George Beurling

George Beurling

George Beurling

George Frederick “Buzz” Beurling DSO, DFC, DFM & Bar, RCAF was the ‘Canadian fighter ace of World War II with the largest number of knockdowns. Depending on the source, the number of its aerial victories varies between 31 and 31 1/3. But, as a result of recent research, one-fifth of his victories seem to have been exaggerated, no matches were found in the records of the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica or are, in fact, be attributed to the effective anti-aircraft in Malta.

It was called the “Falcon of Malta” or the “Knight of Malta”, having shot down 26 planes of the ‘axis in just 14 days. Nine of these were Italians.

“Beurling had an instinctive feeling for aircraft. Quickly realized its characteristics and its extremes. George Beurling was one of the most accurate drivers I’ve ever seen. A pair of sensitive hands gave her a flight fluency unusual in a fighter pilot during the war. His view was absolutely outstanding and could only fire if it was safe to destroy. Two hundred and fifty yards was the distance that he preferred to throw.”

Before being recruited by the RAF as a sergeant pilot in 1942, had tried to fight for the Chinese against the Japanese, for the Finns against the Russians, and with the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Service in the RAF

In the end, Beurling was able to gain acceptance by the Royal Air Force was enlisted as Aircraftman 2nd class, number 1267053. He arrived in the Operational Training Unit at Hawarden in September 1941. Beurling demonstrated considerable skill in flying and training. For Hawarden, came under the influence of British ace Ginger Lacey, whose total was 27 planes shot down.

Lacey later commented: “There was no possibility of doubt: it was a wonderful driver and a sniper even better.”

These two factors, coupled with an exceptional view, were the key to their future success, but were the result of an ongoing commitment. For Hawarden immersed himself in the study of shooting with firearms, the estimation of distances, of ballistics, the curved trajectory of the bullets, imprimendoseli in his subconscious to fly and shoot until he became one action.

In mid-December 1940 he was sent to Hendon, England, the Local Initial Training Wing. In the spring of 1941 it passed to the Elementary Training School No. 5 in the Midlands.

Beurling, in mid December, 1941, was assigned to 403 Squadron, which had just moved to North Weald, Essex, with the rank of Sergeant Pilot. It flew its first combat mission on Christmas of 1941, without encountering any German aircraft. Beurling stayed with 403 Squadron for nearly four months, performing escort missions for bombers across the Channel, similar marker in massive formations Supermarine Spitfire. On a couple of occasions his Squadron was attacked by German fighters but he could not fire a single shot. In the late spring of 1942, the 403 Squadron became a unit composed exclusively by pilots of the Royal Canadian Air Force and Beurling, who was Canadian, but in service with the RAF, he was transferred to No. 41 Squadron, in Sussex. On May, during his third mission, a cruise offensive Calais, his squadron was attacked by five Focke-Wulf 190. Him that, as a newcomer, he flew in the queue to training, was separated from his companions and his Spitfire was severely damaged. Half of his weapons were taken out of service. With the remaining machine guns still managed to hit a German FW 190 and the plane exploded in the air. Two days later, on May 3, broke formation to chase another lone FW 190, which later claimed as destroyed. In doing so, however, he had disobeyed the strict orders that required him to keep training. Strongly criticized by other drivers, to have endangered the entire squadron, he completed three more fruitless missions. Came into conflict with his superiors for his rebellious attitude, he volunteered for a vacancy overseas. He embarked and only seven days later, when he was in Gibraltar he met his destination: Malta.


It is on Malta that George Beurling, becomes the ‘ace with most wins in Canada, revealing one of the shooters and most skilled pilots of the entire RAF. It is said that Beurling owes its spectacular success to a remarkable good eye as much as a combat violent. If attacked from behind, he pulled back the bar of his Spitfire Mk VC so much that the plane could enter in a violent stalemate, it overturned and entered into screwing. This was an aggressive, sudden and very dangerous to be imitated by the enemy fighter in the queue. Or Beurling could push both ailerons that tiller in a sudden and violent turn, which brought the Spitfire to topple and fall like a stone. Only a very experienced pilot (or crazy) could pull these stunts more than once or twice. Beurling had made a sort of habit. He knew that the Spitfire could be pulled out from this type of trouble procured and would take him home safe and sound.

