Frank Beck (British Army officer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Memorial window in the Church of St Peter and St Paul, West Newton, Norfolk

Captain Frank Reginald Beck, MVO (3 May 1861 – 12 August 1915) was a land agent to the British royal family. He helped to form a volunteer company comprising members of the royal staff. Under his leadership this unit fought in the Gallipoli campaign of 1915. During a battle there Beck and many of his men went missing, presumed killed.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Oxwick, Norfolk, he was the son of Edmund Beck, land agent to the British royal family at Sandringham.[1] Educated at Norfolk County School, North Elmham, he inherited his father's position on the King's estate, serving as Land Agent at Sandringham to Edward VII when Prince of Wales, 1891–1901, and when King, 1901–10; and to King George V from 1910 until the war.[1] He was appointed a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (4th Class) in 1901[2] and created a Knight of the Order of St Olav by the King of Norway in 1906.[1]

Beck was instrumental in the formation of the Sandringham Company of Volunteers ("E" Company, 5th Battalion Norfolk Regiment, Territorial Force), which included grooms, gardeners, farm labourers and household staff from the King's estates. Beck raised the company as a Volunteer Force unit in 1906.

War service and death[edit]

Despite his age and the fact King George V told him not to go, he volunteered for foreign service after the outbreak of war and served with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force at Gallipoli, leading his company during the attack on Anafarta on 12 August 1915. He fought alongside his two nephews, Arthur Evelyn and Albert Edward Alexander Beck, who were both awarded the Military Cross. On that day, a large part of the Norfolks, including Capt. Beck and many of the Sandringham men, were missing in action. For several years, nothing was known of their fate, and a legend grew up that the battalion had vanished into a mysterious cloud.[3]

Queen Alexandra, Edward VII's widow, took a particular interest in establishing what had happened to the men, many of whom had been her employees. Many years later, a legend sprang up that they had disappeared in a massive cloud of unknown origin. However, after the 1918 Armistice of Mudros, 180 bodies were found "scattered over an area of about one square mile, at a distance of at least 800 yards behind the Turkish front line."[3] This information was kept from Queen Alexandra as it was felt she would be too distressed at the news. His body was not identified.


Beck is commemorated on the Helles Memorial, with a brass plaque in the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Sandringham and a stained glass window in the Church of St Peter and St Paul, West Newton. He and 18 other men from the company who died at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli are commemorated on the Sandringham war memorial cross[4] and at West Newton parish church.[5] His watch, given to him in 1915 by Sir Dighton Probyn VC, was bought from a Turkish officer after the war. It was presented to his heirs in 1922 and remains in the family's possession.[6][7]

Film portrayal[edit]

In 1999, a film was made, entitled All the King's Men, depicting the formation of the Sandringham company, its fate, and Beck's role in this. Beck was portrayed by David Jason.


Beck married Mary Plumpton Wilson in 1891 and had five daughters. His only son died in infancy.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d McCrery, Nigel (1999) [1992]. All The King's Men. Pocket Books. pp. 28–30. ISBN 0-671-01831-0. 
  2. ^ London Gazette Issue 27318, 28 May 1901
  3. ^ a b The Vanished Battalion at the Wayback Machine (archived 2 December 2014)
  4. ^ Sandringham war memorial
  5. ^ West Newton war memorial
  6. ^ "King's Men ending 'distasteful'", BBC News, 17 November 1999.
  7. ^ McCrery, p. 109

External links[edit]