Published By Joan Zorn
Ernest Bennett was born in 1875, at Aston, Oswestry, the oldest child of Thomas and Martha. He worked as a gardener in at least three country houses – Rode Hall at Congleton, Thorpe Hall at Tamworth and, at the outbreak of war, Rangemoor Hall near to Burton on Trent. All three gardens are still extant and are open to visitors. He had signed up on the Derby Scheme in February 1915 – he was single and a bit older at 35 than the average volunteer recruit.
He was mobilised in July 1915 reporting at Lichfield to join the Army Service Corps as a Driver. He went on to Witley Camp at Milford, Surrey for his training. He would go over to France on 3 March 1916. Just before leaving, on 16 February, he got married. Being unable to get an extended leave his wife to be, Annie Magdalene Dale, along with his parents and sisters, had come down to Surrey. They wed in St John’s Church at Milford.
He joined the Army Service Corps as a Driver. The Service Corps was responsible for all the transport and delivery of army supplies, all the stores, food, ammunition, equipment the forces needed to fight the war. As a driver Ernest probably ‘a good horse transport driver hard working and willing’ worked delivering the stores from the Channel Ports up to all the depots, dumps and bases in the reserve lines and onward to the front line. His unit was attached to 39 Division in Divisional Train. In November 1916, when he was at Louvencourt during the later phases of the battle of the Somme, he developed a very bad cold and bronchitis and was ill for about 2 weeks spending the time in the sick bay in a rest camp. He recovered but over the following months he had frequent sore throats and tightening of breath as well as periods off sick. He was put onto light duties but his condition did not improve. In October 1917 he was sent home on leave and was ordered to report to Park Hall Camp, Oswestry for a medical examination. He was now losing weight, was anaemic and had difficulty eating solid foods. The medical examination diagnosed him withattributable to war service and he was recommended for discharge on health grounds under .
The discharge was confirmed on 22 October. His health continued to fail as he succumbed to the disease and he died at home on 3 May 1918. He is buried at St Barnabas’s Churchyard, Hengoed. His headstone reads ‘Greater love hath no man that he lay down his life for a friend’ chosen by his mother who was still living at Aston Square just outside Oswestry.
See also – buried at Hengoed Staff Sergeant 131932 David W Ellis, Royal Engineers. 8 January 1919, Hengoed (St Barnabas) Churchyard