Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

There were two features of the Beech family that ran almost continuously throughout the century preceding the Great War. The first was Pork Butchery and the second was St. Mary's Street, Old Portsmouth, later renamed Highbury Street.
These family traditions first appeared in the 1841 census which recorded Thomas George's Great Grandfather, also named Thomas, living on St. Mary's Street and earning his living as a pork butcher. This was only two years after the death of the legendary John Pounds who had lived a few doors away. Thomas had been born in 1801 and was married by around 1825. His first wife, probably called Elizabeth, must have died in the 1830s as he married a second wife Mary, 15 years his junior, a few years later. The census lists the couple with 6 children, at least four of whom must have been from Thomas's first marriage. The third child was William Beech (Thomas George's grandfather) who had been born in April 1827.
At the 1851 census Thomas, Mary and the children still at home were listed at 36 St. Mary's Street but William was not recorded in Portsmouth. Neither Thomas nor Mary survived until the next census in 1861 but William was listed at 35 St. Mary's Street with his wife Emily (born 1833 at East Stratton, Hants, nee Dumper) whom he had married in 1856, and their four boys William jnr, Thomas, James and John, aged 4, 3, 2 and 1 respectively. Also in the household was William's brother Samuel, who, like William had followed their father into the pork butchery trade.
William Beech jnr. inevitably continued the family business but did briefly move out of St. Mary's Street and round the corner to St. Thomas's Street for the 1881 census. With him were his wife Sarah (nee Smith, born in 1859) whom he had married in 1875 and their children, another William (b. 1876), Emily (b. 1878) and Ada (b. 1880). By 1891 the family were back in St. Mary's Street but this time at No. 6. There were also three more children, Thomas George (b. 1885), James (b. 1888) and Joseph (b. 1890).
Thomas George's father William died in 1898 but the butchery trade was still in safe hands as not only did Thomas George follow his father but Sarah also took up the mantle. It was during this period that St. Mary's Street was renamed Highbury Street, leaving the Beech family at No. 26.
At the outbreak of the Great War Thomas George was 29 years of age. It's not known when he volunteered, but when he did so he joined the 4th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment, later transferring to the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry with whom he served until August 1918, taking part in a series of renowned battles. In 1916 during a period of leave he married Emily Kill and though she later gave an address of 32 Highbury Street, it's not known if Thomas George ever lived there. Then, in early August 1918 Thomas George's battalion was withdrawn from the front line for two weeks before plunging back into one of the final actions of the war. Almost immediately however, Thomas George was killed in action.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) list Private Thomas George Beech, (29508), Duke opf Cornwall's Light Infantry, died 11/03/1915. Buried at Bagneux British Cemetery, Gezaincourt (Grave Ref: VI.D.34.). Son of Sarah and the late William Beech, of Portsmouth; husband of Emily A. E. Beech, of 32, Highbury St., Portsmouth.
Thomas Beech is commemorated on the Anglican Cathedral WW1 Memorial Cross and the Cenotaph. He is not listed in "The National Roll of the Great War", Section X.
Tim Backhouse
October 2014