Regarded as the “greatest Canadian Fighter ace of the Second World War” Flight Lieutenant George Frederick Beurling, DSO, DFC, DFM, or as he would be later known, “Buzz,” was born on December 6th, 1921, in Verdun, Quebec.
At a very young age, Buzz Beurling developed a great love and admiration for aviation. Beurling’s flying career began at age sixteen, after he put himself through flight training and received his commercial pilot's license in 1937. When World War II broke out in September of 1939, Beurling immediately applied to join the Royal Canadian Air Force. However, due to his lack of a “school-leaving certificate”, his application was denied. Although this came as a great disappointment, it did not deter him from serving.
He applied to the Finish Air Force, but was refused due to lack of parental consent. Realizing his current situation, he directed his efforts back to private flying. By April of 1940, Beurling amassed 250 flying hours. He sailed to Britain to apply to the Royal Air Force but was refused yet again. Still, the young pilot remained undeterred. He sailed back to Canada to obtain the necessary documents, then returned to Britain where he was accepted into the RAF at last. Beurling was sent for pilot training in September of 1940.
After one year of pilot training and familiarization, Beurling was posted to 403 Squadron (RCAF) as a Sergeant Pilot and sent to fight in the European Theatre. During his time in Europe, Beurling engaged in many dogfights and defended harbours from continuous Luftwaffe bombing raids. Beurling was renowned for his trademark tactic of weaving in and out of bomber formations. Due to his eccentric personality, which can be seen in the way he flew, he was nicknamed “Screwball". He would later be commissioned as an officer against his will, and be known as the “The Defender of Malta,” for his efforts to protect the small island.
Similar to his personality, his flight record was all over the place. His most prestigious day, October 9th, 1942, included one Junkers 88 and three Messerschmitts. Beurling concluded his second tour with 24 confirmed kills. He would later be shot down and suffer a wound which would earn him rest and recuperation time in Britain. Following this, Beurling would return to combat, and towards the end of the war be seconded to train new pilots.
At the end of the war, Beurling was transferred back to the RCAF and subsequently demobilized. In 1948, Beurling once again answered the call to aid the new nation of Israel in their establishment. On May 20th, 1948, flying a Noorduyn Norseman, Beurling overshot a runway and crashed; neither he nor his co-pilot survived.
For his efforts in the war, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, The Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Distinguished Flying Medal. There is no debate that Buzz Beurling embodies the idea of what a flying ace is.
Pigott, Peter. Flying Canucks: Famous Canadian Aviators. Toronto, ON: Hounslow Press, 1996.