THE HALL OF HONOURS
Henry John Beaton was born in London on 17 April 1884 and was employed as Assistant Electrical Engineer with the G.P.O. in Sydney, Australia, when he volunteered for service abroad on 14 September 1914, at the age of 30. His prior military services consisted of 6 years in the London R.G.A. Volunteers. On the aforementioned date he enlisted with the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, A.I.E.F. and received No. 716 on his Attestation Paper and Paybook No. 35368 S.W.
The Belgian Croix Civique with 1914-1915 bar to Lieutenant H. Beaton
The medical examiner found him to be 5 feet 7¾ inches tall, weighing 140 lbs, of fair complexion and having blue eyes and brown hair. His religion was stated as Presbyterian.
Enlisted as a gunner, he was soon, on 19 October 1914 made a driver, one day after embarking for Egypt. On 8 March 1915 he was promoted to Bombardier whilst stationed in Mena and with the M.E.F. landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.
During his service on the peninsula he received a bullet wound in the right arm but remained on duty and on 8 September 1915 was promoted to Provisional Corporal. He subsequently returned to Egypt, disembarking in Alexandria on 22 December.
On 21 February 1916 Henry Beaton was transferred to the 4th Division Artillery and posted to 101st Battery in the 21st Howitzer Brigade at Tel-el-Kebir where he was promoted Temporary Sergeant on 10 March.
A fortnight later, on 25 March, he proceeded to join the B.E.F. at Alexandria, arriving in Marseilles, France, on 1 April 1916. His temporary promotion was confirmed on 5 May 1916 and Sergeant Beaton returned to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade on 15 May.
All through 1916 and until 19 April 1917 he apparently "did his bit" in France. On that day he received a shell wound and was concussed. After 6 weeks of treatment, he returned to duty and then, on 3 July was detached for duty as artillery instructor. He returned to his unit on 28 August. After another temporary detachment, this time to the Artillery School (in the field) on 8 October, Sergeant Beaton was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on 27 October 1917. Early November, while serving with the 2nd Division Artillery in Hannebuk Wood (Ypres sector) he sustained a slight touch of gassing and was treated in the lines. At the time he was acting battery commander, being the only officer left and the personnel at the gun position reduced to 5 men to man 6 guns ! A few days later, on 9 November his position (near Birr Crossroads) was shelled and he was blown up by a heavy German shell and got buried : twenty-four hours rest and resuming duty.
Returning from Artillery School, he was transferred to the 4th Division Artillery on 6 January 1918 and was promoted Lieutenant on 23 April 1918 (effective from 1 March 1918). In May, at Villers Brettoneux, he was again subjected to gassing and treated in the lines. Once more, in September at Cleary on the Somme River, he was gassed and this time was blinded for about 6 hours. He was treated in the lines by the R.M.O. On 7 September 1918 the award of the Belgian Croix Civique was announced and shortly afterwards, on 21 September, Lieutenant Beaton went on furlough to Australia, embarking at Taranto, Italy and arriving in Australia on 23 November 1918. He was discharged from the A.I.F. on 23 January 1919.
After returning to civil life, Henry Beaton resumed his professional activities but over the years suffered from bad health due to his wartime experiences. He never married and died on 30 June 1956, aged 72. Mr. Beaton was the sole "Australian" recipient of this decoration.
Compiled from information provided by Mr. Peter Epps.
A long search in Australian records has finally produced the reason for this award :
Appendix 93 164 - Brigade Routine Orders
By Lieut Colonel C.A.Callaghan D.S.O., Commanding 4th AUST F.A.Brigade
Sept 17th 1918
His Majesty, the King of the Belgiums has awarded the Belgium CROIX CIVIQUE to Lieut H J Beaton, 12th Battery, A.F.A. In recognition of the part played by this officer in rescuing on 20th March 1918, several persons of Belgium nationality from a house in CALAIS which had been demolished by an enemy bomb.
(Auth: 2nd Aust. Div. 74 / 492 of 30.8.1918)
One question remains : Why did Lt. Beaton receive the 1st Class of this award (gilt) whereas the announcement in the Belgian official journal mentions the (silver) 2nd Class ?
In this respect it should also be noted that the royal monogram on the cross's medallion is the King Albert monogram (instead of the Leopold II one used throughout the war) which only came into being some months after the award was announced.
© Hendrik Meersschaert, 1998 - 2017