Private Benjamin FEARN


Regiment/Service:
Royal Welsh Fusiliers
(Formerly: Royal Army Service Corps)
Unit:
25th (Montgomeryshire and
Welsh Horse Yeomanry) Battalion
Service Number:
60024
(Formerly: 124190 Royal Army Service Corps.)
Date of Death:
9 March 1918 - Killed in Action
Age:
37
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Reference:
F. 53.

Personal History:
Benjamin was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire in 1885, the son of Daniel J. Fearn (Silk Manufacturer) He had an older sister, Sarah, and a younger sister, Lilian. Very shortly after Lilian's birth Daniel was widowed. In 1891 the family lived at 55 Bridge Street, Macclesfield. (Census RG 12/2817)
Benjamin married Elizabeth Ann Pattison Massey in the March quarter 1901 and they were initially lodged with the Sturgess family at Ashford House, Burbage, Buxton, and employed as a "Milk Salesman" (1901 Census RG 13/3270).  They had four children, William Henry, Daniel James, Charles Herbert and Thomas Leslie. (Benjamin's father seems to have fallen on hard times and is a resident in the Union Workhouse, Macclesfield.) In 1911 (Census RG 14/21243) they had moved to Knox Cottage (38) West Road, Buxton.

Military History:
Benjamin enlisted into the Royal Army Service Corps at Buxton. Unfortunately, his Service Papers have not survived, nor does his Medal Index Card give any suggestion as to when he attested, except that he was not posted overseas until after 1915. (He did not qualify for the 1914-15 Star Medal.)

However, by comparing the Service Number of other men of the Royal Army Service Corps it would suggest that he enlisted in November 1915. By a similar process if deduction it seems likely he transferred to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers about March 1916, just a few months after his enlistment.

The 25th (Montgomery & Welsh Horse Yeomanry) Battalion of the Fusiliers was formed in Egypt on the 4th March 1917 from dismounted Montgomery and Welsh Horse Yeomanry and attached to 231st Brigade, 74th (Yeomanry) Division. This re-organisation stemmed from orders on the 14th January 1917 the GOC Egyptian Expeditionary Force, Sir Edmund Allenby, and the 231st Infantry Brigade was formed from the 4th Dismounted Brigades of Yeomanry, at the time serving on Suez Canal defences.

During the following year the Division took part in actions at The Second Battle of Gaza (17th - 19th April); The Third Battle of Gaza (27th October - 7th November), including the Capture of Beersheba on 31st October and the capture of the Sheria Position on 6th November. Then The capture of Jerusalem (8th - 9th December) and The Defence of Jerusalem (27th - 30th December 1917).

In 1918 the only major action was The Battle of Tell'Asur (8th - 12th March) and it was
on the second day of this Battle that Benjamin was killed in action.

On the map, the red line shows the 74th Division's position at 6.00 pm on the 8th and
the broken red line shows their position at 10.00 am on the 10th March 1918.
[The dash-&-dot red line shows the final position on the 12th March 1918]

The History of the Welsh Regiment (Marden) states that the Turks hid away in isolated
outposts, caves etc. and 'popped up' anywhere at any time. This is why there was further
fire from Chipp Hill, as although it had been cleared, Turkish units moved back into areas
after the British had moved on.

Covering the action of the 9th March 1917, the History says:
"The Herefords had come up on the left, and the two Battalions now found themselves
confronted by heavy rifle and machine gun fire from Chipp Hill. The Herefords were
ordered to take the hill, assisted by covering fire from the 4th Welch, and this they
succeeded in doing by 7 a.m. This action cleared the flank of the 5th R.W.F., who had
captured Cairn Hill, and who now commenced to assault Tell ‘Asur under an artillery
bombardment.

By 9.30 a.m. Tell ‘Asur was in their hands, but the Turks well knew the value of this vital position, and launching a strong counter-attack drove back the Herefords to Drage Hill, and also counterattacked Tell ‘Asur from the north, temporarily regaining the summit, but the 5th R.W.F. counter-attacked and drove them off. Both Battalions had suffered severely and were relieved, the Herefords by the 7th R.W.F. and the 5th R.W.F. by the 6th R.W.F., the latter repulsing several counter-attacks during the day.

The 74th Division had had heavy fighting during the morning, and the 24th Welch, who were in Brigade reserve, had to use both “A" and “B“ Companies to clear hills, losing Captain D. L. P. Morgan killed, and 11 other casualties. Eventually the 231st Brigade captured Selwad, but could not advance as both its flanks were in the air.

A combined attack of the Herefords on Chipp Hill and the 4th Welch on a ridge to the northeast of it was now arranged for 3.30 p.m. The Welch were successful, but the Herefords failed to get to the top of the ridge, and the Welch suffered 30 casualties from enfilade fire from Chipp Hill, but hung on grimly. At 6.30 p.m. the attack was renewed by the Herefords and the top of the hill was at last in our possession, but the Turks still clung to the reverse slope and made things very unpleasant the next morning."

Benjamin was one of the five men from his Battalion killed in action on the 9th March. He now lies in the Jerusalem War Cemetery which was begun after the occupation of the city, with 270 burials. It was later enlarged to take graves from the battlefields and other smaller cemeteries in the area, so it is possible he was originally buried elsewhere and re-buried after the Armistice.

Sources:
· I am grateful to The War Graves Photographic Project for the photograph of Benjamin's grave.
· "The History of the Welsh Regiment" - Major-General Sir Thomas O. Marden, ISBN: 9781845747084

Link to CWGC Record
Pt Benjamin Fearn's Grave
Map of the Battle of Tell'Asur
poppy
Map of the Battle of Tell'Asur