Private Sydney George BENNETT


Regiment/Service:
Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment)
Unit:
16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish)
  4th Company
(Formerly: 72nd Battalion
  (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada))
Service Number:
129012
Date of Death:
Between: 8 & 9 October 1916 - Died
Age:
18
Cemetery / Memorial:
Cemetery Reference:
IV. E. 9.

Personal History:
Sydney was born on the 8th March 1897 (according to his Service Papers), the son of Matthew Green (Joiner) [see Footnote below] and Sarah (née Wood) Bennett. He had five younger siblings, Jeffrey, Elsie, Edgar, Marion and Rita.
At the time of the 1901 Census (RG 13/3270) Sydney, his parents, and younger brother, Jeffrey, were living at the home of his great-grandmother, 81 year old Farmer, Elizabeth Bennett, at 86 Germany, Burbage. [Jeffrey died in the June quarter 1905] 

In 1911 (Census RG 14/21237) the family had moved to 1 Gordon Cottage, Burbage, although father, Matthew, was not registered with his wife and children and it is quite possible he had already gone ahead to prepare their new home in Vancouver, Canada. The rest of the family emigrated the following year. [Great-grandmother, Elizabeth, died in the March quarter 1913.]

At the time of his enlistment in 1915 Sydney was living at his parents' home at 3408, 39th Avenue West, Kerrisdale, Vancouver, British Columbia and working in "Leekies Shoe Factory".

Military History:
On the 9th September 1915, at Vancouver, British Columbia, 17 year old Sydney enlisted into the 72nd Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada), Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force, where he was already serving an a 'Peace Footing'. The 72nd Battalion was authorized on the 10th July 1915 and embarked for Britain on the 23rd April 1916. It disembarked in France on the 13th August 1916.

At some stage he was transferred to the 16th Battalion, Manitoba Regiment, probably when a total of 41 officers and 1,637 other ranks of  the 72nd Battalion were drafted to other Canadian infantry units, in particular the 16th Battalion CEF. The 16th Canadian Infantry Battalion had been organized at Valcartier under Camp Order 241 of the 2nd September 1914 and was composed of recruits from Victoria, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Hamilton. The battalion was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel R.G.E. Leckie.

Obviously, Sydney joined the Battalion later after training and when reporting him missing "The Buxton Advertiser" of the 24th February 1917 stated that: "... he returned to England in the Spring of 1916."

The War Diary shows that the Battalion move to Albert on the 5th October 1916, arriving at 5.00 p.m., and the following day the Officers went to reconnoitre the line beyond Courcelette. On the 7th the Battalion left for the trenches, north-east of Courcelette and were: "… under orders to make our attack in conjunction with the 13th and 3rd Battalions on our right.".

The initial orders were delivered by Colonel Leckie, involving two Companies (1 and 4) in the front line in the 'kicking off trench', with Companies 2 and 3 in the old front line. (Sydney was in 4 Company.) At 10.00 p.m., however, the orders were amended to "… attack in four waves."

At 4.50 a.m. the following morning, 8th, the barrage began, followed by the attack. The Battalion gained its objective, despite wire to the left, and so did the Battalion on their right. the Battalion to the left did not reach its objective. However, reports were received that all of the Officers except two were killed or wounded. Later in the day: "The enemy made strong counter-attacks and drove the Battalion back on our right leaving both our flanks in the air."

Sydney's 16th Battalion were still in the front line the next day, the 9th October, which was: "… fairly quiet." Relief arrived from the 1st Battalion and the 16th were back in Albert by 10.50 p.m. that night.

At some time during the Battle Sydney went missing, as reported by "The Buxton Advertiser" (24th February 1917): "... on October 8-9 [1916] he [Sydney] was reported wounded and missing and the fact that nothing further has been heard of him naturally causes grave concern among his relatives."

Quite amazingly Sydney's body was later recovered and he was buried in Grave N. E. 9. Adanac Military Cemetery (the name was formed by reversing the name "Canada"). This Cemetery was made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the Canadian battlefields around Courcelette and small cemeteries surrounding Miraumont. The Battalion lost 135 Officers and men killed in action during the Battle of 8th/9th October 1916. 48 are buried with Sydney in Adanac Cemetery, of the remainder all but two have no known grave and are commemorated on the Memorial at Vimy.

Footnotes:
· Sydney's father, Matthew Green Bennett, was the older brother of another Buxton casualty - Pt. 204542 William Thomas BENNETT - who was
  accidentally killed whilst serving with the Lincolnshire Regiment.

Sources:
· I am grateful to 'The War Graves Photographic Project' for the photo of Sydney's grave.
· I am also grateful to the Canadian Virtual War Memorial Project for access to the War Diary
· "History of the 72nd Canadian Infantry Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders of Canada" (1920) - Bernard McEvoy - available online
· 'The Buxton Advertiser' - 24 February 1917

Link to CWGC Record
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