz, who puffed lustily
on cigars. Buzz admitted that he was thoroughly "browned off"
with the business of training rookies and craved a little action.
Buzz — the unorthodox fighter pilot—had finally met an unorthodox friend, where he'd least expected to meet one, in the higher brass.
"Shucks, son," said the cigar-smoking colonel. "That's no way to treat a fightin' man. As a matter of fact son, d'you ever fly a Thunderbolt?"
Buzz said he had flown one of the big United States fighter jobs during his Canadian tour.
"Well now, son, that's right fortunate," said the colonel. "We're just taking a little bomber sweep this afternoon and if you're hankering for a little action you can take one of those Thunderbolts over there and come along to fly escort."
Buzz was in the cockpit of the big
machine in no time at all and a few minutes later, with a smile on his
youthful face and a great joy in his heart, was sitting up in the sky
watching over the lumbering silver Fortresses as they winged out across
the English Channel to play hob with the enemy.
On another occasion he was hauled up for hedge-hopping a Spitfire upside down. His commanding officer patiently explained that, for an aspiring young combat officer, there was absolutely no future in hedge-hopping Spitfires upside down.
"What this guy didn't know," Buzz confided later, "was that it's safer to hedge-hop a Spitfire upside down than right side up."
He then explained, in what seemed a very logical way, that flying airplanes upside down was quite easy once you got used to it. Hedge-hopping right side up, he pointed out, had one serious drawback. A fighter plane had a small blind spot area immediately beneath the motor cowling. If you used the simple process of turning the aircraft upside down, you had nothing between your eyes and the ground but your transparent cockpit cowling.
This, of course, allows you to cut
the grass much closer." said Buzz. And he wasn't kidding.
The day he transferred from the RAF to the RCAF, with the condition that he'd be allowed to get into combat operations once more, he was elated.
"Boy! I can't wait to get shooting at those guys!" he exclaimed. "Just let me get lined up on one of them..."
Heroes, of course, are not supposed to talk like that. It's supposed to make them sound like phonies. The only difference was that Buzz Beurling, a couple of days after this little speech, shot down his 29th enemy aircraft in a fighter sweep over Paris. Some times he spoke loudly; but so did his guns.
Beurling was in Toronto a few weeks ago. He dropped into the office to confide that he was all set to leave for Palestine to fight for the Jews.
"I figure," he said, "that
I'm a better fighter pilot now than I was during the war. When you get
a little older you get more sense — and a little extra sense never
hurt any fighter pilot."
A few days later, he called on the telephone from Malton Airport.
"Well," he said, "this is it!' I've got my marching orders and I'll be out of the country in about 48 hours. I'll send along a cable when I knock off my first one."
He didn't know that the first cable would be a news story from Rome that one of Canada's greatest fighting airmen had gone crashing to his death in a round-bellied Norseman aircraft, one of the quietest and most docile "workhorses" known to the bush-flying trade of the North.
Montreal, May 27, 1948 - (CP) - Far from being a mercenary,
George (Buzz) Beurling was willing to fly for Israel for "ridiculously"
small pay, a representative of Haganah, the Jewish Army organization,
Beurling, 26-year-old Verdun-born pilot who was the leading Canadian fighter ace during the Second Great War, was killed last week in a plane crash while flying to Palestine to fight for the newly formed Jewish State against the Arabs.
The Haganah representative said that reports that Beurling was being paid $1,000 a month by the Israeli Government were "utterly false." Actually, he said, Beurling contracted to fly for only $200 a month.
(Beurling, before he left Canada, had been widely quoted in press interviews and magazine articles as saying he would fly for the highest, bidder and was interested only in the actual pleasure of combat flying and in the monetary return,)
The Haganah representative said that Beurling was prompted to join the Israeli air force by the ideals of his father, a student of the Bible, who believes that bloodshed must stop in the Holy Land to insure world peace.
"We thought he was a very fine boy," the Haganah representative said. "Of course, he had his idiosyncrasies, but who hasn't? We hate to see his memory slurred by some who refer to him as 'a fight crazy kid' or a paid mercenary."
By BRUCE WEST, 6 Sept., 1949 -
A blond, blue-eyed young man who spent the war years leading RAF fighter squadrons through battles in the skies has come back to the country where he won his wings, this time as the leader of the famed British Walker Cup golf team.
Former W/C P. D. (Laddy) Lucas, DSO and Bar, DFC, Croix de Guerre, sat on the cool veranda of the Toronto Golf Club yesterday afternoon and recalled the eight months he had spent in Canada in 1940-41 as a student pilot during the early days of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
"Some of us were a little mixed up and uncomfortable for the first month," he admitted. "But after that, we got into the swing of the country and most of us have never forgotten how pleasant it was."
The first nine weeks were spent at Three Rivers, Que., and after that, Lucas' group moved to Uplands Station at Ottawa. Although he didn't know it at the time, Lucas was to move eventually to Malta, where as leader of 249 Squadron he was to command Canada's greatest aerial fighter, the late George (Buzz) Beurling.
