The name Eaves has long been associated with ‘a dignified funeral’. Sadly, that is the very thing that Corporal Richard Eaves, grandfather of business co-founder Billy Eaves, was cruelly denied when he died on the battlefields of Ypres, Belgium, in 1917. Inscriptions on the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres and on the cenotaph in Richard’s home town of Lytham, Lancashire, are the only markers of Richard’s death - to date, his body has not been found.
Of greater significance, and valued greatly by the Eaves family, is the collection of beautiful silk postcards sent from the battlefield to his wife and two children back at home. Numbering more than fifty, they give a real and rare insight in to the thoughts of a World War one soldier.
Richard was brought up in Lytham and worked as a joiner. He met and married Kells-native Grace Blezard, who was in service in a Lytham hotel. They had two children; daughter Evelyn, and William - Billy’s father. Having served already with the Lytham Company of 2nd Volunteer Battalion East Lancs. Regiment, Richard enlisted on 5th September 1914 with 4th Battalion Territorial Force of Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, agreeing to serve a term of four years. On 11th April 1915 he was appointed Lance-Corporal, before being promoted to Corporal on 16th June that year.
Throughout his war service, he thoughtfully sent the postcards, often addressed individually to Grace (Kitty), Evelyn (Babs) and William (Sonny), always letting them know he was thinking of them, that he was well, that he hoped they were too, and that he hoped he would see them soon. Special cards arrived for Christmas, birthdays and Easter. His concern was always them. The only real mentions of the war were once mentioning that he hoped it would be over soon and another giving reference to soon being back in the trenches.
Two cards in particular stand out as being poignant, both dated 28th July 1917: one, saying “Dear Sonny, hope you like this card, it is just to let you see I don’t forget I remain your loving Dad”, the other says “My dear Wife, Just a line to let you know I am still in God’s safe keeping. Hope you are all well at home. Give my best love to all. I remain your loving husband, Dick xxxxxxxxxxxx”. These were the last cards… just three days later, on 31st July, the first day of the third battle of Ypres, Richard was posted as missing, presumed dead. He was 31 years old.
Grace returned to Whitehaven with her young children. She received a memorial plaque – a cast bronze medallion bearing his name, as did all next-of-kin of British and Empire service personnel who were killed as result of the war. It was only recently that Billy became aware of its existence.
Perhaps one day, Richard’s remains will be found and identified. Until then, his ultimate sacrifice will always be remembered. As we approach the annual time of remembrance, with the extra significance this year of the centenary of the armistice, we wish to publicly make our gratitude to Richard known – he and many, many others are true heroes. Time moves on and years pass, but through the sharing of these stories, the heroes live forever.
Lest we forget.