Stephen Beaumont: 609 (West Riding) Squadron

Flight Lieutenant Stephen G Beaumont – 609 Squadron

Stephen Gerald Beaumont was born on 2 May 1910, the eldest of three sons of Gerald Beaumont of Hatfield Hall, Wakefield. His father, who had been awarded the MC and Bar in the First World War, headed the family firm of Greaves, Atter & Beaumont, solicitors.

Stephen was educated at Oundle and New College, Oxford. In 1931, after visiting Kenya, he entered the family firm as a qualified solicitor and after his father’s death he took on increased responsibilities in his twenties. In 1936 he had become a “weekend flyer” in 609 (West Riding) Squadron Auxiliary Air Force at RAF Yeadon north of Leeds.

During the “Phoney War”, the squadron undertook defence patrols over the north of England and Scotland; when France and the Low Countries were invaded in May 1940, 609 was ordered south to Northolt. When, at the end of May, the BEF was evacuated from Dunkirk, Beaumont flew sorties against heavy odds to provide fighter cover for troops on the beaches. Subsequently, after fighting in the early part of the Battle of Britain, he left the squadron, having served briefly as its acting commander. When Beaumont left 609, seven of the 12 pilots with whom he had gone to war were dead and two were invalids. Of an additional 12 who had joined later, only three were alive. Posted to No 7 OTU at Hawarden, Beaumont found life “restful” after the stress of operations over the Channel and southern England. He was subsequently promoted to Squadron Leader and Chief Instructor.

In July 1941 Beaumont moved on to Fighter Command’s No. 9 Group defending the North West and was Mentioned in Despatches. In August 1942 Beaumont was promoted Wing Commander and posted to Andreas on the Isle of Man, which was a diversionary airfield for Flying Fortress bombers coming in from the United States and Beaumont invariably welcomed pilots and crews.
In the spring of 1943 Beaumont briefly commanded Woodvale on the Lancashire coast before moving to Zeals in Wiltshire, where he boldly amalgamated the RAF and WAAF messes. Posted as Group Captain in July 1943 to No. 84 Group, 2nd Tactical Air Force, in the role of Deputy Air Officer Administration, he was soon involved in preparations for the D-Day invasion on 6 June 1944. In Normandy he lived and worked in the back of a three-ton truck complete with washbasin. After being invalided home with hepatitis he returned to 2nd TAF in time for VE Day.

After the war Beaumont became Clerk to the Governors of Wakefield charities, Clerk to the Commissioners of Tax, and Secretary of the Wakefield Chamber of Commerce, Deputy Coroner, for Wakefield and Chairman of the Wakefield Hospital Management Group. In 1967 Beaumont was appointed Deputy Lord Lieutenant for the West Riding of Yorkshire, and in 1979 High Sheriff of West Yorkshire. In retirement at Devizes in Wiltshire, Beaumont liked to read poetry. He was also a keen historian and published histories of Wakefield rural district council and of the Sheriffs of Yorkshire and Wiltshire.

He died in September 1997.

Posted in Memorial Stones.