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  • Photo David Nunn by courtesy of Pauline Armstrong from Nottinghamshire Law Society.
Person Details
20 Jul 1880
Southwell Nottinghamshire
John Pickard Becher was born on 20 July 1880 in Southwell Nottinghamshire the son of John Henry Becher and Alice Mary Pickard-Cambridge. They had five children, John Pickard, Lancelot Edward (17 Sept 1882-28 Feb 1960), Godfrey George (3 Dec 1885-4 Nov 1945), Alice Joyce (23 Aug 1889-6 Dec 1950) and Olive Mary (6 Aug 1891-17 July 1965). He married Gertrude Veronica Gale (3/81883 - 6/3/1970), the daughter and only child of Henry Mark Gale and Hon Mary Emily Strutt, in Southwell on 20 April 1911. Her father died in 1890 and her mother remarried Dr Henry Handford by whom she had two sons, Henry Basil Strutt Handford (b. 1894) and Everard Francis Sale Handford (b. 1895). Gertrude's two half-brothers were killed in action in 1915. John and Gertrude had three children; John Henry Becher (b. 6 September 1912) who was killed in action serving as a squadron leader in the RAF on 10 August 1940 (CWGC Number: 2194507), Mary Veronica Becher (5 August 1913-15 July 1997) and Margaret Joan Becher (born posthumously 24 March 1916-April 1995).
He was educated at Malvern Links and abroad. He was a solicitor at Larkin & Co of Newark and Clerk to the Magistrate's Court Newark.
01 Jan 1916
36
75739 - CWGC Website
Hill House Southwell Nottinghamshire.
Major
  • DSO DSO Distinguished Service Order
1/8th Bn Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment)
Becher was promoted lieutenant on 15 July 1907 in the service of the Sherwood Foresters Territorial Forces and to the rank of captain on 9 May 1910. He was mobilized in August 1914 and was promoted to Major on 18 February 1915. He went to France with his battalion the same year and won the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). He was dangerously wounded on wounded on 15 October 1915 at the Hohenzollern Redoubt, thirty yards from the German lines, and lay forty eight hours waiting for assistance. Colonel GH Fowler was killed attempting to assist him. Becher's two brothers-in-law, Captain Henry Handford and Second Lieutenant Everard Handford, sons of Dr Henry Handford (MOH to the County of Nottingham) also of the 8th Bn, were killed in the same action. Becher later died of septic poisoning at No. 3 Red Cross Hospital (Abbeville Hospital) and is buried in Abbeville Communal Cemetery (grave ref III.D.14). A report of his death and the memorial service (4 January 1916) appeared in the Newark Advertiser on 5 January 1916 (Nottinghamshire Archives ref SC 16/11). Becher became the first Sherwood Forest Territorial to win the DSO. It was awarded for 'Conspicuous gallantry and good service on several occasions. On April 4th 1915 at Kemmel when part of his trench was blown in under heavy fire he personally assisted in repairing the parapet and digging out buried men. On June 15th at Kemmel when part of his trench was blown in by mines, shells and trench mortars, he displayed great gallantry and coolness in reorganising the defences. On July 30th and subsequent days at Ypres he displayed great coolness, cheerfulness and resource under trying circumstances when in temporary command of his battalion.'
See www.thepeerage also www.archive.org/stream/recordofserviceo00soli/ Inscription on battlefield cross (WMA27440): 'In memory of Major J P Becher DSO (1/8th Sherwood Foresters) who died on 1.1.16 from wounds received in the attack on the Hohenzollern redoubt 16.10.15. Sans Peur. Sans Reproche.' Inscription on stained glass window (WMA38858): 'Tu Devicto Mortis Aculeo Aperuisti Credentibus Regna Caelorum. For a remembrance before God of John Pickard Becher, Major VIII Battn Sherwood Foresters, who died of wounds in France on Jan 1st 1916. “To do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God.” Nottinghamshire Archives, Ref: SC16/11 Newark Advertiser, Wednesday January 5, 1916 THE DEATH OF MAJOR JP BECHER DSO WOUNDED IN THE HOHENZOLLERN REDOUBT ATTACK SUCCUMBED TO BLOOD POISONING [Memorial service] Preacher Venerable Archdeacon Hacking, neighbour and personal friend of the deceased. 'Description of the attack on Hohenzollern Redoubt’ Major Becher was wounded … and for 48 hours he lay outside the trenches severely injured in a difficult and dangerous position before he could be rescued. At one time he was only 30 yards from the German trenches but notwithstanding his injuries he succeeded in crawling into a place of comparative safety … It was while attempting to set out on a search for the wounded major that Colonel Fowler, the Commanding Officer of the 8th Battalion, was killed … Becher’s young brothers-in-law, Captain BS Handford and Second Lieutenant Handford, lost their lives in the same charge on the Hohenzollern Redoubt … When Major Becher was found he was as quickly as possible removed to Abbeville hospital in France [description of time in hospital including several operations] … He served his Articles with Mr HFV Faulkner, Solicitor, Louth. Subsequently he entered the firm of Messrs Larken & Co, Solicitors, Newark, the head of which is Colonel CJ Huskinson who holds a staff appointment in France at the present time. In 1909 when a vacancy occurred … in the clerkship to the county magistrates at Newark, Mr Becher was unanimously appointed to that office [there follows a description of how Major Becher won the DSO, report including the citation. ‘Beloved by all’, by the Southwell correspondent. ‘Archdeacon’s tribute’. The Archdeacon concluded his remarks quoting the words of Rupert Brooke. [Quotation in full: ‘If I should die, think only this of me’] MEMORIAL SERVICE IN SOUTHWELL MINSTER THE BISHOP’S TRIBUTE TO DEPARTED HEROES A large attendance