As crowds gathered for the unveiling of Chester Cathedral’s First World War memorial on a summer’s day in 1922, two women stood.

As the flag covering the monument was pulled clear the women’s thoughts no doubt turned to their lost sons.

One grieving mother was Mary Beatty of Chester whose three sons died during the war.

The second mother was Mrs J Sheriff Roberts, who had also suffered the loss of three sons.

Civic leaders asked the women to attend the ceremony on the cathedral green that day in May to represent the mothers and fathers whose sons didn’t come home from the 1914-1918 conflict.

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Mary’s great-great-great granddaughter Emma Fletcher said: “As I understand it, Mary lost three sons on active service during World War One and so was asked along with another local mother who had lost three sons to open the cathedral’s war memorial.”

Mary married James Beatty at St Werburgh’s Church in October 1869 and the couple went on to have 11 children who they raised in the family home at Boughton.

They could never have imagined the sorrow that would plague the family in later years.

The first son they lost during the war was Hugh, 39, a private in the Cheshire Regiment 1st/5th Battalion.

A bricklayer by trade and well-known local amateur footballer, the married father-of-six fell in action at Flanders on September 21 1916.

The date of his death suggests he may have just finished working on trenches when he and the rest of his platoon came under heavy shell fire.

It is believed the men had finished working and were lining up when a large shell burst in their midst.

Hugh was probably one of six men who perished immediately at the scene.

Civic dignitaries in a procession at the unveiling of Chester Cathedral's First World War memorial in 1922
 

Less than a year later his brother Peter died at the age of 30 on July 23 1917 while serving with the Royal Navy as a reservist.

Peter had joined the service in 1905 and after serving his time became an hydraulic fitter. With the outbreak of war he was recalled as a reservist.

Eventually the married father-of-one found himself aboard HMS President which had been sent to SS Baysarua in New Orleans harbour.

Tragically Peter fell overboard, hit his head on a piece of harbour masonry and drowned. He was buried at Greenwood Cemetery, New Orleans.

Just over a year later the family were to receive yet more devastating news with the death of Richard, 29, a sapper with the Royal Engineers in Egypt.

He was buried in Ramlegh War Cemetery, Israel/ Palestine.

Before the fighting Richard worked as a gardener in Solihull, West Midlands.

By 1914 he was back in his home city and was running his own florist, fruit and vegetable business. He left a wife and two children.

A year after the unveiling ceremony Mary Beatty died at the age of 72. Her husband James followed her a few months afterwards in December 1923.

The couple never got the chance to bury the sons they had brought into the world.

However, their names are listed together on the First World War memorials in Chester Town Hall and in St Werburgh’s Church.

Read more First World War commemoration stories.