New Addington brothers uncover details of father's George Medal
THREE brothers have spoken of their pride in their heroic late father who, 65 years ago this week, grappled with a gun-wielding robber on the streets of Croydon.
Thomas, Michael and John Beall, all in their sixties, only recently uncovered the full details of their father's 1947 actions, for which he was awarded the George Medal for bravery and became the first recipient of the prestigious Binney Award.
Their father risked his life catching a man who appeared to have stolen his bicycle, dodging four bullets in a struggle before the man was arrested by police.
Despite his bravery, the "modest, no-nonsense" Thomas Arthur Beall rarely spoke about the incident, which Thomas recently found described in detail in the London Gazette from 1948.
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The paper told how Mr Beall displayed "outstanding courage and determination" in the incident, which took place outside a telephone kiosk next to the family's home in Thornton Heath on May 23, 1947.
Driver Mr Beall was awarded his medal at Buckingham Palace when his first sons, twins, were less than a year old.
His intervention was probably "a spur of the moment thing," said Thomas, from Mellows Road in Wallington, because he "desperately wanted his bike back".
"It was the only one he had to get to work on," he said. "He once filled the tyres with straw. He got stopped by police, who told him, 'Please, just walk home!'"
Despite his award being personally approved by King George VI, the doctor who prepared his death certificate in 2000 said he could not put 'GM' after his name, because it was not 'a recognised award', according to Thomas.
"If this is not a recognised award, what is?" he added. "I see people getting MBEs and OBEs just for doing their jobs and it does not seem fair."
Michael, of Dunley Drive in New Addington, added: "Dad probably would not mind. I think his attitude would have been, 'Didn't do me much good in life, doesn't do much good in death'."
It was far from the only display of bravery in Mr Beall's storied life; he had served in West Africa and Italy during the war, meeting his future wife under a statue of Mozart in Vienna, according to family lore.
Born and raised in Thornton Heath, he moved with his young family to New Addington in 1953, one of the first occupants of the new estate.
He died in 2000, having kept quiet on the extent of his illness to his family.
Had he been alive to witness last year's riots, "he would be totally shocked," said Thomas.
"It wasn't the Croydon he knew."
An extract from the newspaper
Third Supplement to the London Gazette: May 28, 1948
Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood
St James Palace, SW1
1st June, 1948
The King has been graciously pleased to give orders for the following awards of the George Medal and of the British Empire Medal, and for the publication in the London Gazette of the names of the persons specially shown below as having received an expression of Commendation for their brave conduct.
Thomas Arthur Beall, Machine Hand, Thornton Heath, Surrey
"On 23rd May 1947, Beall, whose bicycle had been stolen just previously, saw it leaning against the kerb outside a telephone kiosk. He immediately challenged the occupant of the kiosk as to his possession of the bicycle. As the man pushed his way out of the kiosk Beall saw the butt of what appeared to be a revolver in an inside pocket of his half-open mackintosh. He immediately moved behind the man and pinioned both his arms above the elbows.
"The man commenced to struggle and drew from his pocket a sawn-off Lee-Enfield rifle, which he fired with the muzzle pointing up towards his left shoulder. Beall ducked and the bullet missed him. As the struggle continued a second shot was fired but Beall again escaped injury.
"A police constable ran towards the struggling pair and grasped the man around the neck from behind. The man then fired a third shot and attempted to fire again, but the weapon jammed.
"A violent struggle ensued during which the man managed to fire a fourth shot. Other police officers arrived and he was overpowered and taken into custody.
"Beall displayed outstanding courage and determination in his efforts to prevent the escape of an armed and desperate criminal and risked his life in assisting the police to make the arrest."