George "Buzz" Beurling, leading Canadian Ace

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Master Sergeant
I found this site about George Beurling, leading Canadian Ace with 32 victories.

"George Frederick Beurling was born in December, 1921 in Verdun, Quebec, in a very firm Brethren Christians family. He never took on smoking nor drinking. He was a loner, a poor student and definitely not a team player. Almost everything associated with his childhood had one common denominator: desire to fly. He manifested this by haunting the nearby Cartierville airport and making airplane models, which he tried to sell to get money for flying lessons. He started to learn how to fly at the age of fourteen. At sixteen he soloed in Gravenhurst, Ontario, where he went after quitting High School.

He attempted to join the Chinese Air Force in a fight with the invading Japanese, but was arrested in USA for illegal entry, and deported back to Canada. Then, he tried to join the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was promptly rejected, and he always held a grudge against the RCAF for this. But George was like a young stallion in a stable: jumpy, full of energy, thrusting himself toward the action. When the war broke out, he already had many flying hours in his log. This impressed an official at the Finnish Consulate in Montreal, where young Beurling tried to enlist himself as a volunteer for the Finnish Air Force. However, not being 21 years old yet, he needed permission from his father. Papa Beurling refused to grant it.

In spring 1940 the RAF was recruiting experienced pilots in Britain. That spurred Beurling. In May he boarded Swedish ship Valparaiso, loaded with explosives and destined for England. After a few "close calls" in convoy, ship arrived in Galsgow. Once there - within hours - Beurling presented himself at nearest RAF station. He was ecstatic to hear that he more then qualified. All he needed was a proof of age, and he did not have any! Young Canadian received another mighty blow. Frustrated and very angry he boarded another ship and returned, by convoy, to Montreal. With birth certificate stored as a treasure, he return to Scotland in September, again traveling as a seaman. He enlisted in RAF Volunteer Reserve. Full year later, he was recommended for a commission. Beurling turned it down, and was posted to line squadron No. 403, as a Sergeant-Pilot. Four months later, he was transferred to No.41 Squadron, refusing a commission at the same time. On his third mission, a sweep over Calais, Beurling shot down a Fw-190. This happened while he separated himself from his flight, where he flew "tail-end-Charlie".* Two days later he did exactly the same thing. On any given opportunity to jump an enemy aircraft - which he always saw first - he promptly abandoned his formation. Discipline flying was not his style. For this he was scolded, reprimanded and then removed from almost all combat flying. His comrades treated him like a leper. His only solace was flying squadron's liaison Tiger Moth; which he did with a fury. Eventually, he asked for relocation.

On June 7, 1942 he boarded carrier Eagle in Gibraltar, with 32 brand new Spitfires Mk Vc destined for Malta.1 Two days later, Beurling took off from the deck of Eagle for dangerous and long flight over the Mediterranean. He arrived safely at Takali, a dusty piece of airstrip in the middle of the island. As soon as he stopped taxing, group of mechanics unceremoniously pulled him out of precious fighter, immediately starting to refuel it and load its guns. Disoriented, he glanced around and found only dust, ruins, craters and bunch of miserably looking people, with war written all over their faces. Finally, Beurling found his place.

The RAF pilots considered beleaguered island of Malta a damned place. Living conditions and food were very poor. There was short supply of everything, and the British desperately tried to provide Malta with necessities, to help defenders of this strategic island. Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica tried to blast it into oblivion. There were daily bombing raids, and badly outnumbered RAF pilots were fighting heroically. Beurling arrived in the middle of this, and he loved it; especially, since there was very little of a formality among squadrons. The place was made for Beurling. He did fit its historical image perfectly: island standing proudly with the sword in one hand and the cross in other; him flying a Spitfire with blazing guns and the Bible in a pocket. It was there where he finally spread his wings and really fulfilled himself.

He joined Squadron No.249, with S/L Stanley Grant as commanding officer and F/L P.B. "Laddie" Lucas his flight commander. Canadian Robert McNair(who was the other flight commander) did not want Beurling in his flight. He had a very firm, negative opinion about him. Other pilots described him to Lucas:

"...the chap's a loner. Can't be relied on. He will either shoot some down or 'buy it'."

