Gilbert Roger Wallis Beal

Gilbert Roger Wallis Beal

Regiment:8th Punjab Regiment
Country:United Kingdom
Service Number:unknown
Cemetary/Memorial: Yorkshire

Born on 18th December 1902 in Wandsworth, Captain Beal died on 3rd October 1943, aged 40, at Coronation Hospital, Ilkeley, Yorkshire.

Gilbert was the fourth of five sons of Edward Beal, barrister, and Jane Louisa Beal, daughter of John Thomas Southey of Calcutta. He was brother to Stuart, Slievert, Basil and Noel, as well as Winifred and Bertha.

Gilbert was a pupil at St Ronan’s from 1913 to 1916 where he was a keen sportsman, described as ‘quick and ‘nippy’, he was especially good at athletics and a noted footballer. He was a Prefect and in the soccer and rugby teams.

In 1916, The Ronian reported that the Headmaster had invited the boys to make suggestions as to possible alterations in the “rules and methods at present in vogue at Saint Ronan’s”. The following is a letter from Gilbert:
`’Dear Sir,

I really can’t see the sense of getting up punctually at 7.30.

Please don’t think me rude, but it seems such rot. I am sure five minutes is quite enough both for dressing and washing, as far as my requirements go at any rate. Also I don’t think long nick­ names should be allowed. I don’t mind “Picture of Innocence,” but I do object to “ Imperfect Ablutioner.” BEAL”

In September 1916, it was noted in The Ronian that Gilbert had been instructed to take to the baths at Harrogate, ‘for the good of his soul’.

He returned to visit Saint Ronan’s in 1927 and in 1939.

He went on to Winchester College, where he played in his house soccer XI and in the school 2nd XI, and for the Old Wykehamist soccer XI in 1922 and 1923. He was also a House Prefect.

After leaving Winchester in 1921 Beal went to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. In 1923 he was attached to the 1st Worcestershire Regiment after which he served with the 3/8th Punjab Regt, India Army from 1924 until his retirement in 1938.

In 1926 he was appointed Quartermaster, in 1932 he was made Captain and subsequently in 1934 he was appointed as Quarter Master and Adjutant) at the Small Arms School, Ahmednagar. He served on the North West frontier from 1930-31.

Following his retirement he became a schoolmaster at St Ronan’s.

The Ronian reported in 1925:

“G. R. W. Beal (Winchester), has just been posted to the 3rd Battalion of the Punjab Regiment. He has written great accounts recently of his big game hunting.”

In 1934, he married Eleanor Joan Samuleson (b. Bengal, 1909) in Ireland.

In 1938, he retiredrom the Indian Army and took up a new position as a partner in a mink farm in Rye. 1940 saw him join the staff of Saint Ronan’s.

And in 1940, The Ronian noted:
“Then, if we still had time, we could go down and watch Captain Beal fishing, and we were almost certain to see a couple of two-pounders on the bank, as he is a fisherman of great skill and cunning and the Bicton fish have not met his like before.”

The following is an extract from “The View from King Street”, an autobiography by Christopher Hurst (1929-2007), director of C. Hurst & Co. Publishers:

"Strangely some of us did not take to it at first, and repined for our hugga-mugga at Worthing, which now became nostalgically known as "old St Ronan's". For a few days the prof, one other boy and I met in the breaks and solemnly planned to run away. But I knew that I was attracted to Bicton: it provided a counter-weight to our cheerless, frumpish house outside Oxford. Inhabited now by the extended St Ronan's family, Bicton became a welcoming place and almost seemed designed for our informal style. The end of breaks was signalled by a bugle call expertly blown by a new addition to our staff, Captain Gilbert Beal, in appearance and manner a stereotype of the Indian Army Officer of old, but an accomplished writer and raconteur who had written under a pseudonym for Indian newspapers, and whose wife taught us drawing. He had been a boy at St Ronan’s in the Great War, and told us of his excitement at hearing the news of "Jutland", rather as we heard about the sinking of the “Bismarck”. Beal was still under forty, but his health had been broken in India, and he died before the end of the war. We were fonder of him than any of our other war-time replacements."

He went on to become an Inspector of Naval Ordnance and his death is recorded in The Ronian, January 1944, as follows:
‘Gilbert Beal died at his job as an Inspector of Naval Ordnance in October. Had he stayed on here as a master, I think he might have lived much longer, but he wished, and one can only honour him for it, to take a more active part in the war. I felt at the time that his decision could only have one end. He was a good schoolmaster and great fun as a colleague.”

