There are a good deal of people out there in the world today who we would consider to be heroes. They are the people who offer up their time, their actions, or in extreme cases, risk their lives to help others.
James wanted to be a policeman, a hero, and he was going to do anything to reach that goal. Yet even as he made his way through the rigorous training it would take to do such a job, he wouldn’t learn what it actually took to be a hero until many years into his career…
Featured photo credit: www.vcgca.org
Service to the Met
Right from the start, James had wanted to be a part of the London Metropolitan Police. Like many young men from his area of the world, the idea of wearing a uniform, fighting villains, and having the respect of your kin, your king, and your country. When he was old enough to join, he did.
In 1962, James was inducted into the Metropolitan Police Service as a constable. His beat was the affluent and cosmopolitan neighborhood of Notting Hill, within the City of Westminster. He walked this beat until 1966, when his already stellar service earned him a promotion…
After serving the community of Notting Hill with distinction for a few years, James was given the rank of Sergeant and was moved over to Harrow Road. Soon after, he was raised to Station Sergeant and moved to Wembley. But it was in 1974, when he was promoted to inspector that his life finally changed for good…
Inspector James Beaton was now serving in Royal Protection, which meant that he was responsible for seeing to the safety of the British Royal Family and their closest associates. It was a great honor for James and his family and it would ultimately, through his heroic deeds, become his claim to fame as well…
Beaton the Bodyguard
Beaton was on bodyguard duty, a task he was now assigned to quite often while working with the Royalty Protection Squad when the incident occurred. He had been assigned as a Personal Protection Officer to a member of the royal family and was given number 11. His charge on this day, was Princess Anne.
Princess Anne is the second child and the only daughter of the famous Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. At the time of the incident, she had been married to Captain Mark Phillips, who was an English gold-medal-winning equestrian like herself. The incident occurred when the newlyweds were on their way home after a royal engagement…
It was March 20, 1974. Princess Anne and her husband Captain Mark Phillips were returning to Buckingham Palace. They had been to a royal engagement in the city center and were anxious to be getting back. Suddenly, their car was blocked by another vehicle blocking its path.
Bump the Car
Alex Callender, the royal chauffeur, was trying to drive around the vehicle but couldn’t seem to navigate around it. The two cars were playing a bit of chicken. One would go left, the other the same way. Just when Callender believed that the other motorist was purposefully messing with him, the man bumped the princess’ automobile…
Diffuse the Situation
Thinking that he might just be dealing with an irate motorist, who had no idea whom he was messing with, Beaton stepped out of the now parked car. He wanted to diffuse the situation, to calm the man down. No sooner had he done so, however, than he was greeted not with politeness, but with violence.
Beaton’s good nature was rewarded by a gunshot wound to the shoulder. The driver of the other car, an unemployed and mentally unstable man named Ian Ball, had contrived the whole “random encounter.” He had purposely planned to put the princess in that precarious position. Beaton meanwhile, shoulder burning, thought they might be in the middle of an IRA attack…
James Beaton couldn’t be sure if he was dealing with an angry driver or an IRA kidnap attempt, but either way, he wasn’t about to wind up dead. Still, he would willingly give his life it meant saving the princess. Little did he know how close he would actually come to fulfilling that particular oath on that day.
Beaton drew his own gun, and in true, suspense/action movie fashion, it jammed as he tried to fire. Ball went for the Princess and he did the only other thing he could, he jumped in front of her. Ball fired again just as he did so and the bullet hit Beaton’s hand, shattering it. Things were not looking good…
Ball then fired again, and this time he hit the prone Beaton square in the chest. He collapsed to the ground and was all-but incapacitated. After that, more shots rang out. Ball had shot the royal chauffeur and even a passing journalist named Brian McConnell who had tried to come over and help. Luckily for all of them, neither the Princess nor Beaton were alone in the fight.
Though they hadn’t directly stopped the killer, James Beaton’s heroic actions did manage to buy the princess more time. Another policeman down the block saw what was happening and came to help, as had a former boxer who also happened to be walking by. Before the other officer could mount any sort of rescue, however, Ball turned and gunned the man down…
Gun or not, Ian Ball couldn’t do anything to stop the now enraged boxer’s fists. One good punch later and the would-be kidnapper went down like a sack of potatoes. Emergency workers were called and the unconscious but living Officer Beaton was taken to the hospital to recover. Despite his few wounds, he had suffered quite a bit of damage.
James Beaton, which you can plainly tell by his selfless actions and fierce dedication to his duty, was not like other member of the Metropolitan Police Service. In addition to being an honorable member of the force, he was also tougher than most. He was shot three times in the chest, hand and abdomen and made a full recovery. He was even honored for his self-sacrifice…
The George Cross
For his bravery in the line of duty, James Beaton was awarded the George Cross, the second highest award of the United Kingdom honors system. The George Cross is awarded for “acts of the greatest heroism or for most conspicuous courage in circumstance of extreme danger. It was a high note in an already stellar career.
In recognition of his efforts on the princess’ behalf, Beaton also received the Director’s Honor Award of the United States Secret Service in the same year. As for Callende and McConnell, who were both killed in the act of trying to help the royal family, they posthumously received the Queen’s Gallantry Medal…
After the incident, Beaton was subsequently promoted to Chief Inspector. He remained with the princess for another five years as her Personal Protection Officer until 1979, when he moved on to another assignment and began training as a Chief Superintendent.
He made the position of Superintendent in 1983, and then Chief Superintendent in 1985. By the time he retired in 1992, he had received as much honor as a British policeman can achieve. Just goes to show, all it takes to become a hero and achieve true greatness, is to do simply do heroic deeds when called upon to do so.