"Beurling came to us in Malta as a flight sergeant," said Lucas. "One of the fellows who had known him in England took me aside shortly after he arrived and told me that Beurling was likely to be rather difficult to handle.
"Well, he was, for a short time, until he got into the pattern of our discipline," he said. "From then on he was a superb air fighter. One of my most lasting impressions of Beurling concerns his integrity. He was absolutely honest. He never made a claim for a plane shot down unless he was completely certain of it.
"As you may know, one of his most familiar nicknames was 'Screwball.' There have been all kinds of stories told of how he picked up the nickname, but I was there when he got it and I know.
"In Malta," said Lucas, "the flies were simply scandalous. There were millions of them. When you put some food on a plate, they would swarm all over it. Shortly after Beurling arrived, we were sitting there eating our usual thin slices of corned beef. Beurling lifted his plate from the table and placed it on the floor.
"He'd wait there with his foot poised until there were 60 or more flies on his corned beef. Then he'd plant his foot down hard. He seldom got less than about 40 of them. Then he'd sit there looking at them and say: 'The screwballs!'
"He used to do that every other day, and it didn't take long before he'd picked up the nickname of 'Screwball' Beurling."
Beurling, according to Lucas, had the most remarkable eyesight he had ever encountered.
"They were strange, blue eyes," he recalled. "They were a little wild — the eyes of a killer, in some ways. The Maltese have wonderful eye sight. It's a sort of racial characteristic. But Beurling could spot an aircraft from the ground quicker than a Maltese could spot it."
Various tales have been told about Beurling's erratic and sometimes strange methods of air fighting. There are those who say that some of the tales have been the result of jealousy. Here is the statement of the man under whom Beurling served during his Malta battles.
"I liked the kid immensely," he said. "He was a little lonely and peculiar at times, but he was a good youngster and a wonderful air fighter. One of his peculiarities was that, in spite of his deadliness in the skies he was crazy about children. Many times I've seen him in front of the little movie house in Ta-Kaly in Malta with a big bag of peanuts, handing them out to the youngsters. I've seen as many as 25 or 30 gathered around him while he sat there grinning, handing out the peanuts and enjoying himself immensely."
Lucas, who is now 34 years of age, will stand as a Conservative candidate in the next British elections in the constituency of Brentford and Chiswick. He has a deep and sincere admiration and liking for Canada and believes that we have one of the great nations of the new age.
"I just wish I were a little younger and didn't have so many ties in England at the moment," he says. "This is where I would try to make my career. It is a vast and energetic country, like the United States, and yet an Englishman feels so at home in it. I have a young son now. Perhaps some day he will be able to come out here and do his part to help your country realize its destiny."
some question as to what exactly happened to Screwball that fateful
day in 1948. The more I read [too much probably], the more credible
seems the idea that there was some "malfeasance" going on in
Rome on May 20th. I'm not going to argue it here because, well, I just
don't feel like it right now [lot's of typing and such - but I will point out that there is a file at the National Archives called "funeral expenses" (here) that we were not allowed to see until recently (I requested it three times - got his service records the first two times). They have now been reclassified and are available for viewing.
It's quite a file. Lots of letters going back and forth across the pond. Letters from George's parents and governments officials to officials in Italy and Palestine and other places. There's not much there to do with funeral expenses though. More to do with what to do with the body. Seems Buzzy wanted to be buried on Malta. His wife tried to honor that wish but his parents wanted him buried in "Palestine." The Canadian government didn't want to look like they were recognizing Israel as a country for fear of upsetting the British so they declined to communicate directly with them (not my interpretation of the situation, one letter writer is actually quite clear on the subject).
It also dealt with the crash reports, including the gory detail that George's head (& I think Len's too but I can't find my notes right now) had burst from the heat of the fire.
Turns out the few pieces of "The Hero of Malta" that were left after the crash burned out, sat in a warehouse for two years until they were sent to Israel and were buried. He rests next to Len Fitchett & three other ex-RCAF men.
Fitchett & his crew (Dov Shugerman & Stan Andrews) were murdered & mutilated by Egyptian troops after they had survived a crash landing in an area controlled by the Egyptians.
I did uncover an interesting few letters at the DHH though concerning a possible culprit, fingered by Israeli sources to the DND. His name was Levingham and according to these "Israeli sources" he was a Sergeant in the British Army who was subsequently killed by the Israelis. Interestingly, the DND seemed to think it was possible he was also a Palestinian police officer. Take a look ...
back to :
--- Canadian Aces ---
Related Sites :
(That's what you sounded like if
On these pages I use info from Hugh Halliday's excellent Honors & Awards notes, newspaper articles via the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation (CMCC) and the Google News Archives, his Military records & some pictures from the National Archives, some pix from the Canadian Forces Joint Imagery Centre & the Directorate of History & Heritage, MacLean's Magazine & The Washington Post Magazine as well as art by various individuals
All content on this site is probably the property of acesofww2.com unless otherwise noted.