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spike10764

Brothers In War

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spike10764

Brothers In War

One Family's Ultimate Great War Sacrifice

by Michael Walsh

ISBN 9780091908836(from Jan 2007)

ISBN 0091908833

Thanks to Ian Hislop and his programme Forgotten, we have all heard of Annie Souls and her five sons lost to the war. Here in this book we find another family and another mother losing the

same number of sons in the Great War. The author came across the family whilst trying to research the Souls boys.

The woman in question is Amy Beechey, the widow of the Rector of Friesthorpe Church, Lincolnshire Prince William Thomas Beechey (died 5th May 1912) and mother to 14 children, 8 boys and 6 girls (one of whom died age 5 in 1885). All her 8 boys served the army during the Great War and she paid the price of the conflict with the loss of 5 of those eight.

The book is the story of her sons and their war through the letters they sent and received, which were carefully saved and preserved by their youngest sister Edie. The author has pieced together and researched the letters into what is a very emotive book which tells the story in a way that captures your eye and heart.

The Beechey Brothers are thus described on the back cover

Barnard(Bar) - First Born, mathmatics genius and Cambridge graduate. His career as a schoolmaster was ruined by drink. War offered salvation.

Charles(Char) - An unmarried schoolmaster. Handed a telegram telling of a brother killed in action, he tucked it into his pocket and continued taking class.

Leonard(Len) - Penniless railway clerk who fell for an older widow. But his marriage was not all it seemed.

Christopher(Kris) - Always in scrapes, he travelled to Australia to seek his fortune, never expecting to see his family again.

Frank - Permanently strapped for cash, motorcycles and girls were his weaknesses.

Eric - Dressing up as a girl at a church dance for a prank, he waltzed the night away in the arms of unsuspecting farmers' sons. "You will have one of us come home to you," he promised his mother in a letter.

Harold - Mix of Boys Own hero and sensitive soul, he was always there to help his mother when the roof leaked or when a neighbours carthorse trampled the tennis lawn

Samuel(Sam) - Only 14 when war broke out. Despite the Beechey family sacrifice, he was sent out to face the guns of the Western Front for the final weeks of the war.

The back cover does the boys a little bit of a disservice, in my opinion, as it only tells part of a story on each and concentrates by necessity on "headline grabbing" information.

Bar joined in the first flush of volunteers, for whatever reason and served with distinction, Char did care about his family as his letters prove, Len's marriage was not all it seemed only to the extent that he did not marry "Annie" until he was due to go overseas(as they had told his famiy they were married before this, but not that she was a widow, so for a number of years the pretence was kept).

Kris had travelled and moved to Australia in 1910,( where Harold joined him in 1913) volunteering for the AIF and had to return there wounded after Gallipoli, wounds which cast a shadow over his health and excluded him from further fighting. Frank was a bit of a lad and owed money everywhere he went, but it appeared to be in that truly Edwardian "devil may care" style and his feelings for and towards his family were as strong a honest as any of them. Eric was a dental technician for the RAMC and served in Malta and Salonika (without it appears the need for further cross dressing).

Harold left home in 1913 to join Kris in W Australia, also joined the AIF, initially to be alongside Kris, but circumstances meant they served very different wars, served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front in some of the Australians fiercest battles (Pozieres and Bullecourt) and Sam who signed up of his own accord at 18, was commissioned into the RGA and served in France for the last 3 weeks of the conflict.

Between them they served at Gallipoli, Somme Arras, Cambrai, Ploegsteert, East Africa, Salonika, Malta and many places between and suffered wounds by shrapnel, bullet,explosion and gas and suffered trench fever, trench foot, nephritis, dysentry, lice and tetanus and many other complaints brought on by the conditions of the war.

What really comes out in the letters is the deep sense of family all the Beecheys had and the close ties that bound them even when worlds apart. Their letters home almost glow with the love and esteem they held each other and their mother in.

The heartrending bit is as you read certain letters, in certain chapters (whether by authors design or no, I leave that to you) without knowing the outcome, which the author carefully builds up to, you get the sad feeling of who is and who isn't going to make it (I won't give this away here). You sit reading, compelled to continue, with your heart in your mouth( surely not "so and so" you hope), and finally the truth dawns and it almost feels like a loss. How must it have been for Amy Beechey ?

Then there's the unknowing letters after a brother has been killed, asking how he is, the letters that continue to arrive from him after his death and one particular sad feeble scrawl from his deathbed, in one case.

It really seems too much for one woman or one family to bear.

This book is pretty much a must, if you like the human side of the war. My advice is read it.

Spike

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spike10764

For those who are further intrigued, here are the links to the CWGC entries for the Beechey Brothers, who all bear the name Reeve as part of their name ( the first to be killed, it appears has his first name spelled wrong on the CWGC). Do not read/ click on these if you do not wish to

know in advance the fates of the brothers (really, it's better to read the book first).

I wonder why the brother whose wife moved to Monmouthshire, is not listed with the others on the CWGC, in the same format, acknowledging the family link ?. The book gives no clues.......

http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=874418

http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=897853

http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=90762

http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=1457938

http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=515919

Spike

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6th Shropshires

Spike great review, so good in fact, I have decided to save up and buy this book.

Annette

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Dave T

My copy arrived in the post yesterday, really looking forward to starting it at the weekend. If any one's interested a certain book internet site are offering a significant discount on purchase.

Dave

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spike10764

I have decided to save up and buy this book.

Annette

You won't regret it Annette,

happy reading Dave.......

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Desmond7

I do believe I met this guy - Michael Walsh - at Longueval on July 1 0r 2?

At Paul Reed's exhib?

He was a very sincere individual who spoke with passion about the subject. If that is reflected in the book .. it should be worth reading.

Des

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spike10764

If that is reflected in the book .. it should be worth reading.

It certainly is Des, it certainly is.....

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Marilyne

Just found the link to this thread and thought I'd revive it, in case somebody today in 2019 wants to read it. I read the book in 2018, some long night on "Whisky Kilo" duty in Mali. It's a great book and I can only agree with Spike's review and the insistance on the "human" part. their letters allow the reader to delve into that family history. It's beautifully edited and sometimes just heartbreaking.

M.

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Black Maria

A superb book that will keep you riveted to the pages until you discover the fate of each brother .

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