Remembering John Charles Beswick: 5/10/1888 – 22/4/1917
A monument was unveiled last weekend commemorating 200 East Cork men who died in World War 1. This memorial was the culmination of three years of work by a group of local people. One of the names on the Portland Stone panels is Lieutenant John Charles Beswick, known to us in Fota House as ‘Charlie’.
Charlie Beswick, born 5th October 1888, was the youngest son of the Head Gardener of Fota at the time, Mr William Beswick. Charlie was born and raised in Cork, attending St Luke’s school in the city, eventually becoming Head Boy. We are fortunate to have in Fota House some schoolbooks and letters that belonged to Charlie.
He then studied botany in Kew Gardens in London before enlisting in 1915 joining the Royal Army Medical Corps, then transferring to the Artists Rifles with whom he embarked for France. He was given his officer commission into The King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. His two older brothers William Jr and Arthur were already in service.
Among the letters home from the front that we have in Fota House is the last one Charlie sent as he was about to lead his platoon into action in Cambrai in France ‘With God’s help I shall return safely,’ he wrote, in a more hurried version of the script of his childhood schoolbooks ‘…if not, I shall do my duty to the best of my ability. If anything should happen please tell Willie and Arthur and all, also Ernie Mills that I thought of them and you all and thank God he has thought me fit to make me of some use to my King and Country. Your loving son Charlie.’
Trying to drag a wounded comrade to safety, he was shot and died in a German field hospital in 1917. He is buried at Cambrai East Military Cemetry, Northern France. It is appropriate that Charlie is remembered not only on the Memorial in Midleton, but also the Memorial in Kew Gardens.
The memorial wall is at the Baby’s Walk area at the distillery end of Midleton’s Main St. The full list of names on the 11 panel memorial can be read on the website of the Memorial Project here.
Sally O’Leary, Fota Volunteer, June 2018.