b. 17/02/1943 St Fergus, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 20/03/1974 London.
James “Jim” Wallace Beaton (1943-) was born in St. Fergus, Aberdeenshire, on 16th February 1943, the son of James A and Barbara Beaton (nee McDonald). He was educated at Peterhead Academy after primary education in St Fergus, and joined the Metropolitan Police in 1962. In 1965, he married Anne Ballantyne, and they have two children, Linda and Shona.
After service at Notting Hill, Harrow Road and Wembley, where he was Station Sergeant he was appointed a Royal Protection officer in ‘A’ Division in 1973. He was also noted for his skills in marksmanship which also saw him recognised as a good candidate for Royal Protection.
He was promoted to Inspector, and was appointed to the protection of Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, and her husband, Captain Mark Phillips. The couple had married in November 1973.
On 20th March 1974, the royal car approached the junction of The Mall and Marlborough Road, a white car swerved in front of it, causing the driver, Mr Callender, to stop suddenly. The driver of the white car, Ian Ball, then got out and headed for the royal car. Inspector Beaton got out to see what the problem was, and Ball shot him in the shoulder. Despite his wound, Beaton drew his pistol and fired at Ball, but missed. He was unable to fire again as his gun jammed, and as he moved towards the nearside of the car, Ball told him to drop his weapon or he would shoot Princess Anne. Beaton placed the weapon down. Ball was then trying to open the back door of the car and demand that Princess Anne get out, but the Princess and her husband Captain Mark Phillips were struggling to keep the door closed. As soon as the lady in waiting got out the other side of the car, Beaton dived in to shield Princess Anne. Captain Phillips closed the door, and Beaton saw that Ball was about to fire, and put his hand in the way.
Despite a wound to the hand, he told Captain Phillips to release the door so he could kick it at Ball to knock him off balance. However, before he could do this, Ball opened the door and shot Beaton in the stomach, and he collapsed to the floor. Mr Callender then tried to disarm Ball but was shot in the chest. Several passers by then got involved. Mr McConnell, a taxi driver was trying to reason with Ball but was shot in the chest. Constable Hills approached and tried to take the gun but was shot in the stomach and collapsed. Mr Martin, a passing motorist then came to Constable Hills aid and helped him to the side of the road. Another motorist, Mr Russell stopped his vehicle, jumped out and ran to Ball and punched him in the back of the head. Ball turned and fired but missed. He then tried to drag Princess Anne from the car, but Russell punched him in the face, and she managed to get back in. Ball then decided to run off. Constable Edmonds gave chase and knocked him down and disarmed him.
The wounded men were all taken to hospital. They all survived their injuries, and on 27th September 1974, the London Gazette announced the award of a George Cross to Inspector Jim Beaton, and Constable Michael Hills and Mr Russell were given George Medals. Mr Callender, Constable Edmonds and Mr Brian McConnell were awarded Queen’s Gallantry Medals and Mr Martin got a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery. Ian Ball was taken into custody and went to Rampton Hospital under the Mental Health Act. He was later moved to Broadmoor Prison on Dartmoor. Jim Beaton, when asked about Ball, said “I am not surprised about the lack of remorse because he was mentally ill. But in a sense his comments about Royal security were right. Nobody expected anything like that to happen, not even with the IRA. We took precautions but nothing like you have today. I was walking past the door at the wrong time and they said, “We want someone to help with the Royal protection team,” and that was it. There were no interviews or training.”
Jim Beaton returned to protecting Princess Anne after recovering from his wounds, and held the post until 1979. In 1982 Jim became The Queen’s Police Officer. He was appointed LVO in 1987 and advanced to CVO in 1992. After retirement from the Police Service with the rank of Chief Superintendent in 1992, he worked as a Head of Security with Elf Oil in Aberdeen. Jim retired in 2000 and moved near his two daughters and grandchildren. He served as a Justice of the Peace and enjoys golf and an out-door life. Jim served as Chairman of the VC and GC Association from 2003 to 2014. Jim’s medals are on loan to the Imperial War Museum, London and on display in the Ashcroft Gallery.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM (LOAN).