Daniel Beak was born in Southampton on 27th July 1891. After leaving school, he became a schoolteacher, teaching at St Mary's School, Southampton. However, he left the profession as he felt he was did not think he was good enough and became a secretary to a clergyman in Bristol.
Early in 1915, he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as an ordinary seaman at Crystal Palace. He was soon rated as a Petty Officer before being commissioned as a Sub-Lieutenant RNVR in May 1915. Because of the surplus of men to the requirements of the warships available, many of the reserve force were formed into the Royal Naval Division and were used as a land fighting force to supplement the army (see Library Factsheet no. 25) Beak served in the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign and the evacuation of the troops from that theatre.
While serving as Adjutant with the Drake Battalion, he won the Military Cross during January 1917 and later won a second while commanding the same battalion two months later. He served briefly in command of both Howe and Anson battalions before returning to Drake with the rank of Temporary Commander on 12th March 1918, and remained in command until disbanded in June 1919. In July 1918, he won the Distinguished Service Order.
A month later on 21st August 1918, the Drake Battalion attacked at Logeast Wood, near Bapaume, and under Beak's leadership, captured four enemy positions under very heavy machine gun fire. Beak sustained a skull wound and a fragment of shell was lodged in this area, but four days later, led a re-organised 63rd Brigade, without their Brigade Commander, on another advance under heavy gunfire to achieve their next objectives, including a personal attack on a nest of machine guns that were holding up the attack. This led to the capture of about ten prisoners almost singlehandedly. On 4th September, he continued to lead another attack. The award of the Victoria Cross was not for one single action but the sustained actions over a period of about two weeks with outstanding bravery and leadership. The award was published in the London Gazette on 15 November 1918 and Beak was presented with the medal by HM King George V at Vincent Barracks, Valenciennes on 6th December.
After the disbandment of the RND, Beak returned to civilian life but found it rather dull. He joined the regular army in 1920 and was commissioned as a Captain in the Royal Scots Fusiliers. In 1923, he married Matilda-Catherine Ritchie, of Busbie, Ayrshire. They had two sons.
In 1932, he was posted to India as a Major, and transferred to the 1st Battalion, Kings Liverpool Regiment. He was stationed there for several years. In 1938, he was promoted to Colonel and joined the 1st Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment and later, as a Major-General, received a Mention in Dispatches while serving in France during 1940.
In 1942 he was posted to Malta as GOC troops and while serving there, had his house blown up by the Luftwaffe during an air attack, nearly killing him. In 1945, he retired as a General from the army and lived in Lambourn, Berkshire. He died in Swindon on 3rd May 1967.
© Royal Naval Museum Library, (2003)
The information contained in this fact sheet is correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for a bibliography of further reading materials, if available.