1st Battalion Lincolnsire Regiment
Died of wounds - 17th July 1916
James Bennison was the youngest brother of a GEORGE HENRY BENNISON who had sadly also died of his wounds on 23rd March 1916.
The Bennison family were a large family, George snr and Mary had 10 children; John Thomas, Julia, Hannah, John Joseph, Mary, George Henry, Harriett, William, Frank and finally James was the baby of the family, born in 1893 at Barrow Hill a small mining village located on the outskirts of Chesterfield. The family appear to have moved around a lot from village to village, they would no doubt live where ever the work was to be found.
|Derbyshire Courier 13th January 1894 page 5|
Life changed dramatically for the Bennison family in the winter months of 1894, when on 4th January the head of the household, George Bennison snr died aged just 43 years old. Mary was left with 10 children to support, James was less than 1 year old at the time.
In 1901 the Bennison family had moved once more and were now living at 110 South Street, New Whittington. Mary, the head of the household was aged 44 years old. She was a young widow with many mouths to feed. George was aged 15 years old but no occupation was given for him. Joseph aged 18 years was a coal miner. The other children were; Mary 17, Harriet 13, William 12, Frank 10 and James was now 8 years old. Also in the household was 1 year old Myra Benison, enumerated as "daughter" of Mary but actually her granddaughter.
James' eldest siblings had left home by now, his eldest brother John Thomas was living at 10 York Terrace, Warsop with his new wife Florence in 1901. He was employed as a bricklayer, most likely working on building the new homes and communal buildings for the growing community. John Thomas married Florence Taylor in 1900 at Warsop, the brides home village. On 9th September 1901 a baby boy was born to John and Florence; named George Frederick. Then came Cyril, Leslie and a daughter named Nellie.
Julia married Albert Harling on 11th August 1900 at St Stephens Church, West Bowling, Bradford. Julia was a domestic servant so she may well have met Albert whilst working away from home. The couple were living at 12 Barton Street, Bradford in 1901. Albert worked as an aerated water carter. The couple had a 5 month old daughter named Harriett Ann. Sadly baby Harriett died not long after the 1901 census enumerator had walked the streets of Bradford and recorded her life on his pages.
Hannah aged 20 years old was working as a domestic servant in 1901. She was employed by Mr Job Rhodes and lived with his family at 2 Westgate Colonnade in Bradford. Not long after Hannah married Thomas Binns at Bradford. The couple's first child Henry was born in Bradford in 1902.
The local employer Staveley Company took on a new project around 1893 when they decided to sink a new coal mining seam at Warsop in Nottinghamshire. By the mid 1890's the pit was functional and many of the local men from the New Whittington area would have followed the work and moved their families to the newly built cottages in Warsop. A new life working at a new and modern colliery with new homes, would be just what the younger generation of colliers would wish for. The Bennison family were amongst those who were part of this new venture; John, Julia, George and Joseph all moved to live at Warsop.
1911 the eve of WW1....
James was living with his mother at 131 High Street, New Whittington. Also in the home were William aged 21 a rope man below ground at Markham Pit, Frank aged 20 years old. There was also a granddaughter named Myra aged 11 years old with the family.
James was aged 17 years old, he and his brother Frank both worked at the local pit Markham Colliery as pony drivers. 1911 saw changes to the law regarding the care of the pit ponies and also rose the age a boy could be employed by the mines to 14 years of age.
John and Florence were still living in Warsop at 4 Clumber Street. John was now employed as a coal miner. They have four living children and one deceased; George Frederick 9, Cyril 4, Leslie 2 and Nellie 1 year old.
George had left the area of New Whittington and was living with his sister Julia and her family at 16 Queen Street, Warsop. George was aged 25 years old, single and employed as a coal miner hewer. Julia's husband Albert worked in the same trade, most likely the family would have worked alongside each other. The household was a full one; with three adults and five children under 9 years old; George born 1902, Annie born 1904, William born 1906, Myra born 1909 and little Henry aged 7 months born 1910.
Joseph had married May Booth in 1906 (May was the sister of Ernest Booth who lost his life to the war on 15th May 1915). In 1911 Joseph and May were living at 7 Queen Street, Warsop. Joseph worked as a coal miner, they had one young son named after his grandfather and uncle; George Bennison aged 1 year old.
Hannah and her son Henry had returned to New Whittington and were living with William Booth and his two young sons; William 5 and Albert 3 years old. Hannah was described as "house keeper domestic" and "married". William was single. They lived at 133 High Street, New Whittington, next door to Hannah's mother Mary.
