The Airmen's Stories - F/O R P Beamont
Roland Prosper Beamont was born in Enfield on 10th August 1920. His family moved to Chichester and he was educated at Eastbourne College. His interest in flying was boosted by a joyride in a Fox Moth piloted by CWA Scott, who then held the solo-to-Australia record.
He entered the RAF on a short service commission and began as a pupil pilot on 23rd January 1939.
After elementary flying training at 13 E&RFTS White Waltham and a short spell at No. 1 RAF Depot Uxbridge he completed his training at 13 FTS Drem.
He arrived at 11 Group Pool St. Athan on 13th October 1939 and on 20th November Beamont joined 87 Squadron in France. On 13th May 1940 he destroyed a Do17, shot down a Me110 on the 14th, destroyed a Do17 on the 15th, and a Ju88 on the 17th.
The squadron was withdrawn to England on 22nd May and after a few days at Debden it moved to Church Fenton.
On 5th July it went south again, to Exeter, and on the 24th Beamont shared in the destruction of a Ju88, on 15th August he shot down one Me110 and probably a second and on the 25th he claimed a Do17 and a Me109 destroyed.
Beamont damaged a Ju88 on 3rd September 1940, damaged a Me110 on 11th October and probably destroyed a Me109 on the 12th.
In early 1941 Beamont was a member of the 87 Squadron Aerobatic team, with F/lt. DH Ward and F/Sgt. IJ Badger. He damaged a Ju88 on 5th April.
He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 6th June 1941) and posted to 79 Squadron, as a Flight Commander.
In December 1941 Beamont went to the Special Duties List, reporting to Hawker Aircraft as a test pilot. In May 1942 he went to 56 Squadron at Manston as a supernumerary Flight Lieutenant.
On 29th June he joined 609 Squadron at Duxford. During the night of 4th/5th September 1942 Beamont damaged a Ju88 near Dover. He took command of 609 Squadron in October, was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 29th January 1943) and at the end of his tour, the DSO (gazetted 6th May 1943).
A return to test flying came in May 1943 and Beamont went back to Hawker's but in February 1944 he was asked to form the first Typhoon Wing, 150, at Castle Camps.
On 18th June he destroyed a Me109 and on 2nd October a Fw190. Between 16th June and 22nd August he destroyed 26 V1 flying bombs and shared 5 more. Beamont was awarded a Bar to the DSO (gazetted 25th July 1944).
Beamont was leading the Wing when he was shot down over France on 12th October 1944 and taken prisoner. After being released from the Germans he was finally released by the Russians on 21st May 1945.
He formed the first Tempest Wing for service in the Far East but was then appointed to command the Air Fighting Development Squadron at the Central Fighter Establishment.
Beamont left the RAF in January 1946. He joined the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and commanded 611 Squadron from 1949 to 1951.
He went to Gloster Aircraft as a test pilot. He left there for de Havilland, to be a demonstration pilot and in May 1947 he moved to English Electric as Chief Test Pilot.
In this capacity Beamont established several records in Canberra and P1 aircraft.
From May 1949 Beamont managed all prototype tests and in December that year revealed the type with an outstanding performance at the Farnborough Air Show. Beamont's mastery of the Canberra ensured sales of the plane to the American and 14 other air forces.
He also established two Atlantic speed records in the Canberra including, in 1952, the first two-way Atlantic crossing in one day - completed in 10 hours and three minutes.
In 1955 Beamont was made Manager of Flight Operations and then Special Director of English Electric Aviation in 1960.
He became Director of Flight Operations, BAG Preston in November 1965, was made a CBE (1969) and later appointed Director of Flight Operations, Panavia Aircraft.
Subsequently he was chief test pilot of the ill-fated British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) TSR2 supersonic bomber-reconnaissance programme until the aircraft's abrupt cancellation by the government.
In 1978 he resigned his BAC directorship to concentrate on development of the Tornado. Following the first flight of the production aircraft, Beamont retired on 31st July 1979.
Beamont was awarded the DFC (US) (gazetted 14th June 1946) and appointed OBE in 1954 and CBE in 1965.He was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Lancaster in 1977.
Beamont died on 19th November 2001.
Above: his portrait was made by Cuthbert Orde.