Beurling had his baptism of fire on the morning of 12 June, when, driving the Spitfire BR170/C-25 with three other pilots of 249 Squadron, intercepted eight Messerschmitt Bf 109. Claimed to have blown away the tail of one of the German fighters, but none of his companions saw the Messerschmitt fall to the ground, so it was credited only a damaged plane. After that battle, starting from July 6, Beurling gave way to a series of reliefs that he found no equal in the sky of Malta and at home that earned him the nickname of “Maltese Falcon” and “Knight of Malta” and that he him, for a short time, “the most famous Canadian hero of World War II”. That day “was on board one of eight Spitfires that were sent to intercept three Italian Cant bombers and thirty Macchi MC202, the Italian fighter no more advanced. The eight Spitfire, lying above training at 22,000 feet, dived dive on Italian aircraft. Within a few seconds, Beurling damaging a bomber with a burst. Soon after was in the queue at a Macchi, whose pilot (probably Sergeant Major Francis Pecchiari 51 º Stormo), spotting the Spitfire, it was launched in a dive. The Canadian chased his prey, and when the Italian came out of the dive to 5,000 feet, Beurling let out a two-second burst from 300 yards. It was a perfect shot. ”

Immediately after claiming the killing of another Macchi, but it seems that his second victim was the Reggiane of Lieutenant Roman Pagliani of 152 Squadron that crashed and exploded near Zejtun. That day Beurling claimed to have shot down a third plane, a Messerschmitt, hit by a distance of 800 yards. His victim was almost certainly the Fw Anton Engels of 1 Staffel, maybe the same plane that had been attacked by Pilot Officer Flight Sergeant Glen and Dodd. But two colleagues Engels declared that the Bf 109 was actually hit, right before their eyes, the accurate anti-aircraft artillery of Malta. So it seems possible that the third victim of Beurling was a plane not returned the II/JG53. Anyway, that day were credited three wins in its first air battle of Malta.

Although he had not realized that he had been shot, when Beurling inspected his Spitfire, to Takali, found riddled with bullets.”

On 12 July 1942, Lieutenant Colonel Aldo Quarantotti took off on a Reggiane Re.2001 of the 150 th Fighter Squadron, with Lieutenant Charles Seganti (an ace credited with five knockdowns), in search of Lieutenant Francis Vichi, who died while a Spitfire chasing him, after returning from a mission to Malta. While flying low over the sea, the two were spotted by Reggiane Beurling and his commander, Flg. Off Hetherington, of 249 Squadron, in turn looking fellow Berkeley-Hill who had not returned from a previous mission.

Covered by Hetherington flying a bit ‘higher, Beurling, with his Spitfire BR565 / U, he went behind the two Italian aircraft: “I fired a burst of a second further back on the plane that crashed and caught fire immediately” , recalled later Beurling. “Then I went with a 15 ° angle to the head fighters, up to about 30 meters. I could see every detail of the face of the pilot, he turned to me just as I was shooting and inquadravo. A shot of one of my guns and beheaded him, and he fell into the sea as his colleague. From the first shot fired in the first airplane, had passed no more than six or seven seconds.” Lieutenant Colonel Aldo Quarantotti and Lieutenant Charles Seganti were awarded the Gold Medal for Military Valour “to the memory.”

On July 23, took off with seven other pilots of 249 Squadron claimed to have blasted the wing to a net Reggiane, after a long aerial combat. In fact, the only loss was that of the Italian Sergeant Major Bruno Di Pauli’s 151 Squadron. But the pilot of the Royal Air Force declared that he launched after his Macchi 202, which had been damaged by flak Maltese, lost power and only when he realized he was being followed by six Spitfires who had not yet opened fire.

On Monday, July 27, 1942, was, for Beurling “the greatest day”. At the controls of a Supermarine Spitfire Mk V BR301, marked with the letters UF-S, was literally blown up, from a distance, the “Thunderbolt” one of the best riders, not just Italians, the conflict, the ace Furio Niclot Doglio . Moments before Niclot, captain of the 20th Group, Beurling had shot down 202 of Sergeant Faliero Gelli, the 150th Group, pilot with three knockdowns to his credit. “As they approached Malta, Gelli discovered that his new wingman (on his first mission of the war) had disappeared. Naive fool, Gelli told himself, just as he experienced a new sensation but immediately recognizable. His hunting was swinging violently. Spare wing flew from all sides and black smoke coming out profusely under the bonnet. It was at 25,000 feet, immediately threw his plane diving. When called, was on Gozo, the second largest island in the north of Malta. Flying over your victory, its capital, so low on the ground that the roof of a church touched his left wing. Seconds later impacted in a rocky field just outside the city.”

Beurling Macchi went to the core of Gelli, before being spotted. It also had to suffer the same fate as his commander, Niclot Doglio. Intent to maneuver to attack from the other low Spitfire arriving at “12 o’clock” did not notice the attack resulted from Ace Canadian side that went to the core “Thunderbolt” the captain of the 151 Squadron with numerous rounds of cannon 20 mm Hispano-Suiza.” That poor devil just jumped into pieces.”

