L/Corporal Edward Beech

Son of William Beech, a Coal Miner, and his wife Annie, born Nottingham 1887, later to become a Printer’s Boy. Edward joined the 2nd Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers in 1903 and enlisted at Gravesend, Kent. In November 1903 un-paid Lance Corporal with a promotion to Corporal in early February 1904 and completed his tour of duty. Edward married Mabel Grice, Nottingham, 1907, no issue.

Recalled to duty at the outbreak of war. Disembarked for service in France on 13 August 1914 and was among the original contingent of his unit, the 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers.

On 7 June the battalion moved from a brief period of rest in huts at Ouderdom to bivouac at a farm one and a half a miles distant. It remained there until it paraded at 5.45pm on 15 June, and then marched up to assembly positions at Railway Wood. This is north of the hamlet of Hooge, on the Menin Road. The Battalion was placed on the left of the 9th Brigade's attack frontage, with 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers alongside and 4th Royal Fusiliers beyond them.

The Bellewaarde and Hooge front had been a thorn in the British side ever since the trench line settled here in October-November 1914. The enemy line was on slightly higher ground, a considerable advantage in this otherwise flat country. There had already been several minor attempts to improve the tactical situation in the area, none of which had made a significant difference.

Commander-in-Chief Sir John French would later sum up the day in this despatch: “On 16th June an attack was carried out by the 5th Corps on the Bellewaarde Ridge, east of Ypres. The enemy’s front line was captured, many of his dead and wounded being found in the trenches. The troops, pressing forward, gained ground as far East as the Bellewaarde Lake, but found themselves unable to maintain this advanced position. They were, however, successful in securing and consolidating the ground won during the first part of the attack, on a front of a thousand yards, including the advanced portion of the enemy's salient north of the Ypres-Menin Road. During this action the fire of the artillery was most effective, the prisoners testifying to its destructiveness and accuracy. It also prevented the delivery of counter attacks, which were paralysed at the outset. Over two hundred prisoners were taken, besides some machine-guns, trench material and gas apparatus. Holding attacks by the neighbouring 2nd and 6th Corps were successful in helping the main attack, whilst the 36th French Corps cooperated very usefully with artillery fire on Pilkem. Near Hill 60 the 10th Infantry Brigade made four bombing attacks, gaining and occupying about fifty yards of trench.”

Edward appears in a casualty list compiled immediately after the battle, listed as one of those men of ‘W’ Company who were killed. The list also records the fact that Edward was a Lance Corporal, an un-official NCO rank that may have been given just prior to the attack.

As it does not appear that he was posted as missing, the Beech family would have received notification very soon after his death Edward’s effects – small items of personal property left with his pack at battalion transport, cash and outstanding pay - would then have been sent to his home.