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The Beechey Boys

Eight young men from one family went off to fight in the First World War - only three came home.

The terrible toll on the Beechey family was unusual, but not unique. One other family is known to have lost five brothers in the war: the Souls, from Great Rissington in Gloucestershire. It was the story of the Souls, which came to light in 2001, that reminded Joey (Josephine) Warren of tales told by her mother Edie, the youngest daughter of Amy Beechey. The Reverend Prince William Thomas Beechey had been Rector of Friesthorpe with Snarford, but when the Rector was taken ill with cancer, the family had to leave the Rectory and moved to live in a two-up, two-down terrace in Avondale Street, Lincoln. In April 1918, Amy Beechey was presented to King George V and honoured by the King and Queen for her immense sacrifice - but despite her great pride in her sons, she was a reluctant heroine.

  • "It was no sacrifice, Ma'am," she told Queen Mary. "I did not give them willingly."

Amy Beechey is buried in Newport Cemetary, Lincoln. In 2008, as a mark of respect, Cooke/Connell Fundraisers (Mr. Joe Cooke MBE and Mr. Frank Connell, Sheriff of the City of Lincoln) had her grave cleaned and her headstone renovated.

The Beechey Children

  • Barnard Reeve Beechey (Born 26 April 1877, Pinchbeck, Lincolnshire. Killed in action 25 September 1915, aged 38.)
  • Charles Reeve Beechey (Born 27 April 1878, Pinchbeck, Lincolnshire. Died of wounds 20 October 1917 aged 39.)
  • Maude Beechey (Born 1879. Died 1885 of measles, aged 5.)
  • Leonard Reeve Beechey (Born 31 August 1881, Southwark. Died of wounds 29 December 1917, aged 36.)
  • Christopher William Reeve Beechey (Born 1 June 1883. Died 1969, Western Australia, aged 85.)
  • Frances Mary Deverell Beechey (Born February 1885. Died 1977.)
  • Frank Collett Reeve Beechey (Born 12 October 1886. Died of wounds 14 November 1916, aged 30.)
  • Eric Reeve Beechey (Born 28 April 1889. Died 1954 aged 65.)
  • Harold Reeve Beechey (Born 22 March 1891. Killed in Action 10th April 1917, aged 26.)
  • Katherine Agnes Beechey (Born 1893. Died 1971.)
  • Margaret Eleanor Beechey (Born 1894. Died 1963.)
  • Winifred Lucy Beechey (Born 1895. Died 1976.)
  • Edith Emily Beechey (Born 1897. Died 1992.)
  • Samuel St Vincent Reeve Beechey (Born 13 August 1899. Died 1977, aged 78.)

Barnard Reeve Beechey

Sergeant 13773, 2nd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment.

Educated at St John's Foundation School for the Sons of Poor Clergy, Leatherhead and St John's College, Cambridge. He worked as deputy headmaster at Dorchester Grammar. The eldest at 38, Barnard Beechey joined the 9th Service Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment, in Lincoln.

He was the first of the brothers to die. Killed in the Battle of Loos, he charged to his death on 25th September 1915, aged 38. His body was never found. Just a few days before he was killed in September 1915, he wrote:

  • "I really am all right and don't mind the life, only we all wish the thing was over."

No known grave. Commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium.

Charles Reeve Beechey

Private 58708, 25th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers.

Educated at St John's College, Cambridge. Enlisted at Stamford. In 1914 Charles was a Schoolmaster at Stamford School in Lincolnshire. He stayed on as a schoolmaster while his brothers rushed to join up, then after giving in to pressure to join the war, he wrote:

  • "These last three years seem so awful to us after the 20 we spent in such peace and enjoyment, so let me now hope that we have had our share of the losses although we are taking more than our share of the dangers."

In the end, those dangers overwhelmed him. Machine gun fire caused fatal wounds to his chest. Charles Beechey died of his wounds in East Africa on 20th October 1917, aged 39.

Buried in Dar es Salaam War Cemetary, Tanzania.