at Southwell Minster yesterday [4 January 1916] when a memorial service was held in commemoration of Major FP Becher DSO, Sergeant Sheppard DCM and Corporal Townsend, members of the 8th Sherwood Foresters, who have given their lives for King and Country. The service was held in the nave, the pulpit being dressed with the Union Jack, and streamers of black crepe … There was a detail of 50 wounded men of the 8th Sherwood Foresters who had served with Major Becher in France [also names of officers present] … The service was choral, the opening sentences being a composition by Purcell and Croft, sung unaccompanied. The special psalms were the 23rd, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’, and the 121st, ‘I will lift up mine eyes’, to ordinary chants. The lesson was read by the Reverend JR Thomas and the hymns were, ‘My God my Father, while I stray’, ‘Jesus Lives’, and ‘Peace, perfect peace’. ‘List of mourners’ (names followed). ‘The Bishop’s address’ [Address quoted in full.] The Bishop concluded by quoting the following lines from Wordsworth, ‘Who is the happy warrior/ Who is he that every man in arms would wish to be?’ [Poem quoted in full] The National Anthem was then sung and after the blessing had been pronounced … played the Dead March and the buglers from the 8th Sherwood Foresters sounded the Last Post.' Law Society biography Son of Major John Henry Becher, born at Southwell in 1880, a partner in the firm of Larkin & Co of Newark, Clerk to the Newark County Magistrates, held the rank of Major in the 8th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, volunteered for service and went to France in February 1915 with his Battalion. He was the first Territorial Officer in the Notts and Derby Regiment to win the honour of the companionship of the Distinguished Service Order for ‘Conspicuous gallantry and good service on several occasions. On April 4th 1915 at Kemmel where part of his trench was blown in under heavy fire, he personally assisted in searching the parapet and digging out buried me. On June 13th at Kemmel when part of his trench was blown in by mines, shells and trench mortars, he displayed great gallantry and coolness in reorganising the defences. On July 30th and subsequent days at Ypres he displayed great coolness, cheerfulness and resource under trying circumstances when in temporary command of his battalion.’’ On the 14th October 1915 he was wounded in the attack on Hohenzollern Redoubt and lay for 48 hours before he could be rescued from a difficult position. Colonel GH Fowler was killed in an attempt to go to his assistance, and his two brothers-in-law, Captain and Lieutenant Handford, were both killed in the same attack. H died on the 1st6 January 1916 at Abbeville Hospital from wounds leaving a widow and two children [a third child was born posthumously on 24 March 1916 ]. Major Becher was universally esteemed and a memorial service was held at Southwell Minster on the 4th January 1916.’ There are references to Becher and the action on the Hohenzollern Redoubt in, 'Family at War: the Foljambe family and the Great War', Brigadier Jolyon Jackson (2010), ISBN 978 1 84425 943 2). The Sherwood Foresters in the Great War 1914-1919: 1/8th Battalion, by Captain WCC Weetman, MC Croix de Guerre (a former 8th Bn adjutant), Published by Thomas Forman & Sons, 1920. Photographs of JP Becher opposite pages 26 and 108. Chapter IV: Hohenzollern Redoubt October 1st 1915-October 17th 1915. References to JPB pp88-89, pp94-95. Also references to his brothers in law, Basil and Everard Handford, also of Southwell, who died in the same engagement.
Remembered on

Photos

  • Photo David Nunn by courtesy of Pauline Armstrong from Nottinghamshire Law Society.
    - Photo David Nunn by courtesy of Pauline Armstrong from Nottinghamshire Law Society.
  • Photo Gary Tranter August 2012 - Battlefield Cross UKNIWM 2744. Fixed to perimeter wall of No. 4 Vicars Court, viewable from within Southwell Minster churchyard.
    - Photo Gary Tranter August 2012 - Battlefield Cross UKNIWM 2744. Fixed to perimeter wall of No. 4 Vicars Court, viewable from within Southwell Minster churchyard.
  • Photo Gary Tranter August 2012 - Close up of Battlefield Cross UKNIWM 2744. Fixed to perimeter wall of No.4 Vicars Court, viewable from within Southwell Minster churchyard.
    - Photo Gary Tranter August 2012 - Close up of Battlefield Cross UKNIWM 2744. Fixed to perimeter wall of No.4 Vicars Court, viewable from within Southwell Minster churchyard.
  • Photo Peter Gillings May 2014 - Stained glass window commemorating John Pickard Becher in Southwell Minster. Three light stained glass window with three tracery lights above it. Figures depicted in the lights and inscription at the base of the right hand light .The Crucifixion is depicted in the lights . In the centre light a city is depicted behind the figure of Christ.
    - Photo Peter Gillings May 2014 - Stained glass window commemorating John Pickard Becher in Southwell Minster. Three light stained glass window with three tracery lights above it. Figures depicted in the lights and inscription at the base of the right hand light .The Crucifixion is depicted in the lights . In the centre light a city is depicted behind the figure of Christ.
  • Close up of the inscription on the stained glass window commemorating John Pickard Becher. 
Photo courtesy of Peter Gillings
    John Pickard Becher - Close up of the inscription on the stained glass window commemorating John Pickard Becher. Photo courtesy of Peter Gillings
  • From Nottinghamshire Law Society's Roll of Honour.
    - From Nottinghamshire Law Society's Roll of Honour.
  • His grave at Abbeyville, courtesy of Mike Kirton
    John Pickard Becher - His grave at Abbeyville, courtesy of Mike Kirton