After a straight talk with Beurling, Lucas decided to give him a chance. Later he recalled:

"I felt I was in the presence of a very unusual young man. He didn't give a damn for me. A youngster really, who was champing at the bit to get to it, to get an airplane and have a go."

Beurling was assigned to fly with Lucas' good friend: Raoul Daddo-Langlois. When asked his opinion about Beurling after couple of flights, the latter replied:

"God Almighty, he's quick and he's got the most marvelous eyes but, he's a hell of a chap at being able to keep with us."

After nearly a month on the island, Beurling had almost nothing to show for. In one of the six patrols he flew at that period, he shot down one Bf-109, which got its whole empennage blown off from a single burst of his guns. Since no one saw it crash; he was credited with only a damage.

The big day came on July 6th. Beurling flew in one of the eight Spitfires, intercepting three Cant bombers and thirty Macchi 202's escorting them. Spitfires dived on them from 22,000 feet, with sun in the back. Beurling sprayed one Italian bomber with bullets and went after the fighter, which plunged down trying to escape. Beurling caught up with it at 5,000 feet, and with two short bursts of fire scored a perfect hit. At Takali, he found his Spit full of bullets holes. Since it was his flying day, for next sortie he took off in another aircraft. On his third fly that day - a patrol with three other pilots - he split the formation of two Ju-88 and twenty Bf-109F's. Typically for him, he "yahooed" through the opposition and went after the lonely prey. During this lone-wolf performance, he easily finished one Bf-109. Thus, he achieved a status of an ace. However, he was snubbed by his fellow pilots for individualistic performance, and celebrated alone.

After every successful sortie, Beurling promptly recorded all the data of his victories in his black notebook. He analyzed it and invented a set of formulas and graphs, which involved speed of aircrafts and angles. This served him to become (in opinion of many of his contemporaries) the best "deflection shooter can be." This mathematical calculations, together with lizard-practice-shooting, showed his great devotion to the science of killing. He was a zealot when it came to aircraft's guns, and had stuck to his armourers rather than his squadron mates. Since he did not drink and constantly talked about shooting and killing - occasionally adorning it with the Bible verse - the other pilots withdrew from him. When waiting for combat flying, he always checked all the guns in aircraft designated to him. He was obsessive about it. The same time George was completely unconcerned about his tidiness and exceptionally imprecise in his discipline. He was also very eager to fly missions. Unlike many others, he never complained about having to sit in the cockpit while being in readiness. He seemed to be indifferent to scourging sun and foul smell of cordite, glycol, grease, sometimes even vomit and urine.

Around that time he got his first nickname: "Screwball." In his book Malta, Laddie Lucas recalled: "He possessed a penchant for calling everything and everyone - the Maltese, the Bf-109s, the flies - those goddam screwballs.... His desire to exterminate was first made manifest in a curious way. One morning, we were on readiness at Takali, sitting in our dispersal hut in the southeast corner of the airfield. The remains of a slice of bully-beef which had been left over from breakfast lay on the floor. Flies by the dozen were settling on it ... Beurling pulled up a chair. He sat there, bent over this moving mass of activity, his eyes riveted on it, preparing for the kill. Every few minutes he would slowly lift his foot, taking particular care not to frighten the multitude, pause and - thump! Down would go his flying boot to crush another hundred or so flies to death. Those bright eyes sparkled with delight at the extent of the destruction. Each time he stamped his foot to swell the total destroyed, a satisfied transatlantic voice would be heard to mutter "the goddam screwballs!"

