Relate: The First World War and its losses

PUBLISHED: 15:39 31 July 2014 | UPDATED: 15:39 31 July 2014

File photo dated 01/01/16 of a carrying party of British troops taking a batch of duck-boards across marshy ground, during the Battle of the Somme. Picture: PA Wire.

File photo dated 01/01/16 of a carrying party of British troops taking a batch of duck-boards across marshy ground, during the Battle of the Somme. Picture: PA Wire.

PA Wire/Press Association Images

This summer sees the 100 year anniversary of the start of World War One.

It was a war that resulted in losses so great we can barely comprehend them. In just one day - July 1st 1916, the first day of the Battle of The Somme - the British suffered 60,000 casualties.

To see what that number looks like we can skip forward exactly 96 years. July 1st 2012 saw Italy play Spain in the Euro Championship finals watched by 63,700 spectators. Pictures show the crowd is so dense, so big, the individuals merge into one being.

Yet this number in 1916 does not even take into account the other nationalities fighting at that place on that day.

British military families have continued to lose loved ones over the years since WW2: there have been the ongoing troubles in Northern Ireland, as well as conflicts and wars such as the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan. Just these three alone have resulted in a loss of 887 members of the British military forces, to date.

And of course there are the countless “life changing injuries”. Loss of limbs, loss of senses, loss of minds.

However, nobody in Britain in recent history knows loss through war as did Mrs Amy Beechey.

Mrs Beechey and her family lived in a terraced house in Lincoln. Her husband, the Rev William Thomas Beechey, died in 1912, and over the next six years Mrs Beechey was to achieve the dubious honour of being one of only two British families who lost five sons in the “Great War”.

Bernard was lost at the battle of Loos in 1915, followed by Frank at the Somme, Harold at Arras, Charley in Tanzania and then Len, wounded and gassed at the Battle of Cambrai.

Her losses were so great the newspapers picked up on the tragedy and she was presented to King George V and Queen Mary in April 1918. The Queen commented on Mrs Beechey’s “great sacrifice”. “It was no sacrifice Ma’am.” replied Mrs Beechey, ”I did not give them willingly.”

In our civilian society today we experience differing types of loss: the life changing issues arising from a lost job, the hopelessness and despair of losing a home, the sadness of a lost pet, the deep, huge sorrow of a lost parent. The indescribable pain of a lost child.

Through social media and 24 hour news we hear every day of the loss of people we have never met, through illness, natural disasters, violence. Sometimes we will react to these losses as if they were people close to us as we absorb the shock and sadness.

There is no quick fix to recovering from loss. Years later the grief can hit like a physical pain. We are fortunate today to have a wealth of support from charities such as Cruse and Sands who are experts in their field to try to make the process easier.

Relate was formed in 1947 during the years of emotional upheaval following World War 2, when families were facing the loss of the world as they knew it. Cities destroyed, homes lost, loved ones lost, children who had been evacuated returning to homes they no longer knew. Couples being reunited with huge gulfs between them. The certainty of life, all lost.

It was originally for those couples, a marriage guidance charity, to help bring husbands and wives together again.

Today, Relate is still there for couples who feel adrift. But is also there for families, young people, individuals, those who are depressed, anxious, bullied. The abused and the abusers, all who need help.

Here in Medway and North Kent, Relate counsellors are expertly trained to deal with loss: loss of loved ones, loss of hopes and dreams; loss of security and self-esteem.

Relate was not there to help Mrs Beechey and we can only hope that she was able to spend the rest of her days in some kind of peace.

But Relate Medway North Kent is here today to give support and help to those of us suffering from loss. Whatever kind of loss it is.

Contact Relate Medway and North Kent on 01634 380038, email or visit our website at

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