Frank Collett Reeve Beechey

Second Lieutenant, 13th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment.

Frank Beechey was educated at St John's Foundation School for the Sons of Poor Clergy, Leatherhead and had been a schoolmaster at Hornsea and Horsham before joining the staff of De Aston School, Market Rasen, where he remained for some years. He was an excellent footballer and cricketer, and tremendously popular with everybody. He left De Aston to take up a position at the Choir school, Lincoln, where he was when the war broke out. He was then captain of the Lindum football club, and kept wicket for the Lindum Club, at times for the County Eleven. Frank died of his wounds on 14th November 1916. Aged 30. His legs were torn off by a Somme shell. Frank had lain in No Man's Land under enemy fire from dawn until dusk before an army doctor risked his life to crawl out and administer morphine.

Buried in Warlincourt Halte British Cemetery, Saulty, Pas de Calais, France.

Harold Reeve Beechey

Lance Corporal 200, 48th Battalion, Australian Infantry, A.I.F.

Born Friesthorpe Rectory, Lincoln. Harold was a pupil at De Aston School, Market Rasen and emigrated to Western Australia aged 22. Harold and Chris had been farming in the WA Wheatbelt when war broke out. Harold enlisted in the Australian Infantry on 9th September 1914 in Perth. He came to Egypt and then to Gallipoli, where he fought Turks and dysentery, being invalided twice. He survived the Hell of Pozières (Somme) but was sent to England to recover from his wounds. He wrote home:

  • "Very lucky, nice round shrapnel through arm and chest, but did not penetrate ribs. Feel I could take it out myself with a knife."

Harold was patched up and sent back to fight again. He wrote bitterly to his mum:

  • "To deny a fellow the right of a final leave seems to me to be miserable spitefulness on their part."

He came home to recover but was sent back to France in November 1916, being killed by a bomb in Bullecourt on 10th April 1917, aged 26. His death was mercifully speedy.

No known grave. Commemorated on Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, Somme, France.

Amy wrote: "I am thankful that he did not suffer long. Poor boy, he had been invalided twice and wounded once and we hoped he would come through."

12 May 2015
The Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia has been commemorating the WW1 centenary in a number of ways, including nightly projections of the names of those on the roll of honour onto the front of the building. It takes several months for each of the names to be shown, 30 seconds at a time, before the roll starts again. With some relatives on the other side of the country with distant ties to the Beechey Boys, I had tried on a few occasions to photograph the projection of H R Beechey's name to send to them. I know that you are familiar with the story of his service and his death, and how it is that he came to be on the Australian roll of honour. As the regiment and the district has recently commemorated the Beecheys' service, I am forwarding my poor quality photos (it was unfortunately raining on this particular occasion) to share with you that the family's/district's suffering is being recognised, even here, even now.
Lest we forget.
Regards from Canberra, Australia.
Carol Reeve

Leonard Reeve Beechey

Rifleman 593763, 18th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles).

Attended Christ's Hospital School, Newgate Street, London (1890-1896) and a year at Stamford School then worked as a clerk for the Railway Clearing House. Enlisted at St Pancras, resident at Highgate. A quiet, romantic boy, Len had worked as a railway clerk but wrote movingly as he sat amid the desolation of war. Recalling sunset walks across Hampstead Heath with his wife Annie, he wrote:

  • "I think in autumn there are more beautiful sunsets, but I cannot rid myself of the thought that winter lurks behind them."

Leonard was gassed and wounded at Bourlon Wood. His last words written in spidery handwriting from his deathbed at a French hospital were:

  • "My darling mother, don't feel like doing much yet. Lots of love, Len."

He died of his wounds on 29th December 1917.

Rifleman Len Beechey is buried at St Sever Cemetery near Rouen, along with Private Walter Souls - two boys from families who gave five sons.