By July 11, Beurling had shot down two Bf-109s, three Macchi 202s, had a probable kill on a 109 and a few other aircraft damaged. On July 14, when flying alone(!) at 30,000 feet, Buerling attacked a group of Me-109s and Macchi 202s. During his dive he was spotted, and enemy aircraft, split its formation, let him go through, and closed after him. Starboard were Macchis, and Beurling turned toward them, trying to avoid Messerschmitts. Somebody got him anyway. He was flying for his life, using all helpful maneuvers. When being riddled with bullets directly from behind, he resorted to certain Spitfire advantage. If jumped from behind, the Spitfire, if its stick pulled too hard - 60 lb.. of torque was exerted on it (40 lb.. of shorter stick in Bf-109) - would enter a violent stall, flick over and spin. The maneuver was so quick and rough, that it proved to be an excellent escape. Another trick he often used was: "an aileron turn where you kick everything (the stick and the rudder) into corner." Aircraft flips over and drops like a rock.

"Screwball" landed at Takali in a shot-up aircraft, with bullet fragments in his heel. Doctor took it out, and Beurling was back in dogfighting business very next morning, littering St.Paul's Bay with two Macchi-202.

Next big day came on July 27. Beurling was part of a interception of the major attack on Malta, involving Ju-88s escorted by Messerschmitts and Macchis. He shot down 25 year old Faliero Gelli, who survived by pancaking his Macchi into a rocky field, and being found by merciful Maltese who did not battered him to bloody pulp, like they often did. Supposedly, Gelli is (he lives in New Jersey) the only man who survived Beurling's attack. After trouncing Gelli, Beurling destroyed another Macchi and one Bf-109. He also got probable second Messerschmitt. Since Takali airstrip was full of bomb craters, Beurling's squadron landed in nearby Luqa. After quick re-arming and refueling, they took off again, this time to meet a party of 20 Bf-109s. George went after separated rotte, and finished both of them. Two days later he victimized yet another German fighter. Thus after nearly two month on the island, his score was 16 destroyed, one probably destroyed, and four damaged.

Then Beurling got very sick. Lack of proper diet, strain of combat and severe case of Dog (form of dysentery) left him barely able to walk and weighting only 125 pounds. During this sickness he was ordered to accept an officer's commission. Sniffing a hero, the press wanted to interview him; and that had to be an officer. This time, he was too weak to protest. Once officer, Beurling moved from a dusty shanty to a charming villa in the hilltop Mdina. From its terrace he could watch the airfield located immediately below and all the drama of bombing and strafing.

On August 8, "Screwball" got shot down by a German, and crash-landed in a field. That was his third crash, and third without a scratch. Next few weeks were uneventful except, of a dramatic arrival of bits of convoy (operation "Pedestal") with desperately needed supplies. Among them was crippled tanker Ohio, and to salute her, Beurling did some stunt flying over Valetta's main street. By the end of August he collected a shared victory over a Ju-88 that had been separated from it's fighter escort.

October 14 was another of his flying days. Fifty fighters and eight bombers were heading toward the island. This time two whole squadrons of Spitfires scrambled. In the melee, Beurling snared one Ju-88 and two Bf-109s. But he forgot about his own tail, while going after his next victim. His Spit got peppered with cannon shells and plunged 16,000 feet down. Wounded in chest, leg and heel again.(he never even met Achilles!) Semiconscious, he managed to escape from burning cockpit and pulled the ripcord. Thus, he barely survived his fourth crash. Next two weeks he spent in hospital. He received another "gong": Distinguished Service Order, and was also told to pack up and get ready to go home for a bond tour. He was extremely agitated by this, since he would do anything for flying. During the farewell party, he said that he would fly even for Germans, rather then be a prisoner or not being able to fly at all.

Thus, his carreer at Malta came to a halt, with 27 enemy aircraft shot down. Also worth mentioning is (but can not be document) that, for almost every victory achieved, Beurling lost a wingman - or so is belived - and experienced pilots refused to fly with him. (Many veteran would confirm this. The fact however, is always omitted in every publication I have seen so far.) Later he openly admitted shooting a pilot in the parachute, during his days in Mlata. Annihilation of a Ju-88 crew in a floating dinghy, was also attributed to him.

Around that time the press started to call him "Buzz" and he was eagerly expected in Canada. On his way home, he survived yet another crash. This time it was a Liberator, which was taking him to Gibraltar. Only him, another ex-Malta pilot and one of the passengers survived. In England he was hospitalized for shock and wound infection.