Niclot, before the war, held seven world records for flight, and it was an ace credited with seven knockdowns, six of which Spitfire (two more knockdowns he had obtained in collaboration with his wingman, Ennio Tarantola), all aerial victories achieved in the four weeks of fighting on the island-fortress. Beurling, accompanied by an intelligence agent, went to meet Gelli who said his name Cino Valentini, or so he understood the Canadian driver.

“L ‘eyetie (IT, initials of” English “, in the jargon, ed) was in the Air Force Italian since 1936 and in the last five months in Sicily, during which he had knocked down three Spitfires. He asked me what I thought of the Italian drivers and I said, “Very good, but your tactic is not good!” He asked me what I wanted to say and I replied, “Well, in the meantime your formations are too tight. You have to spend so much time to focus on training, and avoiding the wake of your comrades and the tips of their wings, so you do not have chance to look around. “Valentini said he was the one who taught Italian air force, meaning that that was fine. I think he thought I did not know what I’m talking about. To him I was just a guy who had been lucky enough to knock down a real pilot.”

Before Niclot and Gelli, Beurling had already broken down the sergeant Pecchiari Francis, Lieutenant and Sergeant Romano Pagliani Francesco Visentin, a veteran of the Italian Air Corps to Belgium in 1940.

The Eyetiis are easier to break down the Germans.Yes, I am brave enough. Actually, I think they have more courage of the Germans, but their tactics are not so good. They are excellent fliers, but they try to do stunts and loops and do not stop even when the situation is unfavorable to them, while the Germans, in their shoes, would have already fled.

The Jerries (Germans, in slang, ed) are probably the best overall riders of the Italians, but certainly they leave the Italians to fight when things go wrong. When will the final accounts I hope someone takes this into account.”

Beurling was one of the few pilots in the RAF to master the “deflection shot,” the shot “curved”, and at a distance – so with the calculation of ‘”advance” – a fast-moving targets. That same day claimed the killing of two Messerschmitt Bf 109, including that of Lieutenant Karl-Heinz Preu of Geschwaderstab./ JG.53, an ace with 8 (according to other authors 5) knockdowns.

George “Buzz” Beurling, for the success of that day, received the Distinguished Flying Medal.

But some of his victories do not seem to be confirmed by subsequent checks. The killing of Preu, for example, it is doubtful: according to the German historian Jochen Prien, author of his ponderous volume “Geschwader 53″, Preu was shot down and killed by flak over Valletta.

On September 26, then took off with another 11 Spitfire. He collided with a dozen Bf 109 to 30 miles north-east of Zonqor Point. Beurling claimed to have “disintegrated” a first Messerschmitt, have strafed a second and a third hit that “engulfed in flames, beat vertically plunging into the sea,” while the pilot launched by parachute. But two of these victims appear to have been, in fact two German fighters which, although damaged, managed to return to base. And the third may have been driven to Obwf Kurt Görbing (White 11/10551) of 2 Staffel, who made ​​an emergency landing and died shortly thereafter.

Another day of his aerial victories of Malta is considered on October 10. That day, the Canadian pilot was trying to fly the Spitfire (EP706/TL) when he was directed by the radar operators to intercept two Bf 109, which flew side by side at 300 meters on Filfla. Beurling claimed to have hit the plane left engine and that it made an emergency landing on the island, then spilling over the back. “The second veered towards the sea and then returned to Filfla. Then I hit him in the tank and the plane exploded, with all the pilot. ” But in reality there is no record of emergency landings Messerschmitt nor the date of October 10, 1942, any loss on the German side. The reliefs were then accredited and these two victories brought the total number of aircraft destroyed by the Canadian pilot of Malta to 21, plus another in collaboration with two pilots. On the morning of October 13, the Plt Off Beurling, at the controls of the Spitfire BR173/TD, with his 249 Squadron attacked a formation of Ju 88, escorted by 30 Bf 109, three miles north of St. Paul’s Bay. Claimed to have hit a bomber after a Bf 109 that blew up in flames. A few seconds later he shot a second Messerschmitt, but did not observe any shot hitting the target. “But the pilot bailed out.” And six days later, on October 16, at Beurling was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

But Beurling was not invincible. On Malta was shot down four times.

