THE SECOND WORLD WAR (1939-1945)

George Frederkick "Buzz" Beurling

Buzz Beurling had the reputation of being the most successful Canadian fighter pilot of the Second World War.

Nicknamed “Screwball”, he was a magnificent, courageous flyer and fighter, and a brilliant tactician, but he was also a loner, a daredevil and a discipline problem. Nevertheless, he racked up more than 30 victories during his four years with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), most of which were won during his five and a half months in the Malta theatre of operations. Bob Middlemiss, who flew Spitfires with Beurling, recalls his friend…

“Beurling had unbelievable eyesight. He could see further than anyone, I believe, in the Air Force. [He was] a superb marksman, being able to hit enemy aircraft from great angles off or deflection, and an excellent pilot with great confidence [who] knew that his job was to shoot down the enemy.

“[One day] we were both interviewed by the wing commander for our officer’s commission… I arrived all polished and in full uniform. Just before the appointed time, Beurling arrived from the aerodrome where he had been working with the groundcrew. [He] came in sweaty, in shorts and quite dusty. His first statement to me was, ‘Bob, could you lend me your comb to do my hair?’”

During his interview, Beurling said that “he really did not want to be commissioned because of the saluting and all the other things”. Nevertheless, he and Middlemiss became officers in July 1942.

After recovering from wounds suffered in Malta, Beurling — now Canada’s leading ace — returned home to help sell war bonds. He then went on to train new fighter pilots, but he wanted a flying job again and transferred from the RAF to the RCAF. After destroying more enemy aircraft, he released from service in 1944. He later joined the Israeli Air Force and was killed in a crash at Rome Airport in 1948. He is buried in Israel.

Buzz Beurling was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame in 1974 and the Quebec Aviation Hall of Fame in 2001.

 

F/O Bob Middlemiss (left) and F/O Buzz Beurling buy Canadian Victory Bonds in England.