Sergeant Walter Henry BENNETT M.M.


Regiment/Service:
Royal Horse Artillery & Royal Field Artillery
Unit:
"B" Battery, 102nd Brigade
Service Number:
44674
Date of Death:
31 October 1918 - Killed in Action
Age:
30
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Reference:
Plot 5. Row B. Grave 15.
Awards:
Military Medal.


Personal History:

Walter was born in the June quarter, 1888, in Sparrow Pitt, Peak Forest, Buxton, the second son of Joseph (Quarry labourer) and Annie (née Vernon) Bennett. His older brother was Joseph F. and he had two younger brothers, Tom Albert and Leonard, and three younger sisters, Martha, Annie and Lily. (1891 Census RG 12/2780 and 1901 Census  RG 13/4060)
in 1901 Joseph (Snr.) was a surface coal labourer at the Normanton, Yorkshire, colliery and his two elder sons were both working underground. The family were lodging at 117 Wakefield Road, Normanton. (1901 Census RG 13/4280), The rest of the family (wife and four youngest children) were living at 7 Albert Street, Baildon, Yorkshire. The CWGC records show Walter's family living in Fernilee, nr. Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire after the War.

The 1911 Census (RG 14.24333) shows Walter living at Hopkins Farm, Stalybridge, working as a 'Farm Labourer'. In the March quarter 1905 he had married Annie May Wood, at Barrow-in-Furness, Cumberland. By 1911 they had two daughters, Annie May and Grace Margaret, both born in Cowdale, Nr. Buxton.

Military History:
Walter enlisted in Buxton and his Medal Index Card shows that he entered France with the Royal Field Artillery as Driver 44674 on 24th August 1915 as a driver with his Battery. Unfortunately, Walter's Service Records have not survived. The 102nd Brigade, R.F.A. were attached to 23rd Division between the 6th June 1916 and the 22nd August 1916 having previously served with 34th Divison. During the Battle of Messines, on the 7th June 1917 they were in the area near Hill 60 and The Caterpillar.

They saw action at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, The Battle of Messines and the First the Second Battle of Passchendaele in 1917, before moving to Italy in October 1917 after the Italian Army collapsed against the Austrians at the Battle of Caporetto. British reinforcements were sent to the Italian front, including Walter in November 1917. He later fought in the Battle of Asiago and the Battle of Vittorio Veneto.

He was 'Acting/Sgt' in October 1918 when he was Gazetted as one of whom "His Majesty The KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Military Medal for bravery in the Field" (London Gazette 21st October 1918). Just 10 days later he was killed in action, probably at Battle of Vittorio Veneto, 24th October to 4th November 1918.

The Battle of Vittorio Veneto was the last decisive battle in northern Italy of World War One. After the Austrians had halted the Italian 8th Army on the Piave Line, the British 10th Army crossed the River on the 23rd October and established a large bridgehead. The Austrian 5th Army were pushed back and their forced split.

By the 3rd November the British 6th Army had driven through the split as far as Trent (Trento). The British/Italian victory at Vittorio Veneto also effectively signalled the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Without an army to support it, the governing regime that controlled the empire collapsed and the empire fragmented.

Walter was the only one of his Battery killed during the Battle, and one of only four of the 102nd Brigade. He is buried near to where he fell in Tezze British Cemetery. The CWGC site reads:

"On 21 October 1918, Commonwealth forces comprising the XIVth Corps (7th and 23rd Divisions), which had been transferred from the Asiago sector, took over the part of the River Piave front from Salletuol to Palazzon, serving as part of the Italian Tenth Army. On the night of 23 October, the main channel of the river was crossed using small boats and the northern half of the island of Grava di Papadopoli was occupied, the occupation being completed two nights later by a combined Commonwealth and Italian force. After the capture of the island, the bridging of the Piave proceeded rapidly, although the strength of the current meant that the two bridges built for the crossing were frequently broken and many men were drowned.

The Allied attack east of the Piave began early in the morning of 27 October. Despite stiff resistance and difficulties with bringing forward supporting troops across the river, the Austrians were forced back over the next few days until the Armistice came into effect on 4 November.

Many of those who died on the north-east side of the river during the Passage of the Piave are buried in Tezze British Cemetery. It now contains 356 Commonwealth burials of the First World War."

Having served over three years with the Colours, Walter lost his life just five days before the War in Italy came to an end.

Footnote:
· Captain Edward Harold Brittain - brother of Vera, author of 'Testament of Youth' - was killed at the Battle of Asiago
Sources:
· I am grateful to The British War Graves for the photo of Walter's grave


Link to CWGC Record
Sgt W H Bennett's Grave at Tezze
poppy
Sgt Walter Henry Bennett