JOHN EZRA BRYANT BEACHER
13th (SOUTHDOWN) BATTALION, ROYAL SUSSEX REGIMENT
KILLED BY SHELLFIRE NEAR RICHEBOURG L'AVOUE, FRANCE
21st JUNE 1916, AGED 21
BURIED: III.M.5. ST. VAAST POST MILITARY CEMETERY,
JOHN EZRA BRYANT BEACHER was born in Cowfold in 1894, the son of Charley Ezra and Alice Beacher, and brother to Elsie Beacher (born 1890). In 1901 the family were living at Collins Cross (?) in Rudgwick, where Charlie was employed as a general labourer. By 1911 the family were living in The Haven, near Billingshurst, and John was employed as a 'wagoner on a farm'.
John enlisted in Horsham, becoming Private SD/2866 of the Royal Sussex Regiment. The SD prefix to his service number indicates that he joined the South Downs battalions. These battalions were raised commencing September 1914 after Colonel Claude Lowther, of Herstmonceux Castle received permission from the War Office to raise units of local Sussex men. Three battalions, the 11th, 12th and 13th Royal Sussex Regiment (occasionally referred to as 1st, 2nd and 3rd Southdown Battalions, or ‘Lowthers Lambs’) were raised by the end of 1914, suggesting that John enlisted in the first six months of the war.
The 13th Battalion was formed on 20th November 1914, with its main recruiting office at Bexhill-on-Sea. Training commenced at Cooden Camp, near Bexhill but the battalion was not up to strength until July 1915. It remained here until July 1915, when it moved to Detling Camp, near Maidstone, before proceeding to North Camp, Aldershot, on 29th September 1915. In October 1915 the battalion, together with 11th & 13th Battalions Royal Sussex Regiment, became part of 116th Southdown Brigade, 39th Division, which had formed in Winchester in August 1915. The Division assembled at Witley in October and November. John Beacher and the 13th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment remained in Witley Camp until March 1916.
TO FRANCE WITH THE BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
On 5/6th March 1916, John and the battalion departed Southampton to land at Havre, France. In the following months John and the South Downs battalions served in the Fleurbaix and Festubert sectors of the British line before moving to the Richebourg area.
On 21st June 1916 the Battalion War Diary notes that the unit was in the front line trenches at Ferme du Bois, near Richebourg having entered the trenches on 16th June. This position opposed a protrusion in the German front line known as the 'Boars Head'. Ten days later the three South Downs battalions would attack this position with heavy losses in an attack designed as a diversion from the forthcoming Battle of the Somme, that was to commence the following day. The war diary details:
"FERME DU BOIS 21/06/1916
Enemy artillery was active during the day, shelling our trenches and also Windy Corner. A few casualties amongst a loading party of B Company were sustained. Our rifle grenades were again active with visibly good results. The battalion was relieved in the trenches by 14th Bn Hampshires, taking over."
The casualties caused by the enemy artillery fire included three men killed; Lance Corporal Arthur George Harman, Private Henry William Tapp and Private John Beacher. The men were buried side by side in St. Vaast Post Military Cemetery, Richebourg-L'Avoue, France. John was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Trench Map of the Ferme du Bois area dated 12th June 1916, where 13/Sussex held
the line 16-21st June 1916. 'Windy Corner' is a cross roads approximately 1km north of Richebourg and St Vaast Post Military Cemetery is a further 1km north of 'Windy Corner' .
Photo with kind permission of Pierre Vandervelden www.inmemories.com
“A loving son and brother kind,
No one on earth like him we’ll find. R.I.P.”
1901 1911 Census Returns
Medal Record Index Cards
Soldiers Died in the Great War
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Battalion War Diary 13th Bn Royal Sussex Regiment