At home he got a really big hero welcome, and media had their go with him. He gave many interviews, and that is where we learn a lot abount Beurling.

"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." Brian Nolan: "Hero"

In another interview he referred to the Italians as "ice-cream merchants", saying:

"The Eyeties are comparatively easy to shoot down. Oh, they're brave enough. In fact, I think the Eyeties have more courage than the Germans, but their tactics aren't so good. They are very good gliders, but they try to do clever acrobatics and looping. But they will stick it even if things are going against them, whereas the Jerries will run."

Beurling became a darling of ruling party and protégé of Prime Minister, Mackenzie King. During the tour to help sell the war bonds, he took pleasure of being a star. He also scored a lot - this time with the ladies. In Vancouver, before a large audience - many of whom were RCAF aircrew - Buzz all fired-up, vividly portrayed the moment when one of his fellow pilots burned in crashed Spitfire. He was talking with glee using very inappropriate words. Almost everybody just got-up and left.

After short flirt with sales, Beurling was sent back to England and became an instructor. His reputation proceeded him, and RAF was disinclined to send him to the front. He was desperate to go back to fighting, and constantly requested to be posted to an operational squadron. RAF constantly refused. Finally, in September, 1943 he was transferred to RCAF , and No.403 Squadron,(127Wing) which flew Spitfires IX. His main job there, was to teach young pilots how to shoot. But he also flew missions - and continued to be himself. During one mission over France, thanks to his supervision, he spotted enemy aircraft, peeled off, shot it down and returned to the airfield with the squadron. When he reported one enemy plane destroyed, his commandeur, Hugh Godefroy was stunned. Beurling not only did not inform his flight about the spotted plane, but also abandoned his position, exposing others to greater risk. His gun camera, when checked, showed clearly one Fw-190 exploding in mid-air.

Beurling continued to be rebellious and obstinate. He could not accept his place in a back row, where he wasn't greatly appreciated. Thus, he showed-off. Beurling accepted a promotion to Flight-Lieutenant just because it made him responsible for the squadron's Tiger Moth, and Godefroy became main target of his hostilities. He violated direct orders and using this trainer, he performed a lot of stunt flying. In result he was put under open arrest. Still, there were people willing to put-up with him. In November, "Buzz" got transferred to 412 Squadron, stationing in Biggin Hill. Massive fighter sweeps which the squadron flew, did not "turn his crank" and he continued to play a lone-wolf. In December he got his last (32?) victory; a Fw-190. Then he came up with a plan to form his own circus of long-range Mustangs. Idea was, to gather few desperadoes like himself, go over to the continent, and shoot the living hell out of anything that moves. Although he lobbied quite hard for it, his project did not got any support. Only days before D-Day, Beurling was granted an honorable discharge from RCAF and returned to Canada.

After-the-war Beurling was a very mixed-up guy; unsteady and unconventional; with bizarre and sometimes suspicious behavior. When the news of Jews looking for former fighter-pilots reached him, George went nuts. Although initially wasn't wanted, he got drafted by Israelis to fight for their new, independent state. His way to Palestine led through Italy, as part of the clandestine operation. He sojourned mainly at Urbe Airport in Rome.

There were a few Norduuyn Norseman, which loaded with arms were supposed to be flown to Palestine by volunteer pilots. On May 20th, 1948, Beurling died in one of those Norseman, which crashed at Urbe during a training (?) flight.

Absolutely nothing is clear about this crash. The plane was probably sabotaged. Investigation never really happened. Also, there are few different versions about who died with Beurling in that crush. Sometimes it is American pilot, sometimes British, and one source mentioned three ex-Luftwaffe pilots being in that plane."


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Yep, a grade-A nut case, but a skilled one. The "Falcon of Malta".

Initially denied entry into the RCAF, joined the RAF, shot up a bunch of Axis planes, kicked out of the RAF for being a dick, then snatched up by the RCAF, shot up a couple of more Axis planes, kicked out of the RCAF for being a dick.

