Brothers in sacrifice: family who lost five sons to horrors of war

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The small case lay sealed in an attic for decades. Faded with age, its rusting hinges took some gentle prising before they snapped open and a war-stained envelope marked "Killed in action" spilled out from piles of letters from the trenches.

Ninety years on, as Remembrance Day approaches, those letters paint a vivid picture of the First World War seen through the eyes of one ordinary family who made an extraordinary sacrifice.

Handed down through three generations, and locked away in an attic, they were only discovered when another story of sacrifice prompted their owner to investigate her own history. They tell of brothers who went to war, and of a mother who prayed for their safe return.

Amy Beechey, the widow of the Rev Prince William Thomas Beechey, rector of Friesthorpe with Snarford in Lincolnshire, raised eight boys and six daughters on her own after her husband died in 1912. All her sons – Barnard, Charles, Leonard, Christopher, Frank, Eric, Harold and Sam – served king and country. Five were killed and a sixth was maimed for life.

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