b. 27/07/1891 Southampton. d. 03/05/1967 Swindon, Wiltshire.
Daniel Marcus William Beak (1891-1967) was born on the 27th January 1891 at 42 Kent Road, South Stoneham, Southampton, the son of Mr. and Mrs. William.H. Beak, formerly of West End House, Donhead St. Mary, Wiltshire. He was educated at Taunton’s School, Southampton between 1904 and 1910. He initially joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a rating on 2nd February 1915, and rose swiftly to Petty Officer. Beak was gazetted Sub-Lieutenant on 8th May 1915 in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve for duty with the Royal Naval Division, where he saw service with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. He arrived in France in May 1916 and after being appointed adjutant of the Drake Battalion on 2nd March 1917, he ended up commanding his battalion as an acting commander between 19th March 1917 and 3rd April 1917. Beak was promoted to temporary lieutenant commander on relinquishing command and attached to headquarters.
Beak was awarded the Military Cross (MC) in January 1917 after he “led his men in an attack with great courage and initiative and materially assisted in the capture of an enemy line, setting a fine example throughout”. On 18 July 1917 he received a bar to his Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry during operations when “he continually dashed forward under heavy fire to reorganise the men and led them on with great bravery through the enemy barrage and machine-gun fire”.
He attended the Senior Officers’ Course in Aldershot in late 1917 and on 31st December was promoted temporary commander, and appointed as commanding officer of the Howe Battalion.
Beak initially remained in command of the Howe Battalion, then briefly commanded the Anson Battalion in the first week of March 1918, and then transferred back to the Drake Battalion on 13th March 1918. He was Mentioned in Despatches on 20th May, and awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) on 26th July 1918, “for actions during a night attack by the enemy. The right flank of his division was left in a dangerous position, after the attack. He arranged for a flank to be formed in that direction, and subsequently covered the retirement of two brigades with a composite rear-guard which he organised and commanded. His initiative and presence of mind greatly assisted in extricating these brigades from a very difficult situation. Throughout, the skilful handling of his battalion was particularly noticeable”.
He was sick for four days with the flu in July 1918, and was granted a period of home leave in August, returning on 10 August. During the period 21st – 25th August and on 4th September 1918 at Logeast Wood, France, Commander Beak led his men and captured four enemy positions under heavy fire enabling other battalions to reach their objectives. Four days later, although dazed by a shell fragment, in the absence of the brigade commander, he reorganised the whole brigade under extremely heavy gun fire and led his men to their objective. When an attack was held up, accompanied by only one runner he succeeded in breaking up a nest of machine-guns, personally bringing in nine or ten prisoners. His fearless example instilled courage and confidence in his men, who then quickly resumed the advance under his leadership.
On a subsequent occasion he displayed great courage and powers of leadership in attack, and his initiative, coupled with the confidence with which he inspired all ranks, not only enabled his own and a neighbouring unit to advance, but contributed very materially to the success of the Naval Division in these operations. He was presented with the VC by the King on 6th December 1918 at Valenciennes. He received a second Mention in Despatches on 20th December 1918. With the war now over he was granted several periods of home leave, returned home permanently in May 1919, and was demobilised in June.
In 1921, he was granted a regular army commission with the Royal Scots Fusiliers as a captain. Beak was in Ireland with his regiment during the Irish War of Independence. In the situation, following the collapse of the British civilian administration, his duties included membership of the Courts of Enquiry in lieu of Inquests. On 5th September 1923 he married Matilda Wallace in Ayr, Scotland. He and Matilda had two sons, though sadly she passed away in 1930. He was given a brevet promotion to major in 1929, and substantive promotion in 1932, on transfer to the King’s Regiment. He was promoted brevet lieutenant-colonel in 1935. The substantive promotion followed in 1938, transferring again, this time to the South Lancashire Regiment.
During World War II Beak was commander of 12th Brigade, GOC Malta and 151st Infantry Brigade, which he led during Operation Pugilist. Montgomery dismissed him from this post after that battle and he never held another command. He was an acting brigadier by 2nd August 1940 when he was promoted to colonel. Colonel Beak was Mentioned in Despatches on 20th December 1940, for services between March and June of that year. He was promoted temporary major-general in January 1942.
He retired from the army on 19th February 1945, retaining the honorary rank of major-general. Daniel Beak died on the 3rd May 1967 in the Princess Margaret Hospital, Swindon, Wiltshire, following a long illness. According to family wishes, he was buried in an unmarked grave in Brookwood Cemetery, Woking, Surrey. His medal group consisting of Victoria Cross, DSO, MC & Bar, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 + MiD Oakleaf, 1939-45 Star, Africa Star + clasp “8th Army”, War Medal 1939-45 + MiD Oakleaf, King George V Silver Jubilee Medal 1935, King George VI Coronation Medal 1937, and Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953, was sold at auction at Spinks in November 2003 for the then world record price of £155,000 to Michael Ashcroft and now displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL LOCATION: BROOKWOOD CEMETERY, WOKING, SURREY.
UNMARKED GRAVE 222960
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map