Mary Bennison was working as housekeeper for a 44 year old widowed collier named William Mortiboy. William had 5 children aged between 17 years old and 5 years old, so I am sure that Mary was a valued member of the household. They lived just a few doors away from Joseph at number 14 Queen Street, Warsop.
Harriett Bennison moved away from Chesterfield and married Arthur Sharp in Bradford on 13th March 1909. A year later on 11th May 1910 their baby daughter Nora Benison Sharp was born back in Chesterfield. By 1911 Harriett and her new family had moved to the hustle and bustle of London. Arthur worked at an iron foundry and the family lived in one room at 34 Talbot Grove, Kensington.
James was one of the early recruits to the British Army, he enlisted and received his medical on 29th August 1914. Aged 21 years and 35 days, James was described as "fit" 5 ft 11 1/2 inches, with blue eyes, a fresh complexion and "golden" hair. He was originally posted to the 3rd Lincolnshire Regiment but transferred to the 1st Battalion prior to leaving for France. He was now known as Private 8801.
James left England with his battalion on 16th February 1915, arriving in France the next day to join the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F).
France 17th February - 23rd July 1916....
Life at the front line for James can only be imagined by us 100 years on in 2016, but we can expect, having read contemporary accounts that he was living through hell. This was not the life a young collier would have ever dreamed he would find himself in the midst of.
Towards the end of February 1915 James' sister Julia wrote a letter to the war office asking of the whereabouts of her brother. She had received a card from a third party telling her that James was wounded. The War Office carried out some investigations and the 1st Lincolns confirmed that "The Battalion stretcher bearers inform me that he left the dressing station suffering from wounds to the head". James was examined by the doctor on 14th April 1915 and he deduced that the scar was an old scar, it was on the left side of his head and was around 2 inches wide. James stated it came from a fall of stone in the coal mines some 4 years ago.
A telling clue as to James' well being can be found within one page in his service records; the page headed "Casualty Form - Active Service". This page is full with entries for James. On 29th March 1915 James was wounded in action. Unfortunately the service records are damaged and so the reason is not entirely legible, however the words "R Knee" can be read.
A further report although very unclear to read seems to tell that James was transferred to hospital on the night of 26th April 1915 due to "suffering from a self inflicted cut". This cut was to his throat, noted as "self inflicted". In August 1915 an investigation was carried out into James' health and the cause if this injury. The final verdict deduced;
(1) intentionally self inflicted
England 23rd July 1915 - 21st March 1916....
On 23rd July 1915 James was transferred to hospital ship and returned to England.
James was a patient at the 4th London General Hospital at Denmark Hill, London from 23rd July 1915. They would carry out numerous tests and studies on James to discover his mental stability.
James was diagnosed with "NEURASTHENIA" commonly known now as shell shock. He was transferred on 17th August 1915 to a specialist unit named Springfield University Hospital in Wandsworth, London. Springfield was a mental hospital built in 1841 in an imposing Tudor style. During WW1 it was renamed Springfield War Hospital. Its purpose was to care for men returning from the front with shell shock and mental disturbance.
France 22nd March 1916 - 17th July 1916....
A statement dated 16th April 1916 states -
"In the absence of any sufficient evidence no disciplinary action will be taken in this case".
Unfortunately it is not known exactly what happened to James after his admittance to Springfield War Hospital but in March of 1916 he found himself deemed fit enough to return to France. If James had been further disciplined regarding the alleged self inflicted wounds and found guilty he may have found himself court marshalled, found guilty of cowardice James would have been sentenced to death and "shot at dawn".
James' part in the Somme offensive....
The 1st Lincolnshire Battalion were part of the 62nd Brigade. At 8am on 1st July they left their barracks at Meaulte and began to carry out their orders "to carry S.A.A Mills grenades and Stokes mortar bombs to a dump immediately N. of the EASTERN end of PATCH ALLEY on the SUNKEN ROAD". Their objective appears to have been completed sucessfully as the war dairy goes on to record "At 1.30pm carrying parties proceeded across the open to the first line captured German trenches and hence to the dump".
The battalion then returned to the captured German trenches to commence consolidation, but due to the heavy bombardment still being sent over from the British side this task was described as "a very arduous one".
At 6pm on that terrible first day James and his comrades were then ordered to move on and reinforce the 64th Brigade at Crucifix Trench and the Sunken Road. On 2nd July the men were able to hold on to the Crucifix Trench despite heavy bombardment throughout the day. By night the enemy fire was quiet and the men were able to "bring in the wounded".