Quite a stint, eh? He was killed in 1948 while on his way to fight for Israel. The plane he was on blew up on take-off. A lot of people were convinced it was Arabs, and it probably was although it was never proven.

And he was an English-Québecer. ;)
Something you don't see much of these days.
Another site

It seems that he may have been so annoyed with the crap v formation used early in the war by the RAF, and the commanding officers who enforced it, that he became a 'lone wolf'

His commanding officer placed him in the Tail-End-Charlie position. At this time the British were still flying in a flight of 4 aircraft, with three flying in a V, and with one aircraft flying behind and slightly above the others. This pilot was to weave back and forth inside the V watching for the enemy behind them. It was nearly impossible to maintain this position, while weaving and looking out for enemy aircraft. The Tail-End-Charlie frequently did not make it back to base as the Germans attacked him first. It was a seriously flawed tactic that the English eventually abandoned, but it cost many pilots their lives. The Germans used a loose finger-four formation, with two planes flying as a pair. They could see behind each other and attack targets as well. One day in March, 1942 on a sweep over northern France in Spitfire Vs, George recalled: "we were in the air, our tails in the sun, vulnerable to attack, when I reported Huns." However, nothing was visible. He was told to maintain radio silence! "Five minutes later we got bounced and I got shot." Disregarding instructions he pulled out of formation with three Focke-Wulf 190s on his tail. His engine hood was shot away, a shell splinter grazed his ribs and he figured himself for dead meat, when he got an idea. He dropped his landing gear and flaps, slowing instantly, and the Germans overshot him. Now being in a poor position they sped away to their base. On returning to base he lit into his commanding officer in front of everyone. While justified, it showed poor discipline on his part. Shortly after he was transferred to 41 Squadron, RAF.

He had more problems with his new commanding officer, but he downed his first German. At 24,000 ft over Calais, five FW-190s attacked him while in the Tail-End-Charley position. Cannon shells slammed into his wings knocking out his own cannons. Again, cunning saved his hide. He pulled straight up into the sun, the FW-190s followed and shot past him, as they had more speed, having just pulled out of a dive. As they climbed past him, he lined up on the middle plane and fired his four 0.303 Browning machine guns. A German aircraft exploded, tearing off the wings and splitting the fusilage. Back on the ground he was chewed out for breaking formation! Beurling responded

"Six of us broke formation, five Jerries and I".

Yet again, two days later, over Calais he was in the Tail-End-Charlie position when he spotted a flight of 190s below them and heading their way. The rest of the flight ignored his warnings, as usual. This time he didn't wait to be on the receiving end of the German's cannons. He peeled out of formation and dove on the Germans, scoring a perfect deflection shot on the lead plane. It fell away smoking and crashed into the sea. Once again he was reprimanded for disobeying orders by leaving formation. Disgusted with the crass stupidity of his commanding officers, he offered to take the place of a married pilot who didn't relish being posted to Malta, and was promptly granted permission to leave.
He wasn't the only one who hated the early British formations. They proved completely ineffective against the Luftwaffe formations.
Beurling was an egomaniac, like a lot of the more successful aces. Whatever works. If he hadn't done so well over Malta though, I'm sure the RAF would have given him the boot much sooner than they did. He couldn't stand officers, and tried to turn down his commission to Pilot Officer. He also held a personal grudge against the RCAF for turning him down in the first place, even after they finally accepted him later on.
Ever see his self-designed uniform? One Halloween I'm going to dress up like him!

No, I never saw it... Was it that bad ?

