Private Archibald Bennet
5094, 1/4th Bn., Leicestershire Regiment who died on 7 October 1916
Archibald Bennett was the son of Frederick Bennett, a boot manufacturer and his wife Sarah Anne (nee Mellowes). He was born in January 1898 and in 1901 lived at 11 Regent Street, Oadby.
Regent Street, Oadby.
In 1911 the family, including younger sister Doris, had moved to Stoughton Road. At the outbreak of war Archibald was working as a boot clicker for the Leicester Co-op Society and was possibly based at the factory in Wigston. By the time of Archibald’s enlistment the family had moved again and were living at 10 Beaumont Street, Oadby.
On 9 August 1915 Archibald enlisted in the 3/4th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment, a reserve territorial battalion based at Belton Park, Grantham. Although only 17 years old he declared his age as 19 years and 8 months. This seems a strange move as the Territorials accepted 17 year old recruits. However it is possible that Archibald was anxious to serve abroad in a front line battalion which would not have been permitted until he was 19 years old. He was 5’7” and gave his religion as Church of England.
Postcard of the port at Rouen
Archibald was transferred to 1/4th Leicesters on 17 April 1916. He embarked at Southampton the following day and landed at Rouen on 20 April. After the destruction of the 1/4th Leicesters at Hohenzollern Redoubt in October 1915 the battalion was slowly being rebuilt with transfers from the 3/4th Leicesters. Archibald joined his unit in the field on 14 May at La Souich, in the Pas de Calais region.
Troops behind the front line in the Spring of 1916
Archibald spent the Spring of 1916 out of the front line undertaking musketry training, bomb (grenade) drill and route marching. Some of the time was spent on ‘wood fatigues’ in the woods at Lucheux cutting wood for duck boards and branches to make wattle trench revetments. The men built gun emplacements and dug communication trenches in preparation for the ‘big push’ to take place on the Somme battlefield. On 26 May the battalion was inspected by General Sir Douglas Hague, Commander in Chief of the British forces in France. He complimented the commanding officer on the ‘smart turn out and soldierly appearance of the men’(War Diary of 1/4th Leicesters).
In June the battalion relieved the 8th Sherwood Foresters in front line trenches at Foncquevilliers and whilst the ‘enemy (was) quiet’ the men worked ‘very hard on front line, making saps, cleaning disused front line and rebuilding throughout. Amunition bomb stores, RE dumps made the length of the trench’(ibid).
Photos, taken by a German soldier, of the Monchy au Bois region in 1916
From July to October 1916 the 1/4th Leicesters were in divisional reserve in the Monchy au Bois region just north of the Somme battlefield. John Milne, the battalion’s official historian, recalled that there was ‘a lot of shelling, and trench mortaring. An occasional raid. And every now and then a gas attack’. Between raids and gas attacks the men were kept busy repairing their trenches damaged by shell fire and the atrocious wet weather. In early October the battalion was billeted at La Cauchie.
Archibald contracted pneumonia on 5 October and died just two days later on 7 October 1916, whilst being treated at No. 45 Casualty Clearing Station.
Private Archibald Bennett is Remembered with Honour at Warlincourt Halte British Cemetery, Saulty, France. The epitaph on his headstone reads Until the Day Breaks.
Warlincourt Halte British Cemetery, Saulty, France
Private Archibald Bennett’s death was reported in the Leicester Advertiser on 21 October 1916