DELVILLE WOOD

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Captain

Anthony Frederick Weatherby BEAUCHAMP-PROCTOR, VC, DSO, MC and bar, DFC

(1894-1921)

84th Squadron, Royal Air Force

Citation

Between the 8th August 1918 and the 8th October 1918, this officer proved himself  victor in 26 decisive combats, destroying 12 enemy kite balloons, 10 enemy aircrafts and driving down 4 other enemy aircrafts completely out of  control. Between the 1st October 1918 and the 5th October 1918, he destroyed 2 enemy scouts, burnt 3 enemy kite balloons, and drove down 1 enemy scout completely out of control.. On the 1st October 1918, in a general engagement with about 28 machines, he crashed 1 Fokker biplane near Fontaine, and a second near Ramicourt : on the 2nd October, he burnt a hostile balloon near Selvigny ; on the 3rd October, he drove down, completely out of control, an enemy scout near Mont d'Origny, and burnt a hostile balloon ; on the 5th October, the third hostile balloon near Bohain.. On the 8th October 1918, while flying home at a low altitude, after destroying an enemy two-seater near Maretz, he was painfully wounded in the arm by machine-gun fire, but continuing, he landed safely at his aerodrome, and after making his report was admitted to hospital.. In all he proved himself conqueror over 54 foes, destroying 22 enemy machines, 16 enemy kite balloons, and driving down 16 enemy aircrafts completely out of control. Captain Beauchamp-Proctor's work in attacking ennemy troops on the ground and in reconnaissance during the withdrawal following on the battle of St Quentin from 21st March 1918, and during the victorious advance of our Armies commencing on the 8th August, has been almost unsurpassed in its brilliancy, and as such has made an impression on those serving in his squadron and those around him that will not be easily forgotten. Captain Beauchamp-Proctor was awarded the Military Cross on the 22nd June 1918, the Distinguished Flying Cross on the 2nd July 1918, Bar to his MC on the 16th September 1918 and Distinguished Service Order on the 2nd November 1918.

THE MOST DECORATED SOUTH AFRICAN EVER

Born at Mossel Bay on the 4th September 1894, he attended the University of Cape Town when the War broke out and served as Signaller in the Duke of Edinburgh's Own Rifles in German South West Africa. Transferred to the South African Field Telegraph and Postal Corps, he was demobilised in August 1915 and returned to his studies.

He was discouraged to re-enlist on account of his short stature (1,57m) but was recruited into the Royal Flying Corps by an ex-boy of his school. He left for England, was commissioned and undertook a short pilot training. Beauchamp-Proctor was posted to the newly-formed 84th Squadron in July 1917 flying on SE5A. He learnt the aerial combat practice of the C.O. of the Squadron, Major William Sholto-Douglas. Because of his height, special adjustments were made to the rudder bar and seat of his aircraft and, despite this, he was always bothered during the landings and take-offs. As a result of this, he crashed on the 11th march 1918 but escaped unhurt.

The 84th Squadron, in which served several South African pilots, arrived in France in September 1917. Within some months, Sholto-Douglas had moulded his raw novices into creditable fighter pilots. Beauchamp-Proctor gained his first victory on the 3rd January 1918 by shooting down a German two-seater near Saint-Quentin. He established a reputation for his extraordinary long-range eyesight and as an excellent shot. On the 17th March, he shot down 3 fighters, raising his score to 9 victories. Beauchamp-Proctor's natural friendliness, combined with his brilliance as a fighter, provided inspiration to his comrades. He was made flight leader and temporary-captain in April.

On the 1st June, he destroyed his first kite balloon. With 16 balloons at his credit, he was the best balloon busting of the RAF at the end of the War. Well protected by fighters and anti-aircraft fire and must be fired at short range, their destruction was tricky. Beauchamp-Proctor developed successful tactics which were adopted by other squadrons. One of them consisted to fly at top speed a few metres above the ground then zoom up beneath the balloon, shooting the observer in his basket and setting the ballon alight.

The citation of his VC concern the period between 8th August - the launch of the great Allied offensive - and the 8th October - date of his wound - during which he displayed an unlimited energy in all forms of aerial combat including attacks of infantry and artillery positions

On the 8th October 1918, he won his 54th and last victory - a Rumpler two-seater - but was seriously wounded in a arm by a ground fire. He was hospitalized for the rest of the War. Sholto-Douglas made a VC recommendation for Beauchamp-Proctor ending this one by the expression : For all his size that little man had the guts of a lion. The award of his Victoria Cross was gazetted on the 30th November 1918.

In March 1919, Beauchamp-Proctor and a group of war heroes carried out an official visit to the United States to help raise money for the Liberty Loan. Appointed to the Cadet College of Cranwell, he was promoted to a permanent commission in the RAF as a flight lieutenant. On the 27th November 1919, he was invested with the VC, the DSO and the DFC by King George V at Buckingham Palace. Shortly after, he was arrested in error by two constables for "wearing medals that he was not entitled to".

In order to complete his studies and visit his family, Beauchamp-Proctor obtained a year's leave and returned to South Africa in February 1920. When he got back in England, he was posted to N24 Squadron. Member of the RAF aerobatics team, he flew on Sopwith Snipe. On the evening of the 21st June 1921, in a routine practice at Upavon, his aircraft went into a vicious spin during a slow loop and Beauchamp-Proctor was killed instantly in the ensuing crash. A hypothesis of the tragedy was that the special cushions of the seat to adjust his short height moved during the loop and the pilot was unable to regain control.

His body was returned to South Africa and taken to Mafikeng for burial with full military funeral.