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Memorial Plaque to Major General Daniel Beak VC 1891–1967

A memorial plaque was unveiled at the Cheltenham War Memorial on 27 September 2006 to Major General Daniel Marcus William Beak VC, DSO, MC & Bar in a ceremony organised by The Royal British Legion and sponsored by This England magazine.

Daniel Beak was a student at the School from 1906 to 1910. He was the only Southampton man to be awarded the VC in World War One.

Ted Heath represented the Association at the ceremony.

Daniel Beak VC Memorial Plaque
Daniel Beak VC Memorial Plaque (inscription)
  Civic procession to the War Memorial
Civic procession to the War Memorial

The Civic Party was lead to the War Memorial by Mayor of Cheltenham, Jacky Fletcher. The gathering was welcomed by Peter Worsley (Chairman, Cheltenham YMCA and of This England magazine). Others present included: Didy Grahame (VC & GC Association), Captain Kevin Wilson and Brigadier Kit Jebens CBE, Reverend Lionel Fitz (President, Cheltenham YMCA and Acting RBL Chaplain) and Philippe Drouin (Somme Remembrance Association).

During a short dignified ceremony, Captain Kevin Wilson and Brigadier Kit Jebens CBE recounted Daniel Beak's actions, prayers were lead by the Reverend Lionel Fitz, and the Mayor unveiled the memorial plaque mounted on the low balustrade surrounding the War Memorial.

 

The following extract, on Daniel Beak, is taken from H Spooner's A History of Taunton's School, Southampton, 1760–1967:

… and to crown all, one Victoria Cross, the only one awarded to a Southampton man. The winner of this coveted medal was Daniel Marcus William Beak, at school from 1906 to 1910 and twice captain of the Chipperfields. If his war career had been described in a novel, it would have been abruptly dismissed by the reader as an improbable fiction. He joined the ranks of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as soon as War broke out, was commissioned as a Sub-Lieutenant, saw much active service and won rapid promotion. In 1917 he became adjutant of his battalion and before the year was out he had won the Military Cross and a Bar to it, and the Distinguished Service Order followed in January 1918. In April 1918, he was made commander of the Drake Battalion of the Naval Brigade and for services in France in August came the supreme award… "for conspicuous bravery, courageous leadership and devotion to duty during a prolonged period of operations. He led his men in attack, and despite heavy machine-gun fire, four enemy positions were captured.

… Four days later, though dazed by a shell fragment, in the absence of the brigade commander, he re-organised the whole brigade under extremely heavy gunfire and led his men with splendid courage to their objective. An attack having been held up, he rushed forward accompanied by only one runner and succeeded in breaking up a nest of machine-guns, personally bringing back nine or ten prisoners. His fearless example instilled courage and confidence into his men who then quickly resumed advance under his leadership…. In attack, his initiative, coupled with the confidence with which he inspired all ranks, not only enabled his own and neighbouring units to advance, but contributed very materially to the success of the Naval Division in these operations."

Mark Beak was feted and lionised in his native town but bore himself very modestly. He was given the freedom of Southampton, testimonials were subscribed by the Borough and the School, his portrait was painted and hung in the School and he was honoured in a dozen ways, not least in his own view by the invitation to preside at the first post-war Old Boys' Dinner. In a letter to his old Headmaster, Beak wrote, "I can only say I feel very undeserving of such an award, and my one regret is that it was not given to my Battalion, as a fitting acknowledgement of the magnificent deeds performed by those splendid men it has been my privilege to command, rather than to me personally."


Inscription on Memorial Plaque

TO THE MEMORY OF
MAJOR-GENERAL DANIEL BEAK, VC, DSO, MC & BAR
1891–1967 AND FORMER SECRETARY OF CHELTENHAM YMCA

AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS FOR OUTSTANDING BRAVERY
WITH THE ROYAL NAVAL VOLUNTEER RESERVE IN FRANCE
DURING AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER 1918



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