Herbert Leslie Benjamin was the son of Ephraim Eli and Emily, née Brown, Benjamin, of Mill House, Welton, Daventry, Northants. Herbert was born in late 1896 and baptised on 1 April 1897 at Welton, Northamptonshire.
Ephraim and Emily’s marriage was registered in late 1889 in Daventry, and in 1891 they were living at 16 Upper Church Street, Welton, and had a baby of six months. By 1901, the family had moved to Station Road, Welton. Herbert’s father seems to be absent, and his mother is entered as a ‘wife’ but also as ‘U’, suggesting unmarried! Herbert had three older brothers and a younger sister. In 1911, Herbert’s much older, aged 62, carpenter father was now at home; his mother, now 42, also worked, as a laundress. They had been married for 21 years and had had eight children, of whom seven were still living.
In 1911, Herbert was sixteen and working as a farm labourer. At some date after war broke out he enlisted at Rugby as Private, No.13458 in the 11th Battalion, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
… 11th (Service) Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment was raised at Warwick in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s Third New Army and joined 24th Division as army troops. The Division began to assemble in the area of Shoreham but suffered from a lack of equipment and a lack of trained officers and NCOs to command the volunteers. In April 1915 the 11th Warwicks transferred to 112th Brigade, 37th Division at Cholderton on Salisbury Plain and proceeded to France on 30 July , the division concentrating near Tilques, [near St Omer].
Herbert Leslie Benjamin’s Medal Card does not give the date on which he went to France, but it was possibly with the battalion on 30 July 1915, but with no record of him being awarded the 1914-1915 Star it might have not have been until 1916. After the first days of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, the battalion was swapped into the 34th Division
The 111th and the 112th Brigades were loaned to the 34th Division from 6 July to 22 August … While under command of 34th Division the brigades took part in the Battle of Bazentin Ridge [14–17 July 1916] and the Battle of Pozières [13 and 17 July 1916].
Pozieres was an objective for the 34th Division on 1 July 1916, but it took much hard fighting before it was taken. It seems that the 11th Battalion had already been fighting at Contalmaison and Pozieres. Contalmaison was about half a mile south of Pozieres.
The only battalion of the Royal Warwickshire which took part in the fighting during the second week of July was the 11th, which held a line of trenches before Contalmaison and helped to repulse a German counter-attack on 10 July, when three officers were killed.
The village was an objective for the 34th Division on 1 July 1916, but it took many more days of hard fighting before it was taken.
It was presumably in some of these actions in the Pozzieres area that Herbert Leslie Benjamin was killed, aged 19, on 11 July 1916.
He is listed as Herbert Leslie Benjamin by the CWGC, as one of those killed or missing, on 11 July 1916 and whose body was not found or identified. He is remembered on Pier and Face 9A, 9B, and 10B, of the Thiepval Memorial.
The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 1 August 1932.
He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates.
Herbert Leslie Benjamin was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. There does not seem to be a record of him receiving the 1914-1915 Star.
His mother was his sole legatee and received £5-13-0d on 12 January 1917, and £3-0-0d on 25 September 1919.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
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This article on Herbert Leslie Benjamin was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, June 2016.