Sunday, February 7, 2021

FOLLOW UP ~ William Beechey, his wife and 3 children killed in WW I Bombing - 1915

Pictures of the scene at some of the Zeppelin bombing sites

I featured William James Clifford Beechey in a Wedding Wednesday post on 13 Jan 2021. William had 3 marriages and from them, 11 children.  William’s first wife was my maternal great grandaunt, Margaret Ewen Milne.

I mentioned at the end of the previous post that there was a sad ending to his story.  And, indeed there is.

William, his third wife Elizabeth Emma Frances Stevens and 3 of their children, William, age 11, Margaret, age 6 and Helena, age 3 all died in a Zeppelin bombing in London, England, in 1915, during World War I.

What a tragic story to find. 

William & his family were living in Hughes Field in Deptford, London, England.  According to the news and other articles I’ve read, this area was tenement buildings.  I know that in 1908, William had been admitted to the Poor Law Hospital,  It does sound like this family had a tough go of it financially.

William had married Elizabeth on 15 Apr 1900 in Deptford, London, England.  Seven months later their son, Claude was born, followed by William in 1904, Elizabeth about 1906, Margaret about 1909 and Helena in 1912.

It was actually through contact with Liz, the wife of my 3rd cousin, that I learned of the tragic deaths of William & his family. 

TIP – I had stopped doing research on William when I learned that my maternal great grandaunt, Margaret had died in 1886, after only 7 years of marriage to William.  Although I did follow through on the two daughters they had together. This isn’t the first time that further research on someone linked only by marriage, has proven to reveal stories that should be told. So, if you have the time, it’s not a bad idea to keep researching those lines. 

I located the following articles about this incident.  And, of course, many more about the entire story of the Zeppelin raids/bombings during this time.


Picture of a Zeppelin from this time frame

Poster from the UK

Article recounting the Zeppelin raids in London

On January 31, 2021 I went to the FindMyPast website and ordered William’s death record.  This was my first time ordering from the General Registry Office (GRO) in the UK.  I selected to receive the order in PDF format via email.  Not only is it less expensive, the order arrives more quickly. 

On February 3, 2021 I received William’s death record.  I wanted the exact information about his cause of death and his exact death date etc.

Here is his death record

Death registration for William James Beechey

Transcription of the information in the image

No. 143 – eighth September 1915 Miller Hospital – William James Beechey, male – of 34 Hughes Fields, Deptford, General labourer – Cause of death – Shock from burns received caused by an incendiary bomb from a German Zeppelin. 3 hours – Certificate received from H.B. Sewell, Deputy Coroner for London, Inquest held 10th September 1915.

Did William live for 3 hours after the bombing?  Is that what the 3 hours written under cause of death means?  He did die at a hospital, so perhaps he was found alive and transported. 

What I need to do now is order the death records for the rest of the family and see how they compare.  Were other family members found alive?  Did some of them die on scene?  It’s certainly an awful thing to think about. 

I hope by telling William’s family stories 106 years later, honors them and keeps their memory alive.

If you are connected to this family, please get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.  I know there must be quite a few descendants out there.

Happy hunting,

Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2010-2021   Diane Gould Hall



  1. Interesting story Diane. So sad to loose so many.

    1. Yes, interesting part of history, but sad for sure. Imagining how hard this was on William's other children and all family members and friends.


I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.