SECOND LIEUTENANT FRANK COLLETT REEVE BEECHEY
EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT
14TH NOVEMBER 1916 AGE 30
BURIED: WARLINCOURT HALTE BRITISH CEMETERY,
Persta atque obdura, be steadfast and endure - if ever there was an appropriate inscription for a family this is it. Mrs Amy Beechey, the widow of a Church of England clergyman and Frank Beechey's mother, lost five of her eight sons in the war, and of the three who returned one was crippled for life.
Frank Beechey was injured by a shell that blew his legs off. A witness described how he lay out in No-Man's-Land from "dawn to dusk" until a doctor was able to crawl out and administer morphine. Frank was 30 and was the second of the brothers to die.
His older brother, Barnard who was 38, had been killed a year earlier, on the first day of the Battle of Loos, 25 September 1915. Barnard had gone to France in July, reporting to his mother that he had been sick three times during the Channel crossing. On 5 September he told his mother: "I really am all right and don't mind the life only we all wish the thing was over, and those who have been out the longest wish so most of all." Three weeks later "the thing was over" for Barnard, killed in a charge at the German trenches. His body was never found and he is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.
Harold Beechey was the third brother to die. He had emigrated to Australia in 1913 and was serving with the 48th Battalion Australian Infantry when he was killed at Bullecourt on 10 April 1917. Enquiries from the Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau elicited the information from a witness that,
"We were digging a dug-out on the night of April 1917 on the railway line between Lagnicourt and Bullecourt when the Germans sent a couple of shells over and he was severely wounded about the body and legs. He died two hours afterwards and was unconscious most of the time".
The eldest of the brothers, Charles, was the next to die. Aged 36 in 1914, he was initially too old for military service and joined up later than his brothers. He was serving in East Africa with the Royal Fusiliers when he died of wounds caused by machine gun fire on 20 October 1917. He was 39. He is buried in Dar-es-Salaam War Cemetery where his inscription reads: Requiescat in pace.
Two months later, on 29 December 1917, Leonard died of wounds in hospital in Rouen having been gassed and wounded at Bourlon Wood. His last letter to his mother, from his hospital bed, concluded with the words: "My darling mother, don't feel like doing much yet. Lots of love, Len".
In April 1918, Mrs Beechey was invited to be presented to King George V and Queen Mary when they visited Lincoln Guildhall. When thanked for her sacrifice she is reputed to have told the Queen, "It was no sacrifice, Ma'am, I did not give them willingly". However, Michael Walsh, whose book on the brothers, Brothers in War reports the meeting with the King and Queen only has this to say: "if she felt anger she did not show it when their Majesties thanked her for her sacrifice". And in fact, Lady Cecilia Roberts, the local MP's wife who Amy Beechey had thanked for helping her secure a pension, replied, "you are very brave and very gracious over all that concerns you - you set a great example to us all".
Michael Walsh describes 'persta atque obdura' as the Beechey family motto, a fact confirmed by the Reverend Canon St Vincent Beechey, founder of Rossall School in Fleetwood, in his book 'Rossall School its Rise and Progress', 1894. The quotation comes from the Satires of Horace Book II, Satire V, line 39.