During the early 1900’s Lincolnshire was seen as a peaceful farming county famous for its agricultural manufacturers and luscious crops. When war broke out in 1914 the county didn’t keep to their restful nature, instead the seemingly hushed part of England pulled out all the shots to help with the war effort. The war changed the area forever, it’s believed around 18,000 Lincolnshire people sacrificed their lives in the Great War and with that we get many tales of heroics and pain.
The Five Sons Who Never Came Home
Throughout Lincolnshire you will find stories of heart break and despair, but none more so saddening then the story of Amy Beechey. War affected everyone, not just the soldiers fighting in France but also the mothers and children back in Britain. Grief wasn’t new for Amy, she had lost a daughter at a young age and Amy’s husband died of cancer leaving her to raise 13 children in a two-up, two-down terrace house in Avondale Street, Lincoln. When war broke out she saw eight of her sons head off across the channel to fight, only three would make the journey back.
The five sons that lost their lives witnessed the worst of the war; Barnard Reeve Beechey was the first son to die on the battlefield. Barnard lost his life during a charge at the Battle of Loos, he died on 25 September 1915. A few days earlier he had written a letter to his Mother. He wrote: “I really am alright and don’t mind the life, only we all wish the thing was over.” He died aged 38 and his body was never found.
Frank Collett Reeve Beechey, was a keen sportsman and played for both the football and cricket Lindum team. Frank was sent to fight at the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest battles of the war that saw over one million lives lost on both sides; regrettably Frank was one of them. 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. Frank died of his wounds on 14th November 1916 aged 30, he was buried in France.
Harold Reeve Beechey was invalided twice and wounded once before his death on 10 April 1917. He managed to survive the terrors of the Somme but despite getting wounded in the fighting he was patched up and sent to fight again. Bitterly he wrote to his Mother saying: “To deny a fellow the right of a final leave seems to me to be miserable spitefulness on their part”. When he was sent back to war he was later killed by a bomb in Bullecourt, aged 26.
Charles Reeve Beechey was sent to the furthest regions of the war. It’s been perceived that WW1 was mainly fought in Europe however, some of the fighting was done in the Eastern parts of Africa. Charles fought in the East African Campaign and was one of the 10,000 British men who died in Africa. He died in Tanganyika now called Tanzania, killed by machine gun fire, a weapon many had the misfortune of meeting in the field. He died 20 October 1917, aged 39.
The final Beechey boy to lose his life to the war was Leonard Reeve Beechey. Leonard, like so many, didn’t just leave his mother but he also left his wife too. The total devastation of the war didn’t just affect the men fighting the war but the women and children back home too, a total of 160,000 women lost their husbands during WW1. Leonard was gassed and wounded at Bourlon Wood dying of his wounds on 29th December 1917.
In April 1918 King George V and Queen Mary came to Lincoln to honour Lincoln’s creation of the tank that helped win the war. Whilst the King and Queen were in Lincoln Amy Beechey was presented to them. When the Queen commented on her great sacrifice, Amy gave her a chilling response: “It was no sacrifice Ma’am, I did not give them willingly.” Amy’s loss was extremely unique and was full of sorrow; her hurt will stay as a reminder of the great sacrifices many Mothers had to go through when seeing their sons going off to war. It is very likely we will never see the extent of her loss again.
Despite it being nearly one-hundred-years after their deaths the ‘Beechey Boys’ have not been forgotten. Julie Cooke of Lincoln Tank Memorial Group said: “The Cooke/Connell fundraising team restored Amy’s grave in Newport cemetery and their father’s grave at Friesthorpe. A piece of marble was placed in Amy’s grave with the boys’ ranks and names. Every Armistice Cooke/Connell lay a wreath on Amy’s grave.”