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War Memorials



In Memory of
HAROLD GEORGE BENNETT
Private 242827
5th Yorkshire Light Infantry (The Kings Own)
Who was Killed in Action on Wednesday, 27th March 1918
Age 20

No Known Grave, Bay 7
Arras Memorial to the Missing, Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
&
Remembered with Honour
Arras Memorial

Arras Memorial to the Missing, Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery, France1

Harold George Bennett was born in Basford, Nottingham in January 18982, the eldest of four children, only son, of James Bennett (b. 1860, Chard, Somerset) and Kate Florence (b.. c1867, Taunton, Somerset née Lowton). By 1881, James had moved to the Nottingham area from Chard in Somerset where he was born. Kate appears to have also arrived there from Taunton in Somerset towards the end of the 1890s and, by 1901, they had two children, including Harold. The family except, for some reason, James, was then living at East Street, Stapleford, Notts3. Two more daughters were born to the couple in the next few years, before Kate died in 19064. By 1911, James and his four children had moved to live at 62 Regent Street, Beeston, apparently to take advantage of the new job opportunities offered at Blacks plain net lace factory that had opened in the Humber Cycle works that had been vacated when that company moved its operations to Coventry in 19085.

From May 1916 onwards, conscription into the armed forces become compulsory for all single men when reaching the age of 18, unless in one of the exemption categories. and they were then eligible to be sent abroad on reaching their 19th birthday. Although Harold's Army Service Record has not survived, it appears that he enlisted in October 19166 and, after training and after reaching his 19th birthday in January 1917, he was posted to France with 2/5th Yorkshire Light Infantry (The Kings Own), probably when the battalion as a whole first landed at Havre on 15 January 1917. Within a very short time, the battalion saw action during the Operations on the Ancre and the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. Shortly afterwards, in April and May 1917, it was part of offensive operation in the Arras area, alongside Australian forces, which became a costly stalemate for both sides with very high casualties7. Towards the end of 1917, the battalion took part in actions against the Hindenburg Line including, in November, the Cambrai operation. This was described by Sir Douglas Haig as the gaining of a 'local success by a sudden attack at a point where the enemy did not expect it' and to some extent it succeeded. The proposed method of assault was new, with no preliminary artillery bombardment. Instead, tanks were be used to break through the German wire, with the infantry following under the cover of smoke barrages. The attack began early in the morning of 20 November 1917 and initial advances were remarkable. However, by 22 November, a halt was called for rest and reorganisation, allowing the Germans to reinforce such that by 29 November, it was clear that the Germans were ready for a major counter attack. During the fierce fighting of the next five days, much of the ground gained in the initial days of the attack was lost. For the Allies, the results of the battle were ultimately disappointing but valuable lessons were learnt about new strategies and tactical approaches to fighting. The Germans had also discovered that their fixed lines of defence, no matter how well prepared, were vulnerable8.

At the end of January 1918, instructions were received that the battalion was to be part of a reorganisation of the Regiment's battalions. As part of this reoganisation, 2/5th Battalion - which included Private Bennett - merged with 1/5th Battalion to become 5th Battalion.

During March 1918, the battalion was in the Arleux sector in support of the line. A major attack by the enemy had been expected for some time as enemy positions had been strangely quite. Then, on 21st March, the German Army launched its Spring Offensive from the Hindenburg Line with the objective of ending the war before American troops and resources could tilt the balance towards the Allies. The objective was to smash through the Allied lines, push the British forces into the sea and to cut off their supply lines by seizing the ports. The German advance had been preceded by a very heavy bombardment which included gas shells. The advancing attack had gained ground and despite a strong defence, parts of the line had been forced to effect a planned and orderly retirement to a new line, closely followed by the enemy. In the next several days, more ground had been lost and the British troops had become increasingly disorganised. Although 5th Battalion had not been closely involved at this early stage, the need to react and recover quickly was to mean its increasing involvement from later in March and beyond. On the 25th it was moved by forced march to Bucquoy to take part in a defensive operation to hold up the German advance. On the 27th it counter attacked alongside tanks, driving the enemy back. During this operation, which continued into the next day, the battalion suffered casualties totaling 16 officers and 376 other ranks9. Private Bennett was amongst those killed in action on the first day.

Having no known grave, Private Bennett is remembered on the Arras Memorial in the Faubourg-d’Amiens Cemetery which is in the Boulevard du General de Gaulle in the western part of the town of Arras. The cemetery is near the Citadel, approximately 2 kilometres west of the railway station. The Faubourg-d’Amiens Cemetery was begun in March 1916. It continued to be in use by field ambulances and fighting units until November 1918. After the Armistice the cemetery was enlarged when graves were brought in from the surrounding battlefields and from two smaller cemeteries in the vicinity. The cemetery contains 2,651 burials from the First World War. The Arras Memorial commemorates almost 35,000 soldiers from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7th August 1918 and have no known grave. The most conspicuous events of this period were the Arras offensive of April-May 1917, and the German attack in the spring of 1918.The cemetery also contains the Flying Services Memorial which commemorates nearly 1,000 airmen of the Royal Naval Air Service, the Royal Flying Corps, and the Royal Air Force, either by attachment from other arms of the forces of the Commonwealth or by original enlistment, who were killed on the whole Western Front and who have no known grave10.

Private Bennett was posthumously awaited the Victory Medal and the British Medal11. His Army financial effects of £9 2s 8d, which included his War Gratuity of £8, were paid to his father, on 5 December 191912.

It appears that James Bennett continued to live at 62 Regent Street for some years. He is listed there on the 1921 Electoral Roll but appears to have moved to 63 Roberts Yard, Beeston by the time of the 1930 Electoral Roll. Harold's three sisters appear to have married and lived out their lives, variously in Beeston and the surrounding area.


Footnotes
1The photograph of the Arras Memorial is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Basford was then part) in Q1/1898 (Ref 7b 225). His actual birth date of 5th January 1898 was recorded when he and his three sisters were baptised at St Patrick Roman Catholic Church, Nottingham on 15 November 1907.
3Stapleford, Notts, 1901 Census, Piece 3211 Folio 98.
4What appears to be her death was registered in Nottingham Registration District in Q4/1906 (Ref 7b 244) - age 40
5Beeston, Notts, 1911 Census, Piece 20431 RD429, SD3, ED6, Sched 319. Harold's siblings were : Florence May (b. 1899), Lily (b. 1901) and Ethel (b.. 1903)
6His approximate enlistment date has been calculated based on the amount of his War Gratuity.
7This summary of 2/5th Battalion operations during 1917 is based on that on the Forces War Records site (www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/445/kings-own-yorkshire-light-infantry)
8This outline of the strategy and outcome of the Cambrai operations is from the Commonwealth War Graves description of the Cambrai Memorial.(http://www.cwgc.org)
9The account of 5th battalion's actions during March 1918 is based on its war diary.
10This description of the Arras Memorial is based on that on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
11Details from Harold's Medal Card - available on ancestry.com.
12Details of the payments are from the "Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929" - available on ancestry.com.

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