John Robert was born 2 July 1860, 2nd son of James Dixon Beech, of Ballintemple, Co Cork, and Susan, daughter of John Malone, of Co Wexford. He was educated at Newton School, Waterford. When the Egyptian War broke out he was about 18 years old, and studying at the Edinburgh Veterinary College. He was expecting to become a land agent, and was making a study of animals and their diseases. He passed out top of the class, gaining the Medal. Being eager to get to the front, he joined the Army as a Veterinary Surgeon, the only means of entrance available to him. He did much valuable work, buying horses and camels for the Government, and served throughout the Egyptian War and the Gordon Relief Expedition, and the Sudan, receiving the only seven-clasp Medal of that campaign, the clasps being:
After the Gordon Relief Expedition he went with Sir Gerald Portal on a mission from Queen Victoria to King John of Abyssinia, and carried the Queen's letter alone to King John through a most difficult and hostile country, and was decorated with the CMG. He was awarded the DSO after the Battle of Toski, instead of the VC, for which he was recommended by two Generals. His Companionship of the Distinguished Service Order was gazetted 30 May 1891: "John Robert Beech, Captain (CMG), 20th Hussars (attached to Egyptian Army)". The Insignia, Warrant, etc, were sent to the Governor of Egypt, and presented by him 7 December 1891. For his services after the Gordon Relief Expedition, the Prince of Wales recommended him for a combatant commission, and he was gazetted as Lieutenant to the 21st Lancers. Almost immediately he was given seven years' promotion in one day, and was appointed to the 20th Hussars as Captain (1901).
He served in the Egyptian Cavalry for many years, and on two occasions, when only 25 years of age, commanded them in most successful engagements against the Dervishes. At 28 he married, left the Egyptian Cavalry, and rejoined the 20th Hussars. The then Inspector-General of Cavalry, Sir Keith Fraser, singled him out for special mention when on manoeuvres, saying before the whole Cavalry Division that it was a picture to see Captain Beech at his work. Shortly after this (1894), he sent in his papers and entered the Reserve of Officers, but rejoined for the Boer War, serving on General French's Staff, and awarded the Queen's Medal with five clasps. In the Great War he was in command of a Regiment of Scottish Horse. In addition to the Egyptian and South African Medals, he had the Osmanieh, Medjidie and the Khedive's Star and clasp. On 1 December 1894, he married Alexandria Marion, daughter of Kenneth Mackenzie, of Storriaway, and widow of John Bullough, of Meggerie Castle, Glen Lyon, Perthshire. Their sons were:
Clyde, born 13 Apr 1896 (Capt. Rifle Brigade, killed 18 Oct 1916, aged 20);
Lieutenant Colonel J R Beech, CMG, DSO, died on 6 Nov 1915 at Louth, Lincolnshire, from a chill caught in camp, whilst commanding the 2/1st Scottish Horse. He was buried at Innerwick-in-Glenlyon Parish Churchyard.
Regimental Details | Soldiers