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Beyer, Thomas David (1906–1982)

by Peter Davidson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Thomas David Beyer (1906-1982), Anglican clergyman and air force chaplain, was born on 6 March 1906 at Lakes Entrance, Victoria, son of Thomas David Beyer, labourer, and his wife Victoria Ruth, née Dunk, both Victorian born. He attended Melbourne and Bairnsdale high schools. After working as a motorcar salesman in Melbourne, in 1931 he entered Ridley College (Th.L., Australian College of Theology, 1932). Made deacon on 18 December 1932, he was ordained priest on 17 December 1933 for the diocese of Gippsland. He served his curacy at Paynesville and was priest-in-charge at Drouin in 1934-35. At the Church of St John the Baptist, Bairnsdale, on 3 April 1934 he married Hazel Vera Johnston (d.1976). Next year he became rector of Morwell. There he contributed columns to the local newspaper under the pseudonym `Inquisitas’, played cricket and Australian Rules football, and participated in amateur theatricals.

Joining the Royal Australian Air Force as a chaplain, 4th class, on 11 November 1940, Beyer was posted to Laverton, then in December 1941 to Geraldton, Western Australia. He embarked for England in January 1943, travelling on escort duty via North America, and served for the remainder of the war at No.11 Personnel Dispatch and Reception Centre, located at Bournemouth and later at Brighton. This unit received RAAF personnel on arrival in England for further training or operational duties.

As sole unit chaplain, Beyer wrote hundreds of letters home to families of the airmen, conducted funerals, and produced a fortnightly magazine with a circulation of three hundred. In his office (christened `Bludgers Bower’ with the motto `Abandon rank all who enter’) men could talk over problems, read or write, receive comforts parcels from home or have a quiet yarn. His weekly services in local parish churches were always popular. A keen sportsman, he was responsible for arranging weekly matches against local teams. He was himself a handy cricketer who regularly played in or led RAAF teams against other service or county teams.

After VE Day Beyer worked with former prisoners of war. He arrived home in June 1946 and was posted to Point Cook, Victoria. In 1947-48 he served in Japan with the RAAF component of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. Returning to Japan for a brief period in 1951, he spent a month in Korea during the war. In 1950 he had been appointed MBE. Official reports on his service both in England and Japan testified to his effectiveness as a chaplain. Dave Beyer’s approach coupled a robust, practical Christianity with a rich sense of humour. Promoted to principal air chaplain (Church of England) on 1 January 1963, he was based at Penrith, New South Wales. This role required trips to yet another operational area, this time Vietnam. He transferred to the RAAF Reserve on 7 March 1965, but continued to serve, part time, in Melbourne as PAC until he was placed on the Retired List on 15 December 1967.

Having been prominent in service sporting administration, Beyer became executive officer of the South Pacific Games (1969) Trust in Port Moresby, where he stayed for three and a half years. Retiring to bayside Melbourne, he indulged his passion for `catching fish, angling, boating, catching more fish’ and supporting the Melbourne Football Club. Survived by his daughter, he died on 22 November 1982 at Frankston; after a military funeral he was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • P. A. Davidson, Sky Pilot (1990)
  • RAAF News, Apr 1965, p 7
  • private information.

Citation details

Peter Davidson, 'Beyer, Thomas David (1906–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/beyer-thomas-david-12206/text21565, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 20 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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