Private 12386 William Benbow

 Benbow William 96 421x600

Killed in Action on Tuesday, 18th May 1915, age 25.
Commemorated on Panel 21 and 22 of Le Touret Memorial, Pas De Calais, France.

1st Bn., South Staffordshire Regiment. 22nd Brigade of 7th Division.

Son of George and Mary Benbow, of 117, Bridge Rd., Toll End, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: West Bromwich, Enlisted: West Bromwich, Resident: Unknown.

First landed France & Flanders, 26th January 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the St. Peter's, Greets Green Memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on Commonwealth War Graves site.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/824028/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
82 Cophall Street, West Bromwich, Staffs.
George Benbow (53, Blacksmith, born Little Hereford), his wife Mary (52, born Wolverhampton), and their 2 sons: John (21, Spring Roller, born West Bromwich), and William (10, born West Bromwich).

1911 Census
67 Charles Street, West Bromwich, Staffs.
George Benbow (63, Blacksmith, born Herefordshire), his wife Mary (62, born Wolverhampton), and their 2 sons: John (31, Roller in Spring Shop, born Staffordshire), and William H. (20, Driller in Boiler Works, born Staffordshire).

Personal Data

William was born in West Bromwich and resident in Charles Street, Great Bridge (the West Bromwich side) at the time of the 1911 census; this was also the address given when his death was reported in the Wednesbury Borough News. By the time the CWGC was asking for next of kin details after the war, his parents were living in Tipton. This is the only item connecting William to Tipton, so it is possible he has no connection. However, he is welcome here.

William's entry into France in January 1915 suggests that he was either a Reservist or Territorial, as this would be too early for a Kitchener 'New Army' volunteer.

Action resulting in his death

For most of 1915 the 1st South Staffs were in the trenches. The misery of trench warfare was broken up by the Battles of Neuve Chapelle (10-12 March), and Festubert (15-27 May). All three were British assaults on the German lines that sought to divert German attention away from French attacks. All three were planned and prepared meticulously, yet all three failed in their objectives. The outnumbered British troops made it clear that they could capture German positions, but it was impossible to hold them without greater manpower.

The attack on Festubert was made against a German salient between Neuve Chapelle to the north and the village of Festubert to the south. The assault was planned along a three mile front, and would initially be made mainly by Indian troops. This would be the first British army night attack of the war.

The battle was preceded by a 60 hour bombardment by 433 artillery pieces that fired about 100,000 shells. This bombardment failed to significantly damage the front line defences of the German Sixth Army, but the initial advance on May 15th made some progress in good weather conditions. The attack was renewed on May 16th, and by May 19th the British 2nd and 7th divisions had to be withdrawn due to heavy losses.

The 1st South Staffs were part of 7th Division withdrawn on May 19th, between the 16th and 19th they had lost 60 men killed. William Benbow was killed in action on the 18th May, he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial.

Newspaper Cuttings

Wednesbury Borough News 10th July 1915
Private William Benbow of Charles Street, Great Bridge, belonging to the 1st South Staffords, killed in action on the 18th of May.