On October 14, 1942 (its last flight out of Malta), Beurling took off with six other riders of his 249 Squadron, to intercept a raid Ju88, with an escort of 60 Bf 109, Macchi 202 and Reggio’s 2001 arrived at 13.10. Spitfires attacked the extensive formation of Axis planes just south of Zonqor Point. “The Falcon of Malta” strafed a bomber – who claimed shot down – but was struck by the gunner of the Junker: “I made at least 30 holes.” Claimed to have damaged a Messerschmitt and soon after that he blew the left wing at the root of another Bf 109. A few seconds later, another German fighter hit him from below. Beurling was wounded in the heel, elbow and ribs. He managed to struggle to bail out. Fell into the sea where it was recovered. During this action actually no German fighter was destroyed in flight. One was damaged in combat and had to make an emergency landing in San Pietro in Sicily. Beurling was probably shot down Obfw Riker’s 4/JG53 or Ltn Karl von Lieres of 2/JG27 (who was credited with the victory 26a). The Luftwaffe at this meeting did not lose any game, only a Bf 109 of I/JG53 returned damaged at the base, and its pilot, the Obfw Josef Ederer had to make an emergency landing in Sa Peter. Even the seven declared JU88 shot down by the RAF in reality only one failed to return to base. Screwball, seriously wounded by shrapnel, jumped with a parachute. Ammarò and went on his inflatable dinghy. The rescue service in Malta saw at once to his aid, finding more worried about finding the small bible who had given him his mother of his injuries, including one to the heel appeared particularly serious.


At the end of the war, his total had risen to 31 1/3. After the war, he could not adapt to civilian life and was reduced to begging on the streets of Montreal. He died in the fire of a Canadian aircraft propeller (Noorduyn Norseman), along with another former RAF pilot in Malta, Leonard Cohen, during a landing at the airport of the City of Rome. She was 26 years old and over 4,000 flight hours. His remains were unrecognizable. The one on the airport between the Roman Via Salaria and the Tiber, was its tenth emergency landing. Beurling was waiting to go at flying P-51D Mustang in Israel, the Arab-Israeli war, so there was talk of a possible sabotage, which never found the evidence. The “Maltese Falcon” was taken to the morgue of the hospital of the Holy Spirit. At his funeral attended or not the companion (Live Stokes) neither family nor his friends. His coffin, after remaining unburied in a warehouse at the Monumental Cemetery of Verano, for three months, with no one claimed the body for burial, was made by the widow buried in the Protestant Cemetery of the Pyramid of Cestius, near the graves of John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley. But two and a half years later, November 9, 1950, the mortal remains of Beurling (and Leonard Cohen) were brought to Israel in Haifa. The coffin, draped with blue and white Israeli flag, was exposed in a nearby Israeli Air Force base, while a guard of honor made them tribute. During the funeral along the streets of Haifa, Israeli warplanes flew over the coffin for a final farewell. Finally, the remains of Beurling were reinterred in Zahal Cemetery, at the foot of Mount Carmel. His grave is marked, as well as the others, only by name, serial number and degree: for Beurling, to Segen, captain, in Hebrew.

After his death, in a book by the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

who was also fascinated – as Beurling – the freedom of flight, it was found, he emphasized, the following sentence: “I hate this century with all my heart. A man can die of thirst in it. ”

“At Verdun the only reminder of his famous son is the boulevard that bears the name of Beurling.”


•Beurling, George and Roberts, Leslie. Malta Spitfire: The Buzz Beurling Story. London: Penguin Books, 2002. ISBN 0-14-301237-1.

•Beurling, George and Leslie Roberts. Malta Spitfire: The Story of a Fighter Pilot. New York / Toronto: Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., 1943. 40.

•Cull, Brian with Frederick Galea: “Spitfires over Malta.” London: Grub Street, 2006. ISBN 978-1-904943-30-3.

•Cull, Brian with Frederick Galea. 249 at Malta: Malta’s top-scoring Fighter Squadron from 1941 to 1943. Malta, Wise Owl Publication, 2004. ISBN 99932-32-52-1.

•Laddie Lucas (edit mode). Wings of war. London: Hutchinson, 1983 ISBN 0-09-154280-4

•Massimello, John. Furio Niclot Doglio A pilot unforgettable. Milan: Giorgio Apostolo Editore, 1998.

•Nolan, Brian. Hero: The Buzz Beurling Story. London: Penguin Books, 1981. ISBN 0-14-006266-1.

•Prien, Jochen. Jagdgeschwader 53 – A History of the “Pik As” Geschwader May 1942 – January 1944. Atglen PA, Schiffer Military History, 1998. ISBN 0-7643-0292-2.

•Rogers, Anthony. Battle over Malta: Aircraft Losses and Crash sites 1940-42. Sutton Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-7509-2392-X.

•Shores, Christopher and Brian Cull with the collaboration of Nicola Malizia Malta: the Spitfire year 1942. 1991

•Spick, Mike. The complete fighter ace – All the World’s Fighter Aces, 1914-2000. London: Greenhill Books, 1999. ISBN 1-85367-374-9

Aces of World War II British aviation

Pilots of the Royal Air Force

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