And NS, yes, English Québékers are quite rare these days... But I'm sure you can still find some in Westmount or in other areas of the West side of Montréal's island. ;)
Beurling was the pilot who shot down over Malta Captain Furio Niclot Doglio, C.O. 151a Squadriglia, 20° Gruppo, 51° Stormo, MOVM (Medaglia d'Oro al valor militare = Gold Medal to Military Honour)

Beurinlg also wrote an interesting book, printed for the first time on 1944.
The book was recently reprinted: George Beurling Leslie Roberrts - Malta Spitfire: the diary of a fighter pilot - Greenville Books, London - Stackpole Books, Pennsylvania - 2002 - ISBN 1-85367-487-7
he was as much an nut job as any pilot the fact he preferred working on his a/c with the ground crew as opposed to partying with the boys would make him an oddity in any squadron where the norm was to party the man could fly and shoot and I emphasize shoot he was the consumate fighter pilot amongst the best of all sides if you talk to guys he instucted on gunnery they rave about him his ground crew raved about him . If I was forced to fly tail end charlie and fly formation to be cannon fodder or break formation and live I'd do the same
Maestro said:
No, I never saw it... Was it that bad ?

And NS, yes, English Québékers are quite rare these days... But I'm sure you can still find some in Westmount or in other areas of the West side of Montréal's island. ;)
Pointe Claire
I have just read 'Hero' by Brian Nolan and was puzzled by the lack of real information on George Beurling post war for such a high profile figure who didn't shun publicity he managed to keep his activity's under wraps. Does anyone remember meeting him post war I wondered if he ever returned to England? and what happened to his Tiger Moth I feel there is another book out there somewhere. so much is unexplained and why did Canada refuse to repatriate his body after his death what a nice thankyou for representing his country so courageously!! What did they know? Surely after all these years the files could be opened and answer a few questions. I can't believe he was a cad and a womaniser it just doesn't gel with his non drinking, non smoking biblical background could it be character assassination?
I am actually related to George "Buzz" Beurling my great grandma is his very distant cousin and she told me the story ages ago an at long last i have found him
No, I never saw it... Was it that bad ?

And NS, yes, English Québékers are quite rare these days... But I'm sure you can still find some in Westmount or in other areas of the West side of Montréal's island. ;)
I'd like to see that I've never heard about it until this thread sound out of character for a guy who wanted to remain non commissioned and loathed commissioned persons
Message to Grand Wizzous - I can publisjh on this website the personal account from Deacon Priest to me about his rescue of my father behind enemy lines (no it didn't occur in a Ta 152 or Fw190D) in a Mustang on 18 August 1944.

Its 5 pages and will go in my new book. Do you want it on this website? Deacon Priest is THE reason I am here to pound away on these keys and thumb my nose at Cape Buffalo's (or squids).

You'll hate yourself if you decide No. I have buried this in this obscure thread to see if anyone awake

Regards, Bill
I would break out of formation too, if my flight leader didn't do anything to defend me! I mean, the leader should have ordered the flight to break formation.

He sounds like a cool dude guy, like an Anakin or Harry Osborne. He also can sound a bit like a psycho or something.

I'm glad Dick Bong was more level headed.
I'm trying to scan a 1943 Readers Digest article on Buerling interesting slant with wartime propaganda and such . \
Was there not a gunfighters camp in the UK in 44 with all the top shots trying to come up with a syllabus on aerial gunnery I believe there was even some US PTO guys there? I'd be interesred to see the results of that or comments
Hi, everyone, I'm new here. My father's first cousin was Wt. Off. C.B. Ramsay, 249, KIA July 11, 1942 in BR 111, shot down by Niclot Doglio over the sea off Malta during the 1810 scramble.

Chuck was from Newcastle, N.B., fairly close to Beurling's Verdun, P.Q. You can check in Brian Cull's "249 At War" and see that 249's next two losses were Berkeley-Hill (the next day) and then Jean Paradis (Shawinigan Falls, P.Q.) on July 22, 1942.

I'm developing a theory that Beurling, like most "good Canucks," was not just suffering from dysentery (Malta Dog) in July -- he was extremely pissed off at losing the two guys in the squadron with the closest geographical ties to his home town.

Perhaps it is fitting that Buzz capped July 27 by downing Gelli and... Niclot Doglio.

besides Shores/Cull, ref. Massimello; "Furio Niclot Doglio -- Un pilota indimenticabile," Speciale Aero Fan n. 1, from Pacific Coast Models in CA, [email protected]


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