Further orders were given on 3rd July for the battalion to attack Birch Tree Wood and Shelter Wood. This attack was carried out after they had given the enemy 20 minutes of heavy bombardment. The words of the war diary tell "At 9am our leading platoons left the trench to rush the enemy, and on reaching the ridge in front of the wood, came under heavy machine gun fire from both flanks." For A Company this was devastating and they suffered badly, but B Company who were placed on the right managed to take their objective. At one point in the battle upon reaching the enemy trenches the battalion were surprised to find large numbers of the enemy still dug in, these men attempted to surround the Lincolns, but after some machine fire they were able to capture the area and the German soldiers were taken prisoners. The Birch Tree Wood and Shelter Wood areas were cleared and taken fully, the objective completed. The battalion were relieved and allowed to fall back into the Crucifix Trench.
The figures for that one days battle were recorded in the war diary as;
Officers - killed 3, wounded 6
Other ranks - killed 34, wounded 191, missing 9
Enemy taken prisoner - 900 men
James would be relieved when on 4th July the battalion took the train and left the area to arrive at Ailly-Sur-Somme att 1.15pm. They then marched to billets at Argoeuves where they remained until 7th July. On 8th July they were addressed by the Major General D.J Campbell who commended them on their achievements and gallantry.
The following days saw the men march from village to village, taking a train journey once more they eventually arrived near Mametz Wood on 11th July. Their orders were to clear the wood and on 12th July James and his battalion "proceeded to Strip Trench which was blocked with German dead". It was found later that the enemy had in fact evacuated Mametz Wood and moved on to trenches outside the wood area, however they continued to bombard the Lincolns with heavy shell fire.
On this day 12th July 1916....
"other ranks; killed 10, wounded 97, missing 14".
James received a gun shot wound to his left shoulder on 12th July 1916. He died 5 days later on 17th July 1916. The dairy for the 13th July tells that the enemy bombardment became so bad that day that at dusk the orders were given to A & B Companies to withdraw from their newly occupied position of Mametz Wood. Shelling continued until day break on 14th July when it settled down and it became safe for the battalion to colelct their wounded from inside Mametz Wood.
James is buried at the Daours Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France. His grave reference number is 1 B 6. His grave shows the sign of the cross, with no other comments added by his family.
James was awarded the British War Medal, Victory Medal and 15 Star for his service.
James' personal posessions were forward on to his sister Julia Harling in October 1916. The package would signify the end to her baby brothers suffering and any hope that the Bennison family could welcome the young man home into their safe environment ever again.
James' death was reported in the Derbyshire Times dates 12th August 1916 page 4. It included a photo of James in which he looks such a young boy. The obituary reads as follows....
"A third victim is Pte. James Benison (sic),
also of High Street, New Whittington, who died in
hospital in France of wounds received in the recent
offensive on the 17th July.
He joined the Lincolns about two years ago, and had
twice been wounded. He was 23 years of age and had
been in France on the last occasion just six months.
His brother George Henry, was killed a short
time ago, and two other brothers are in the fighting
line in France. His sister, Mrs Booth is hoping
to hear fuller particulars of his death."
Mary Bennison, George's mother had died in 1914 aged 58 years old. In some ways a blessing for Mary as she would not live to witness the horror and turmoil that the Great War had on her beloved family.
John Thomas Benison and his wife Florence remained living in Warsop. In 1939 he was still living at 4 Clumber Street, Warsop however he was a widow. John died in 1947 aged 72 years old.
Julia and her husband Albert had at least three more children; Gwendoline Mary born 1912, Mary Ann born 1914 and Margaret born 1916.
Albert joined the 17th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, known as the Welbeck Rangers in July 1915. He was private 28205. He was discharged in September 1917 as "no longer physically fit for service" and awarded the Victory, British and Silver War Medal.
Julia was the recipient of both of her deceased brother's (George and James Bennison) war pensions. However, she died not too long after the brothers in 1929, she was only 51 years old. What became of her husband Albert Harling is not known - I have not been able to find any local death for him.
Joseph and May continued to reside in Warsop. They had four more children; Ernest 1913, Miriam 1915, James 1917 and May 1921. Joseph may have died in 1948 and May in 1960, however these dates have not been confirmed with death certificate proof on my part.
Joseph and May would have felt the harsh reality of war, having lost three siblings between them; Ernest Booth, George Bennison and James Bennison.
Hannah Bennison may have emigrated to Canada. However further information is needed to confirm this is correct. Hannah Binns was noted as living at New Whittington in June 1919 (according to service records of James Bennison). A Hannah Binns married William Booth (brother of Ernest Booth above) in 1928 at Chesterfield. Hannah was living with William in 1911, did she return to England after Thomas Binns died? or did she part ways with Thomas and return home?
Mary Bennison has not been located after the 1911 census.
