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Biography

Col John Pope 'Jake' Beer, MBE, CD




Born on Feb. 20, 1920 in Charlottetown, P.E.I. While attending high school he joined, in 1937, the 8th Medium Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery (militia) as a gunner. Mobilized in Sept. 1939. For some months they continued to wear their prewar uniforms, including bandoleers, putties, etc. He was commissioned in Feb. 1940 and proceeded overseas in Aug. of that year to Borden, Hampshire, as a reinforcement officer. After four weeks promoted to lieutenant and posted to 1st Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (1 R.C.H.A.) (Guy Simonds) where he and five others failed Simonds' artillery examination. He was immediately posted to the 11th Army Field Regiment where he remained until June 1942. After a heavy training regime -- gun position officer, command post officer, etc. -- he was promoted to captain and transferred to the 12th Field Regiment of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. 


On D-Day Beer was a battery captain (second-in-command), directly responsible for administration and supply ("A" Echelon). Landed in Normandy with the second wave. Recounts forward observation officers' position with the infantry. His battery was accidentally bombed by our own Air Force and was out of action for twenty-four hours until new personnel, trucks, and guns were received. The 12th Field Regiment supported attacks on the channel ports. In more serious fighting at Leopold Canal he was again a forward observation officer with the Regina Rifles. Their bridgehead across the canal was, for a day or two, about fifty by two hundred yards in size. The early winter of 1944/1945 was fairly quiet. Promoted to major, the officer commanding a French Canadian battery from Shawinigan Falls (81st Battery, 14th Field Regiment). In Feb. the Reichswald was attacked: heavy fighting in flooded conditions. Later, the Rhine crossing. At the end of the war he assisted in disarming the German troops. Returned to Holland where difficulties were experienced in keeping the Canadians occupied for several months; classroom education was a partial answer. Returned to Canada in Dec. 1945. Joined the Interim Force as a battery commander at Petawawa. Reverted to captain in 1946. Transferred to Camp Shilo, Man. which, in the early days, was not a pleasant place to live. In Dec. 1946 he was sent to England on the long gunnery staff course. Immediate postwar England was a place of serious shortages; uncomfortable for a family. He returned to Camp Shilo as an instructor in gunnery. Promoted to major in 1950. That year the artillery began to change to American equipment. In the early 1950's Beer spent one year at the army staff college, Kingston, and from there was appointed second-in-command of the 81st Field Regiment at Petawawa where the regiment was in training for service in Korea. They were there for only three months before the war ended, but the unit performed very well. Appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire. Posted as Canadian representative at the Korean Armistice Commission meetings.


In 1954 he was sent as a staff officer to the War Office in London for three years. It was a slightly awkward situation for a Canadian during the Suez war. As a lieutenant-colonel in 1957 he was on the instructional staff at the army staff college for the usual three-year appointment. After that, he was posted to the International Control Commission in Saigon. Seven months later he was called home to command 2 R.C.H.A. which he did for a period of three years in Canada and one year in Germany. The regiment was a large unit: five batteries and an Air Observation Post (Air O.P.) flight. Initially the regiment was not in a good state of training or morale. He explains the later excellent training in Germany. For a short time he attended the NATO Defence College in Paris. Promoted to colonel and Chief of Artillery, Mobile Command in Canada, a position he held for four years. Appointed Canadian faculty advisor at the NATO Defence College in Rome for three years. Arranged and conducted European and overseas tours. Chief of staff, militia headquarters, Victoria, 1972-75. Retired in 1975. Commanded Vernon Army Cadet Camp in the summer for a subsequent four years. 


Col Beer passed away in Victoria 25 July, 2011.