Christopher William Reeve Beechey

Attended Christ's Hospital School, Newgate Street, London (1896-1899) then worked in the offices of Mssrs. W Dunlop, Burmese Merchants of Bishopgate. Later he became a clerk for the Railway Clearing House. In 1910 Chris emigrated with his brother Harold to Western Australia. Harold and Chris had been farming in the WA Wheatbelt when war broke out. Chris served as a stretcher-bearer with the Australian infantry until a Turkish sniper's bullet in his shoulder ended his war in May 1915 - when shot, he fell down a ravine, damaging his spine, and could only walk for short distances with two crutches after that. Having gone to Australia before the war with Harold, he returned severely disabled but lived to 85. The dangers her boys faced were already clear to Amy. In a letter dated 7th May 1915, Chris writes (from Gallipoli):

  • "Mother mine I am down here in a gully near the sea resting after having had about three days and two nights continuous work under shrapnel fire and fire from snipers. Harold was safe and sound up to last night. Most of the men in our field ambulance know him by sight and bring me word. His company were given possession of a hill very dangerous to hold and with snipers to their left rear, losing 23 out of 50 in his platoon before they were relieved on the fifth day, but no one shifted unless killed or carried down wounded. It seems nothing but divine providence that neither of us are hit, men being hit all around us and we stretcher-bearers not being able to take cover like the infantry. One doctor and two of us were sewing up an officer's bowels when they hit the man holding the needles. After we'd been here a week and seen what it means it seems inconceivable to me that men can stay out of it."

After his repatriation to Australia, Chris worked tirelessly for ex-servicemen and was presented to the prince of Wales at His Majesty's Theatre, Perth, in July 1920.

Chris Beechey's last wish was to be commemorated like his five brothers who fell on the battlefields of WWI. His grave at Karrakatta Cemetary, carries the inscription:

  • "1368 private CWR Beechey, 4th Field Ambulance, 26th September 1968 at Age 85, Beloved husband of Bertha, father of Kathleen and Daphne, Requiescat in Pace."
17 July 2012

I visited Karrakatta cemetery on Sunday and had a nice walk around looking. Found Christopher's grave without any problem and have taken photos. Unfortunately my mobile phone camera batteries decided to run out after a few photos so I did not get as many photos as I had hoped. I have not brushed away the fallen leaves as I thought it was quite symbolic all the dead leaves representing the hundreds and thousands of fallen soldiers. There is a small plaque on the right side of the end of the grave stating that the grave is maintained by the Australian war graves commission. Chris beechey was very involved with the RSL (Returned Soldiers League).

Best wishes
June Walker

Grave of Christopher William Reeve Beechey Grave of Christopher William Reeve Beechey

Samuel St Vincent Reeve Beechey

Sam had been a pupil at De Aston School, Market Rasen. Sam, just 19, was sent out to face the guns on the Western Front. The baby of the family, Sam survived the last three weeks of the war as a junior gunnery officer. He came home safely and trained as a chemist.

Eric Reeve Beechey

Attended De Aston School and Catherine Lady Barclay's School. After leaving school, Eric began a Dental Apprenticeship in Lincoln. Eric had the good fortune to be an army dentist. He was posted to Malta and Salonika and was spared the carnage of the trenches.

Roll of Honour - Snarford

The Beechey Boys which feature on your website also are included on a paper Roll of Honour at St Lawrences Church in Snarford, Lincolnshire.

Roll of Honour

"Brothers in War", by Michael Walsh.

Michael Walsh's book "Brothers In War" tells the story of the Beechey family. All of Amy Beechey's eight boys served king and country. Five were killed on the battlefields of France, Flanders and East Africa. The sixth survived a sniper's bullet at Gallipoli but sustained injuries that left him disabled for life.

  • This book can be purchased from Amazon
  • Or in Audio format from Audible

We are always pleased to hear from anyone who has information or photographs that we could publish on our website (must have strong connections to the Lincolnshire Regiment or the Royal Anglian Regiment please). You can contact us via our Contacts page.
Credits: The pictures of the eight Beechey boys on this page were originally published in the Sunday Time of Western Australia and on Ted Harris's Digger History website.