George Henry Bennison Private 28206, was wounded in action on 19th April 1916. He died 4 days later on 23rd April 1916 of his injuries sustained.
His death was reported in the Derbyshire Times the following month, 13th May 1916 page 8. The article tells that George was "30 years of age, a finely built fellow". It states that George had joined the Army 10 months ago (around June 1915) and had been in France just over 7 weeks. He was enlisted with the Sherwood Foresters but had recently been transferred to the Royal Engineers. He died of his wounds on Easter Sunday 1916.
George's story can be read here.
Harriett and Arthur Sharp had lived in London at the outbreak of WW1. They had two more children by now; Albert Arthur born 1st December 1911 and Constance Mary born 9th October 1913. From the places of birth of the two children the family must have moved around London; Bloomsbury and Deptford respectively.
Arthur joined the Kings Royal Rifle Brigade in December 1915. He was noted as being a "skilled craftsman" (his previous employment was as an aluminium moulder) and so in March of 1916 he was transferred to the Royal Engineers, Sapper 145992.
Something went wrong for Arthur and in November 1916 he was discharged as being no longer fit for service. The reason given was "insane soldier". The notes in the service records go on to state that the insanity was not caused by military service and that Arthur had not served abroad.
What became of Arthur is not known but Harriett married again on 9th February 1918, described as a Widow. She married a soldier named Henry James Prew at Camden, London. The family emigrated to New Zealand to start a new life, Henry was a labourer. In 1928 Harriett and Henry were living at Johnston Street, Foxton, Manawatu, Wanganui. Harriett died in 1967, she still lived in Manawatu.
William Bennison married Emily Booth on 4th August 1914. Just three weeks later on 29th August 1914 he enlisted to the Leicestershire Regiment. Private 12230, he was posted to Aldershot on 5th September but discharged medically unfit on 14th September 1914. He was recorded as suffering from "chronic blepharitis" which would mean that William had irritation to his eyes, this would cause a great deal of problems in the field of war.
Patriotically, on 7th January 1915 William tried to enlist once more. He went into Chesterfield and enlisted with the 3rd Battalion Sherwood Foresters, Private 22035. Unfortunately for William yet again he was discharged on 10th March 1915; recorded as "not likely to become an efficient soldier".
William may have died in 1921 aged just 31 years old.
Frank Bennison worked as a collier prior to the outbreak of WW1. On 3rd September 1914, aged 22 years old, he enlisted with the 7th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment. Private 14274, he was posted to Aldershot to carry out his basic training and on 29th July 1915 he was to join the B.E.F in France where he remained until 12th March 1916 when he returned to England.
Frank would have been in England when he received the sad news that his elder brother George had been killed in action. Having witnessed the terrible sights of war we can only begin to imagine the feelings Frank would feel over the coming months and years. Not long after on 7th July 1916 he was posted once again in France until 4th September 1916.
In October 1917 Frank was transferred to the Royal Defence Corps. According to his service records Frank remained on home turf but was not discharged until 1st April 1919. He was discharged on medical terms as he was suffering from chronic symptoms in both of his knees, which he had sustained as a result of an injury in France in 1916. Frank would have been placed with the Royal Defence Corps due to his injuries and medical problems; his role would have been to guard the areas on home soil that may be a target for the enemy.
Frank returned to civilian life, working at Welbeck Colliery in Mansfield. He sustained a further injury in December 1919 when falling coal caused fractures in his right foot.
Frank may not have settled into the ordinary life of the 1920's England as in March 1920 he applied to join the Grenadier Guards. From the basic information on his service records he was discharged later that month, most likely from his disabilities due to his previous injuries to his knees and right foot.
Frank died in Mansfield in 1932, he was aged just 40 years old. Whether he married and had any children is unknown at this time.
A cousin named Joseph Benison also lost his life to the Great War on 15th September 1916. Joseph was a local lad living in Staveley prior to the outbreak of war. He served with the 10th Battalion Cameronians and is remembered on the Staveley War Memorial. His story can be read here.
If you may be connected to this family or have any further information on James Bennison or his family please do either leave comments via the pen icon below or drop me an email.
I hope that I have not given details of living persons, if so please advise and I will remove immediately.
Please note all information has been taken from online indexes and sources. Due to the sheer numbers of people to be researched I am unable to purchase vital event certificates to confirm my research.
I have written this blog in the spelling BENNISON as is on the St Barnabas Memorial, it will be noted that it was possibly spelt incorrectly as most other sources use the spelling BENISON.
Ref and further reading -
Soldiers who died in the Great war
Register of soldiers effects
Newspaper articles - Derbyshire Times 12th August 1916 page 4
Soldiers who died in the Great war