Lieutenant Rowland James Auriol Beech

February 22, 2015

On this day 100 years ago - 21st February 1915

 

100 years ago today, Lieutenant Rowland James Auriol Beech was Killed In Action. He was the eldest son of Colonel Rowland John Beech and Adelaide Frederica Beech of Brandon Hall. He served with the 16th (Queen's) Lancers, which was a cavalry regiment. Jim, as he was known, was the first man from Brandon to be killed in WW1. He was just 26 years old.

 

On 21st February 1915, at 6am, the 16th Lancers were shaken by an explosion under ‘D’ Squadron’s, trench; followed almost immediately afterwards by two more.   The Commanding Officer of the 4th Hussars had noted that the Germans were active in the area of a deep ditch, which ran out from the German trench, connecting to ‘D’ Squadron, 16th Lancers trench.   The distance between the British and German trenches varied from 15 to 50 yards.  Although nothing had actually been seen, the Germans had run a sap half way along the ditch before turning off at a sharp angle and tunnelled underground, until it ran   under the British trench, occupied by ’D’ Squadron, 16th Lancers. Where three mines had been placed it was later found out, from prisoners, that the mines had been placed some days before the 16th occupied the trenches.  The German intention, was originally to detonate three mines, on February 18th, when it was believed that the British would be exchanging their troops, but for reasons unknown, this, fortunately had not been carried out, during the handover.  The explosion completely destroyed this section of the trench.   An immediate attack followed on either side of ‘D’ Squadron’s position.  The ensuing German attack quickly overwhelmed the remaining defenders, but after a long and confused hand to hand struggle, they were held when ‘A’ Squadron, 16th Lancers, the reserve Squadron moved forward with a Machine Gun and the three reserve Troops quickly moved up in support. In, what remained of ‘D’ Squadron’s trench, Lieutenant Rowland Beech rallied his men and while covering their escape from the wrecked trench, he was shot and killed when on top of the rampart. The 16th Lancers lost five officers and seven men killed, with one officer and twenty nine wounded.   An Officer* had an amazing escape; the force of the explosion had blown him into the German trenches, where he was captured.   It is not known if the other eleven missing men were so lucky. 

 

This was the worst day which the 16th had during the whole war.  When the roll was called it was found that Major Neave, Captain Nash, Lieutenants Beech, King and Cross and seven men were killed, and Lieutenant Patrick and 29 men wounded.   In addition *Lieutenant Ryan and 11 men were missing, in all seven officers and 47 other ranks killed, wounded or missing.’

 

Jim is buried in Ypres Town Cemetery in Belgium.  He is buried alongside Major Neave, Captain Nash, Lieutenant King and Lieutenant Cross.

 

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