b. 22/12/1898 Kinlochbervie, Scotland. d. 09/10/1922 Vancouver, Canada.
Robert Gordon McBeath (1898-1922) was born in Fraserburgh, Caithness on the 22nd December 1898, though his family home was with his adoptive parents, Robert MacKenzie and his sister Barbara McBeath, in Kinlochbervie, Lairg, Sutherland. He was educated at Inshegan School, Kinlochbervie and when he was aged 16, he enlisted in the 1st/5th Battalion, The Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, Duke of Albany's), and was promoted to Lance Corporal on the 24th July 1917.
On 20 November 1917 during the Battle of Cambrai in France, McBeath volunteered to deal with a nest of machine-gunners that checked the advance of his unit and which had caused heavy casualties. He moved off alone, armed with a Lewis Gun and a revolver. Finding that several other machine-guns were in action, McBeath attacked them with the assistance of a tank and drove the gunners to ground in a deep dug-out. McBeath rushed in after them, shot the first man who opposed him and then drove the remainder of the garrison out of the dug-out. He captured three officers and 30 men.
He returned home to Kinlochbervie, prior to receiving his medal, and he was given a hero’s welcome by the town and was presented with a silver tea service. As well as the tea service, McBeath had also been awarded with a farm, the result of a scheme organised by the Duke of Sutherland. He was presented with his VC by the King at Buckingham Palace on the 16th February 1918, and three days later married Miss Barbara McKay in Edinburgh. After the war, McBeath attended the VC Garden Party in 1920 but then he and his wife moved to Canada, where he joined the British Columbia Provincial Police.
On the 12th August 1921, he joined the Vancouver Police Department, but just over a year later on the 9th October 1922, while walking the beat on Granville and Davie Streets with his partner, Detective R. Quirk, McBeath stopped a man for driving erratically. Determined not to be arrested the man, named Fred Deal, struggled with McBeath, whilst Quirk interviewed the female passenger in the car, Marjorie Earl. Deal pulled a handgun from his pocket and shot both officers and despite his injuries, Quirk gave chase. However, his wounds prevented him from apprehending Deal and he returned to the scene of the shooting to give what aid he could to McBeath. Both men were taken to the local hospital, St. Paul’s, but McBeath's injuries proved to be fatal and he died soon after arriving. He was cremated and his ashes interred in the Masonic Section 193, Lot 6 of Mountain View Crematorium in Vancouver.
Deal was arrested later that day and the handgun, which had been thrown away, was found later on. Deal was subsequently sentenced to death for the murder of McBeath, but, the sentence was reduced to life imprisonment on appeal because Deal had been beaten while in custody. Deal served only 21 years before being released and deported to his native Jacksonville, Florida, where he died a few years later.
Following her husband’s death, Barbara McBeath, returned to Scotland and later married Mr. Alec MacDonald, but died relatively early in her mid-forties. She was buried in Scourie, Sutherland. McBeath’s medals are held at the Highlanders Museum, Fort George, Inverness-shire, and he was commemorated with the naming of one of the peaks in Jasper National Park, Alberta and also a police launch which was used for patrolling the waters off Vancouver, in his honour.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: QUEENS OWN HIGHLANDERS, FORT GEORGE.
BURIAL PLACE: MOUNTAIN VIEW CEMETERY, VANCOUVER, CANADA.
Robert McBeath's medals at the Queens Own Highlanders Museum, Fort George, Inverness-shire, Scotland
(Picture courtesy of Thomas Stewart).
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
ASHES BURIED IN SECTION 193, LOT 6
Kinlochbervie, Scotland Memorial to McBeath VC (Thomas Stewart)
Mount McBeath, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada
Fred Deal, the man who shot and killed McBeath VC