John was the elder son of Major Sir John and Lady Becke (nee Jones, daughter of barrister Edwyn Jones) of Over Tabley, Cheshire and Hartford Hall, Northwich. His younger brother was Michael Becke (K 1937-1941) (killed in Holland November 1944 – see individual entry). Their father was Chief Constable of Cheshire and, according to The Times: “as schoolboys the two brothers played an active part in the safety first campaign which their father organized in 1936-37, by posing for many photographs illustrating how carelessness can lead to road accidents”.
John came to Winchester from The Wick, in Hove. During his early time at the school his ambition was to become a doctor but he later changed his mind, transferring to the B Ladder and devoting himself to History. After four terms at Oriel College, Oxford he joined the 12th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps as a Second Lieutenant in September 1942, where one of his fellow officers was the journalist, W F Deedes, Commanding Officer of B Company. Other officers included: Captain Alan James Nevill Young (A 1924-1930) and Lieutenant Richard Luxmoore (A 1936-1941).
The Battalion spent several years training in England but by June 1944 were acting as the motorised infantry battalion for 8 Armoured Brigade, landing in Normandy almost a fortnight after D-Day.
They went into action on 26th June as part of Operation Epsom, a British offensive aimed at capturing the German occupied city of Caen. 12KRRC were to attack the hamlet of Tessel, next to the village of Rauray, which, unknown to the British, was heavily defended by 9th Panzer Division. Sniper fire destroyed the 18 radio sets of all the leading platoons and with the Germans defending Rauray with Tiger tanks, the attack completely stalled. The decision was taken to withdraw.
12KRRC had lost eleven killed and 20 wounded or missing, six of them officers, one of whom was Becke. He lies in grave V.B.8 of the St Manvieu War Cemetery, Cheux, 10 kilometres west of Caen.
- Surname: Becke
- Forenames or initials: John
- House: K
- Years in School: 1936-1940
- Rank: Lieutenant
- Regiment: King's Royal Rifle Corps
- Date of Birth: 14th April 1922
- Date of Death: 26th June 1944
- How Died: Killed in Action
- Location in War Cloister: Inner B1
- Decoration: NA
- Burial Site: St Manvieu War Cemetery: Grave V.B.8