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H E Beven ( Jimmy) 1911 – 2009 MHS 25-29

Jimmy was born at Tangalle in Sri Lanka on 23rd February 1911. His father, Alan Bevan, was a judge in what was then known as Ceylon, where the family lived. At the end of world war 1, at the age of seven, Jimmy left Ceylon and his father brought him to England to go to Lindisfarne prep school.

At the age of 13 he went to Mill Hill School where he was one of the first intake into the new Winterstoke House and he was somewhat sad when Winterstoke became Grimsdell ! Jimmy was a good all round sportsman.

Because of a change in the family’s finances Jimmy was unable to go to Oxford as had been intended and he left school and went into an insurance company which he hated. He then worked in an advertising agency he didn’t like that either and abandoned life in London. He took the job of Bursar of All Hallows School at Honiton in Devon and so bagan a life time career as a bursar.

With the outbreak of world war 2 he joined the RAF and joined 106 quadron Bomber Command and there follows an article he wrote about one of the missions that he undertook.

“ 106 Squadron was stationed at RAF Metheringham in Lincolnshire. In April 1994 it was operating the Avro Lancaster. It was a full moon and Bomber Command did not fly it’s usual operations over Germany because of the losses that would result from German night fighters. Imagine how we felt when we were told that the six most senior crews were the only aircraft in Bomber Command to be flying that night!

The object of the operation was to keep the two pocket battleships, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in (Gerdinia) Gdynia. They had been damaged by mines and were undergoing repairs. Three of our planes were to drop mines from high level; and three from low level were to block Koningsberg canal our plane was one of the high level ones. Our course was to fly over the North sea at 500 feet in order to avoid radar, then on reaching Denmark to climb to our operational height of 10,000 feet, fly across Denmark and Sweden to Gdynia – lay our mines and follow the same route back. If in trouble we were to try and reach Sweden. We were not to worry about anti-aircraft fire as it would not be aimed at us, as the Swedes knew that we were coming! The outward trip was uneventful. It was strange to see the lights in Swedish towns. At Govnia we could see the railway yards, ships etc: clearly. We also had with us a naval officer with special equipment to see if he could spot the exact position of the two battleships. Having laid our mines we took the same course home again without trouble.

We were airborn for 10 hours, the longest of my operational trips. It also made a change from the usual operational trip over Germany !
The next day over the radio we heard that Sweden had protested to Germany and Great Britain that unidentified aircraft had flown over her territory!!! “

On Jimmy’s crews’ last mission, their plane was shot down on St Georges Day 1944 and he was taken prisoner. He was prisoner for a year and then, when the war was coming to an end the concentration camp guards forced the prisoners to walk for 500 miles through Germany in the Winter snow to get away form the Russians. They just made it to the American section before cold, starvation or the Russians killed them. An amazing feat ! Jimmy was repatriated at the end of the war and returned to his position of bursar of All Hallows.

His parents were now permanently resident in Wimbledon and as they were becoming older Jimmy felt that he wanted to be nearer to them. He therefore applied for and was appointed to the position of Bursar of St John’s School Leatherhead – a position he held until his retirement 30 years later. He used to tell tales of the derring-do of himself and the young masters celebrating their freedom from the forces and behaving badly all around the school. In his position as Clerk to the Governors of St John’s School Council he had a lot to do with Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, who was Chairman of the Governors for 16 years. The Chaiman who followed Monty, Martin Monier-Williams, says: “Jimmy must have been the most skilful Bursar whom the school has had, and he steered the school finances through the difficult days after the war. I shall always remember Council Meetings when I joined, the only people allowed to speak were Monty, Jimmy and (occasionally) the headmaster. The fact that Jimmy was so repected by the Field Marshal was a tribute to Jimmy for his enormous skill and tact. The school owes him a great deal of gratitude.

Jimmy took a keen interest in Mill Hill School and was a life Governor up until the time of his death.

Frederick Thorne (MHS 43 – 48) friend and neighbour

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