Private William BENNETT
   (Shown as "Bennett, W. Jr." on Memorial)

Regiment/Service:
Sherwood Foresters
(Notts and Derby Regiment)
Unit:
1st Battalion ("A" Company)
Service Number:
22818
Date of Death:
4 March 1917 - Killed in Action
Age:
24
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Pier and Face 10 C 10 D and 11 A.


Personal History:

William was born in the March quarter 1886, the son of Edward (Limestone Quarryman) and Ellen (née Staughton) Bennett, of 26 Rock Bank Cottages, Harpur Hill, Buxton. He had one older brother, Robert, and six younger siblings, Annie, Edward, David, Emma, Walter, Herbert, Ethel and Frank. (1901 Census RG 13/3271).

In 1911 (Census RG 14/21239) the family was at the same address and William had gained two more siblings, Edith and James. In the December quarter 1909 William married Ellen Collis and they lived with her parents, George and Elizabeth, at 55 Burlow Cottage, Harpur Hill, Buxton. William was working as a "General Labourer". 'The Buxton Advertiser', 7th April 1917, reported that they had had three children and that his parents were living at 26 Harpur Hill Road. It also stated that his nickname was "Peggy" and that he was ".. of a cheery and optimistic disposition .." and would be ".. sorely missed .."

Military History:
William enlisted in the 1st Battalion in Buxton. His Medal Index Card indicates that he entered the War in  France on the 14th December 1915 and unfortunately his Service Papers have not survived. The Battalion had moved to France in August 1914, in keeping with all regular Battalions based in England. Obviously, William joined later as a reinforcement. [A comparison of his Service Number with other Foresters' records would indicate that he enlisted on or about the 28th January 1915.]

The Battalion was attached to the 24th Brigade in the 8th Division. After William joined them his first major action would have been The Battle of Albert, 1st - 13th July 1916, part of the overall Battle of the Somme. In March 1917 He took part in the "Action Of Bouchavesnes" which was carried out on 4th March 1917.

The 8th Division History says that an attack was carried out on 4th March by the 1st Worcesters and 2nd Northamptonshires of 24 Brigade with the 2nd Lincolns and 1st Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby) in support. Their objective was the German position on the "Hogs Back" overlooking Bouchavesnes, giving a view over the Moislains Valley up to Nurlu and the trenches called Fritz Trench and Pallas Trench.

The Official History of the 1st Battalion (see below) states that they moved up from camp on the 2nd March 1917 and marched to Asquith Flats for the night before moving up for the attack. The weather was cold after a recent thaw and the ground was hard so the men made good progress and at 6.00 p.m. on March 3rd Battalion HQ was established and the companies went straight to their assaulting lines.

William's 'A' Company "... was attached to the 1st Worcester Regiment as "carriers", 'B' to the 2nd Northamptons in the same capacity, and 'C' and 'D' to the 2nd Northamptons and 1st Worcesters respectively as "moppers up". By 2.00 a.m. on the 4th all troops were in place for the coming attack. "The objective of the attack was to capture the ridge immediately south of St. Pierre Vaast Wood .."

The British barrage began at 5.15 a.m., immediately followed by the German response, so much so that many casualties occurred in the first few minutes of the battle, especially from shell-fire. By 6.15 a.m. all objectives had been taken and despite four counter-attacks the Sherwoods held their positions. About 9.00 p.m. 'A' and 'B' Companies were withdraw, 'C' and 'D' remaining until the following morning.

At some time during this short engagement on the morning of the 4th March 1917, William was killed in action when attacking at Andover, France, (one of the 35 dead + 67 wounded).  In reporting his death 'The Buxton Advertiser', 7th April 1917, quoted parts of a letter to Mrs Bennett from Captain Lightfoot: "... During a successful attack on enemy trenches, in which the  Battalion took part, 'A' Company was engaged in carrying bombs etc. up to the captured trenches and whilst so working your husband was killed by an German shell which exploded near his party. It may be of some consolation to know that death was instantaneous and that he suffered no pain, also that he died giving the enemy a severe blow."

Perhaps not surprisingly William has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on The Somme.

                                  

Footnote:
· William's younger brother, Private Edward BENNETT, 17th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment), was killed in action on the 22nd April 1916.
· Younger brother, Private Walter BENNETT served with the 2/4th Royal Scots in Northern Ireland.

Sources:
· I am grateful to Jonty Wild for the photo of William's name on the Memorial
· "1st and 2nd Battalions the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment) in the Great War" - H.C. Wylly (ISBN-10: 1845744241) pps. 42-43
· The Buxton Advertiser, 7 April 1917

Link to CWGC Record
The Thiepval Memorial
Pt William Bennett's name on the Memorial
Spr. William Bennett
poppy
..... Letters written home from L/Cpl Norman Butcher, M.M. a fellow soldier in the 1st Battalion, who was killed in action the day after William