ASK RUFUS: Col. Wilfred Beaver, “a patrol leader of great dash”

Col. Beaver in his US uniform wearing his RAF wings

Growing up in Columbus I knew Wilfred Beaver simply as Colonel Beaver a family friend and former World War I pilot. Little did I realize he was another of those Columbus residents who, though not well known locally, had left a huge footprint on the world.

Wilfred Beaver was born in England in 1897 and after graduation from high school he went to Canada to study dentistry in 1914. Before he could begin his studies World War I erupted and he joined the Canadian army and he soon wound up in a field artillery battery. After two years on the Western front he was allowed to join the British Royal Flying Corps. It was there he first left his mark.

After completing flight training he was assigned to the famous No. 20 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. Second Lieutenant Beaver joined the squadron on October 22,1917 at St Marie Chappel, France. He made five practice flights and on October 27th flew his first combat mission. On November 13th he shot down his first German plane.

Beaver saw extensive action flying as many as 3 combat patrols in a day. Between October 27, 1917, and June 12, 1918, He was credited with 19 victories over German aircraft. 

Beaver’s grandson, Mickey Brislin, recalls a story of an occasion when his grandfather’s plane was shot up by  Freiherr von Richthofen, the “Red Baron”. Beaver’s plane had been badly damaged and Richthofen signaled him to fly toward his home base and then flew with him. When Beaver arrived back over his base Richthofen circled behind him and open fire again forcing Beaver to crash land.

That may have happened on, March 25, 1918, as Beaver crashed that day and his squadron had been in combat against Richthofen around that time. On the 27th Captains Kirkman and Hedley of Beaver’s squadron were shot down by Richthofen. Richthofen was shot down and killed three weeks later and Beaver told of attending his funeral.

Beaver’s last patrol was on June 12th.  He was then a captain and flight leader That day he led 12 British Bristol aircraft on a bombing mission when they were jumped by German fighters. Beaver was wounded and his observer was killed. In spite of his wounds and the damage to his plane, Beaver managed to make it back to his home base. However he was hospitalized because of his wounds and did not return to combat.

On June 22, 1918, The London Gazette reported that Captain Wilfred  Beaver had been awarded the British  Military Cross. Beaver had received a telegram that said: “Your attendance is required at Oxford Buckingham Palace on Saturday next the nineteenth instant at ten o ck am. Service dress please.” It was signed Lord Chamberlain. At Buckingham Palace King George V presented Beaver with the Military Cross.

The citation recognized his aerial victories and accomplishments and

Captain Wilfred Beaver of the famous No. 20 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps was awarded the British Military Cross at Buckingham Palace by King George V in June 1918. Beaver moved to the United States, served as a colonel in The U S Army Air Force and lived in Columbus. Photo courtesy of Mickey Brislin

stated “He has displayed marked gallantry and resource and has proved himself a patrol leader of great dash and ability.”

In 1919 he emigrated to the United States and became a naturalized citizen on September 26, 1926. In June 1942, he enlisted in the U S Army Air Corps with the rank of Captain. In 1943 he was a major and executive officer of the 447th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force in England. There he developed what would be a lifelong friendship with Air Force General Curtis Le May. By the end of World War II he was a Lt. Col commanding the 447th Bomb group. He left active duty in January 1946 with the rank of colonel.

While Beaver was with the 447th, his daughter Pat met Mickey Brislin Sr. who was serving with the Bomb Group and they married. Beaver and Brislin were working with Bruce Lumber Company and came to Columbus with the large Bruce operation that was once here. Brislin later entered the Air Conditioning business and the family merged into the life of Columbus with most town’s people not knowing the legendary story of Col. Beaver. He died in 1986 and is buried in Memorial Gardens in Columbus.

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Published in: on December 7, 2011 at 12:20 am  Leave a Comment  

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