In 1941, Gilbert wrote the following for The Ronian:
“Then and Now

Twenty-seven years ago I came to S. Ronan’s. Twenty-six years ago the First World War burst upon an equally unready England. Since then I have been soldier, free (very free) lance journalist, and fur farmer. Now that I have returned at a similar moment in our history to praise great men and the fathers who were before, among the sons who follow after, memories of Saint Ronan’s during the former war may prove interesting.

Events were more exciting then. A Western front that stretched from sea to Alps; dim and hazy doings in Mespot; the Dardanelles, and at the end of my time at S. Ronan’s the crowning glory of Jutland. This was in my last term. On the evening of the 31st of May, Harry came into our room and told us that he had just had a telephone message from London. His voice was grave, and it was to a very silent circle of boys that he told that there had been a great Naval battle and as far as was at present known the losses were about equal. It seemed actually to us almost incredible that there could be any question of who would win such a battle.

Perhaps it was because he knew I had two Naval brothers that Harry left me in the Reading Room the next morning with instructions to report fully to him (he would be busy putting up the nets) any developments which the papers might report. I remember now waiting in the Reading Room till they were brought along. Seizing, I think it was, a Daily Express, reading the headlines, which gave the real apprecia¬tion of the victory we had gained. Then with the paper half crumpled in my hand jumping up and down on the seat by the Reading Room window on the left of the fireplace, and giving a series of incoherent whoops and halloos, until Harry in desperation came to the very fence opposite to hear what on earth I had got to say. Even then, so incoherent was I, that it was not until, holding the paper in my hand, and having transgressed all the laws of the Medes and Persians and emerged through the window, that he realised to the full the real purport of the news. As now, a wave of enthusiasm for things military seized us.

The first ‘Army’ was a small one. I think I am right in saying that it was composed of one Boyd, two Grylls, one Garrett, one MacGregor, and a Beal. Aptly enough, I think I am also right in saying that of these all but two became in time regular soldiers. Their example was quickly followed and a bigger, and, so they said, better corps came into being.

The carpenters’ shop produced wooden rifles on a scale which might well have been termed astronomic. Soon the fields rang to orders of “slope arms, order arms”, and the hoarse cries of challenging sentries. Old boys returning on a few brief days’ leave in the full panoply of war were so intrigued by our martial spirit that without exception they all spared a few minutes to put us through it. And we loved it. Wheeling and marching, chests out, chins in, and knees braced back, and regretting intensely the moment when it was all over.

Two such drill sergeants remain most firmly in my memory. The first was Bombardier J. T. Ruffer, who spun our little squad round on an area the size of a halfpenny, and whose like I never met until seven years later I fell into the clutches of the Sandhurst drill sergeant. The other, C. E. Raymond-Barker, whose methods were of the very gentlest and yet the most persuasive, and who rewarded our efforts by a conjuring show in the open air of which my strongest memory is the absolutely incredible number of billiard balls which he caused to materialize and to vanish again at will. Alas, within a fortnight or so of leaving S. Ronan’s he was killed in France.

Then a big crisis arose. The original and older foundation had been referred to by the more numerous and less exclusive creation as “the kiddy corps” It was only by exercising the greatest diplomacy and tact over a period of days that amalgamation was agreed upon. Perhaps expansion was in the blood, for hardly had the S. Ronan’s Rifle Corps, as it was termed, become a composite body, than it was decided that it must have music wherever it went. On high days and holidays eight buglers and four drummers, under the able leadership of Drum-Major Jim Boyd, made the air redolent with martial music. Practices were carried out almost daily at the far end of the field which now borders on Grand Avenue, where at that time was a small isolated hut. The conditions in that hut, with four drummers and eight buglers tightly packed together inside, and each intent upon playing his own particular piece loudest, can only be imagined. But we definitely enjoyed it. And it was with very tender memories that I spotted hanging in the museum at Worthing the Drum-Major’s staff which Jim Boyd had wielded so ably.

Although we had no air raid alarms, nor gas masks, nor any of the other attendant horrors of modern conflict, the constant stream of old boys that came to visit the school brought the war very close to us in the most personal way.

S. Ronan’s feels far less “at war” now than it did then. But that is no matter for regret. May it remain so, and may those who are here now grow up into a world which has not only found peace, but has solved the problem of preserving it.”

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