Cavalry Officer, 26-year-old Rowland Auriol James Beech, the “apple of his parents’ eye” and a fine horseman, was killed in action on 21st February 1915 serving as a Captain with the 16th Lancers. He was the eldest son of Lieutenant-Colonel Rowland John Beech, who died of illness in 1919 after World War I service, aged 63, and is also recorded as a war casualty on the Commonwealth War Graves site.
Jim, as Rowland Auriol James Beech was known to family and close friends, was born on 22nd August 1888 in Chelsea, London. A ball for tenants and tradesmen was given in February 1889 at the family’s country estate at Brandon, Warwickshire, to celebrate his birth as the son and heir. He was the third of the four children born to parents Rowland John and Adelaide Frederica (née Cure). He had two older sisters, Christabel (known as Kitty) (1886-1943) and Irene (1887-1947), and a younger brother, Douglas Charles Murray Beech (1889-1944), who served as a Captain with the 20th Hussars and became heir to the family estates after his brother’s death.
The family had several homes – country estates at Brandon Hall, near Coventry (which became a hotel in 1946) and Shawe Hall, Kingsley, near Cheadle, Staffordshire. They also had leased houses in Eaton Square, Belgravia, in Cadogan Square, Chelsea and in Folkestone, Kent. Preferring the estate at Brandon because of its more enjoyable hunting, Douglas Beech sold the family estate in Staffordshire soon after he inherited it, and the hall was subsequently demolished.
The local connection with the Solihull area is that Jim Beech was a member of the North Warwickshire Hunt, which met at Meriden Hall. The Bond of Sacrifice says:
He was one of the best horsemen in a regiment noted for its fine riders, and, as a polo player in the International Tournament in 1914, he helped his team to get into the semi-final round. He loved fox-hunting, and there were few finer riders to hounds. He was a successful competitor in the summer of 1914 at the International Horse Show at Olympia, where he took part in several jumping contests.
The Kingsley Remembers project has a very detailed entry for Jim Beech, including his school career at Eton, and his Army career following his joining the Royal Military College, Sandhurst in 1907. An insight into Jim’s character can be seen in his entry in The Bond of Sacrifice, which describes him as being of “a frank and engaging disposition” and quotes fellow officers:
You know Jim was hit rushing forward gallantly at the head of his troop, and that his action, together with that of three other officers, saved the situation and prevented the Germans gaining anything of consequence. (a General Officer).It seems still almost impossible to believe that he, the brightest and most cheerful of all, has gone. He was so full of life and the joy of living. The only consolation is that he died splendidly, helping to save what looked like a very critical situation for some minutes… Poor Jim was shot rushing forward with a few men to throw bombs into the crater of the explosion which was full of Germans. (a Captain in his regiment).Another officer stated: “It would be impossible to find a more ideal cavalry officer. I always picture him now to myself riding, as I always thought he rode, so beautifully.”
The entry also mentions that he was gazetted from Sandhurst to the 16th Lancers in October 1908, being promoted Lieutenant in January 1911. At the time of his death he was the Senior Subaltern in his regiment. For his services in the war he was mentioned in Sir John French’s Despatch of the 8th October 1914.
He is buried at the Ypres Town Cemetery, and commemorated on Brandon war memorial, Kingsley Moor war memorial, and the North Warwickshire Hunt roll of honour. There is a plaque in his memory at St Werburgh Church, Kingsley, Staffordshire.
If you have any further information about Jim Beech, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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