Sunday, 28 February 2016

Robert Harold Beckh (1894 - 1916) - British Poet

I am re-posting this in the light of additional information received yesterday.

Robert was born on 1st January 1894 in Kingston, London.   His parents were Victor Ferdinand Beckh and his wife Edith Mary, nee Ledward, born in Birkenhead, Wirral.   Robert was educated at Haileybury School, an independent public school in Hertfordshire. He went on to Jesus College, Cambridge where he studied Classics, having been awarded a scholarship.  According to letters written by Robert to family members, he planned to become an Anglican church minister and wanted to go and work in India.

Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 12th Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment in May 1915, Robert was killed on 15th August 1916 while on night patrol, particularly poignant because of his poem on this subject entitled ‘No Man's Land’, written shortly before his death. 
A letter from Captain C.E. Lloyd Jones, Adjutant of 3rd Battalion, The East Yorkshire Regiment, written on 12th August 1919 and published in “The Hull Daily Mail” on 20th August 1919, explained that “2nd Lieutenant Robert ‘Bobby’ Beckh”  was killed “in the German wire”, near the Boar’s Head at Richebourg-l’Avoué, south of Bethune in France.  According to Captain Lloyd Jones, Robert was initially buried by the Germans with two other soldiers, one an officer, in a German military cemetery.  One of the soldiers with Robert was called Private Sugarman and he was from Hull. 
After the War, Robert’s family were able to find out that it had been planned by the British authorities to move the bodies to Cabaret Rouge Cemetery in Souchez, France but Robert’s body was somehow lost in transit. The gravestone bearing his name is on the edge of the Cemetery and is a memorial. 

Robert’s WW1 poetry collection “Swallows in Storm and Sunlight” was published in 1917 by Chapman and Hall, London.

I should like to thank Robert’s family members Tim and Rebecca Beckh and their daughters Annabelle and Sophia, who have researched Robert’s life, poetry, war service and death. They have visited Robert’s gravestone in France and keep his memory alive through poetry readings.  They have kindly supplied additional information and photographs of Robert and his family and given me permission to share them.

The family photograph shows Robert with his parents and elder brother Leonard V. (b. 1890) and sisters Doris Mary (b. 1896) and Ivy (b. 1901).

The British attack on the German lines at The Boar’s Head began on 30th June 1916 and was planned to create a diversion away from the Battle of the Somme.

 Additional Sources:  British Press Archive - “Newcastle Journal”, 24th August 1916 and “Hull Daily Mail”, 20th August 1919.