Stephen BEECH
Rank: Gunner
Number: 188591
Unit: C Battery, 256th Brigade ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY
Date of Death: 7 July 1918
Age: 22
Cemetery: Ecoivres Military Cemetery, Mont-St Eloi, Pas de Calais, France

Henry Beech and his first wife had three children together before she died in the mid 1880s. In 1888, he remarried to Charlotte Bellott. The service was at St Thomas Church, Hazel Grove. The couple would have at least four children together and Stephen was their third. When the census was taken in 1901, the family was living at 17 Albert Street, Stockport and is thought to have stayed there at least until Henry died in 1913. At some point, Charlotte moved to 18 Hawkins Street, South Reddish.

Nothing is known of Stephen’s life except that army records suggest he continued to live in Stockport until he enlisted into the army in the town. 256th Brigade was a pre-War Territorial unit from Scotland with its original members coming from around Dundee and Arbroath and which went overseas in 1915. It would seem likely, therefore, that Stephen was not an early volunteer for the army and joined the Brigade much later as a replacement for casualties.

On 7 July 1918, Stephen and his comrades were at their gun positions near the village of Mont St Eloi, some eight kilometres north west of the French town of Arras. The Brigade’s War Diary, held at the National Archives, records that they kept up harassing fire on the German trenches throughout the night of the 7th and 8th. There was good visibility and it was possible to undertake some special shoots as instruction for several new junior officers. It notes “Forward position of “C” Battery taken on by enemy 5.9 howitzer battery….82052 Gnr Yates H, 686739 Gnr Samuel L, 188591 Beech S, 222905 Gnr Clark T – all “C” battery killed.”  

Stephen and his three mates – Henry Yeates, Leslie Samuel and Algernon Clarke – are now buried side by side in adjacent graves.

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