Adolph George Beer was born on the 16th of January 1886 in Tranmere, Birkenhead, Cheshire. He was the son of Adolphus William & Emily Gertrude Dorlinda Beer (formerly Grimshaw) and the youngest of four children.
His father was born in Sheffield and moved from Yorkshire to Birkenhead following his marriage in 1878. In 1900 Emily died and in 1901 he married again. His second wife, Ellen Mary Ann Snow, was 18 years his junior.
According to the census records of that year father and children were living at 17 Allerton Road, Tranmere. He is described as a merchant tailor and must have owned a substantial business as he had a workforce of 40 people including his two sons who were also tailors. By 1911 he and Ellen were living in Rock Lane, Birkenhead.
Some time later they moved to Meliden near Dyserth. William was a member of the Dyserth Field Club and is mentioned in a contemporary newspaper account of the Club’s visit to Whitford and Maen Achwyfan. In November 1915 the Rhyl Journal recorded that A W Beer delivered Dyserth Field Club’s first lecture of the season on “Belgium”. Interestingly the day after his lecture a second party of Belgian refugees arrived in Prestatyn. There was huge sympathy in the United Kingdom for the plight of the Belgians as this small country had been the victim of invasion by the Germans who needed to cross Belgium in order to reach their goal: France. The British Army took on a defensive role along the border between France and Belgium. This was known as the Western Front.
William’s son George was 14 when his mother died. He was a pupil at the Birkenhead Institute Grammar School – which sadly no longer exists – and was a contemporary of the war poet, Wilfred Owen.
In the summer of 1910 George, now 24, married a young lady named Marie. The marriage was registered in Birkenhead and the couple went on to have two children.
In 1914 George enlisted in London and served with the East Kent Regiment – also known as The Buffs. The Regiment raised 14 Battalions and was awarded 48 battle honours and 1 Victoria Cross, losing 6,000 men during the course of the First World War.
At some point he was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps – newly formed in October 1915 with Infantry, Cavalry and Motor branches, followed in March 1916 by the Heavy Section. Men of this branch crewed the first tanks in action at Flers during the Battle of the Somme in September 1916. George was killed on the 15th of September 1916….. somewhere on the Somme. Coincidentally this was the day when tanks were first used in battle. He was 29 years old.
During his 2 years of service George was promoted to Sergeant. He was awarded the Military Medal as well as the Victory Medal, British War Medal and 15 Star. The Military Medal was awarded for acts of gallantry in the field. In all some 170,500 officers and men served in the Machine Gun Corps with 62,049 becoming casualties, including 12,498 killed. No wonder it was called “the Suicide Club”
The Liverpool Daily Echo, 30 September, 1916 carried the following report:
KNEW NO FEAR. DEATH OF SERGEANT “GEORGIE” BEER. It does not seem long since I had the melancholy duty of recording the death of Jack Beer, one of the finest all-round athletes, and one of the best-hearted, in the North of England (writes “Kikado”). And now his only brother, A. G. Beer, or Georgie, as everybody called him, has been killed in action. When war broke out, like the good plucked ‘uni he was, came from South Africa to enlist and at the time of his death was a sergeant. His officer writes that he was absolutely fearless, and those who knew him from boyhood knew that he simply did not know the meaning the word fear. Indeed, the things he used to do—even in childhood—on roofs, and suchlike places—were more apt to frighten others than himself. He met his death while taking into action the two machine-guns of which he was in charge. He had done several gallant deeds during earlier fighting, and there is reason to know that they were not unappreciated, and to believe they were not going to pass without recognition. George was not so prominent in athletics as his elder brother, but he was a good hand at all games and in the gymnasium, though I don’t remember his doing much public competition. He was a dear lad to all who knew him and there were few young fellows, in Birkenhead, at any rate, who did not know his bright face. With his father, Mr A W Beer (Rock Ferry), doubly bereft within the year deepest sympathy will be felt in his loss of two such bright and happy lads. George leaves a widow and two children who reside in Dyserth, and for them also sincere sympathy will be felt.
Sadly George’s married sister had died in 1914 aged 34, another sister having died as a baby. Therefore the parents lost all their children. As Emily had predeceased her three grown up children she was spared from knowing they had perished, all within 3 years of each other.
Her husband, however, lived through it all and passed away soon after on the 2nd of Dec 1917 – just over twelve months after George. He was 65. He had clearly been a man of means as his estate was worth in excess of £4,600.
Many thanks to Celia Webber ( family Bible) and Alun Hughes (Birkenhead Institute Old Boys) for their assistance.