John Beech

Researcher of Military Service Documents

for Bellewaarde 1915

I have been interested in military history since 1 was a small boy and one of my proudest possessions is a History of the 7th Battalion Notts & Derbys. (The Robin Hood Rifles) which was given to me by my father and was left to him by his father, who died when my father was a small boy. This contained photos of my paternal grandfather, 1201 Driver Thomas Arthur Beech, in uniform. He was a pre-war territorial in the North Midlands Transport and Supply Column, North Midlands Territorial Division. This was to become the 46th Division.  

As a teenager, I read many military history books including books on WW1 and started to build up a library of these books. After I married, when my wife objected on the number of military history books I was buying, I decided to specialise on WW1 only. I first visited France and Belgium and the WW1 battlefields in about 2000, and on the back of that, joined the Western Front Association – I am a member of the East Midlands Branch, which meets at Ruddington in Nottingham and also attend talks at Chesterfield branch. I have been fortunate to visit the battlefields at least once a year, most years since then – sometimes on my own and more recently with my son.

I started seriously researching my family’s involvement in the Great War about fifteen years ago, after spending several years researching my family tree. I soon established that my grandfather had joined up in 1912 at the age of 16, and was slightly too young to go over with the Division in February 1915, but arrived in France in May 1915. His company later became 454th Company, ASC. From him I started researching his brothers and identified that his brother, 1275 Driver Charles Henry Beech, had joined up with the same company in 1913, he landed in France in November 1915. A third brother George Edward William was conscripted into the RAF and landed in France in October 1918, joining No. 5 Squadron on 3rd November 1918 as an AM3 engine artificer. This led me to look for my extended family and that is how I came across Edward, who fell at Bellewaarde on 16th June 1915. I also found another two Beeches with the NF, one of whom I was unable to find a family connection, but the other 1522 Corporal William Beech turned out to be Edward’s brother and another cousin to my grandfather. Interestingly, whenever I have attended the Last Post, I have always stood facing the Northumberland Fusilier panels on the Menin Gate and fixed by gaze on Edward’s name, even before I knew we were related!

This has now led me to start researching all 800 + men named Beech who served in WW1 and 1st Battalion NF. After researching the casualties of Bellewaarde, I have started researching all those who served with 1st NF from 1914 onwards. At present I have researched all officer casualties, and am currently working through those officers who survived. I am also about a third of the way through researching those men who formed the original draft in August 1914. From there, I hope to research all the men on the Medal Roll through to 1918. I am also trying to add biographical information to the Bellewaarde casualties.

In recent years, I have been able to acquire the original Victory Medal awarded to my grandfather and in 2012 was able to secure Edward Beech’s medal group off that well known auction Site E***.

I have also prepared a presentation on the Zeppelin Raid on Nottingham for the display at Nottingham Castle commemorating the beginning of WW1 and Nottingham’s involvement in the war, and hope at some point to get this research published. I am also collecting information for a possible book on No. 5 Squadron and one on 3rd Division, the only original Division not to have a Divisional History. I am also very interested in the battles of 1914 and this year visited Mons and tracked the involvement of 1st NF in the battles of 1914, through to 1st Ypres. This allowed me to obtain a complete set of photos of 1st NF burials in Belgium from 1914 – now need to do France!