Joseph Bench was born in 1893 in Rugby, and his birth was registered in Q2 1893 in Rugby and he was baptised with his sister Edith Eva on 7 August 1895 at St Matthew’s Church, Rugby.
He was the son of Tom Bench, a domestic gardener from Ladbrook, born about 1845. Tom had married Sarah Judd in late 1880 and they had six children. Sadly in 1890 Sarah died. Tom, with six young children soon married again, with Elizabeth Jane Spriggs in early 1893, and they had two more children, Joseph in 1893, soon after their marriage and then Edith Eva.
But in later 1898 Tom was widowed again when Elizabeth died. Thus in 1901 Tom was recorded living at 16 Sun Street, as a widower with six children – his eldest sons Tom and George had moved to work in Manchester and his eldest daughter, Maud b.1884, was now the housekeeper for the family. Joseph Bench was still at school.
In 1911 Tom and two unmarried sons were still at Sun Street; Joseph was now working at the Gas Works and his elder brother Frederick was a locomotive cleaner. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission [CWGC] records thus have Joseph correctly as the ‘Son of Tom and Elizabeth Bench, of 16, Sun St., Rugby.’
In 1911 Joseph’s younger sister Eva – now ‘Eva Elizabeth’ – was one of 92 girls in a special school, the Barclay Home for Blind Girls at 21-27 Wellington Road, West Brighton, ‘Anne Dodd Snowball, Matron’. Eva had been ‘blind since 3 years’.
At some date Joseph Bench joined the 10th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as Private No.16211. There is no surviving Service Record and his medal card does not include a date when he went to France.
The 10th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment was formed in Warwick in August [or September] 1914 as part of the Second New Army (K2). It then moved to Salisbury Plain and joined the 57th Brigade of the 19th Division. In March 1915 they moved to Tidworth, and on 17 July 1915 mobilised for war and landed in France. The 19th (Western) Division was an infantry division and spent the duration of the First World War in action on the Western Front, including during 1915 – the Action of Pietre, and during 1916 – the Battle of Albert, the attacks on High Wood, the Battle of Pozieres Ridge, the Battle of the Ancre Heights, and the Battle of the Ancre from 13-18 November, which was the final large British attack of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The 10th Royal Warwicks would not have been involved in all of these actions, but no doubt they had a difficult time on the Somme in 1916. Also in the 57th Brigade with the 10th (Service) Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment were the 8th (Service) Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment; the 10th (Service) Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment; and the 8th (Service) Battalion, Prince of Wales’s (North Staffordshire Regiment)
The New Year 1917 brought a period of severe weather conditions on the Somme which led to an unofficial ‘truce’ between the two sides. However, Joseph was not killed in action, or of wounds, but became very ill and was taken back to either the 3rd or the 44th Casualty Clearing Station at Puchevillers, a village about 12 miles north-east of Amiens, and some 20 miles to the west of the front line. These two Casualty Clearing Stations had come to Puchevillers in June 1916, just before the opening of the Battles of the Somme.
Sadly Joseph did not recover, but died on 5 March 1917 from ‘Laryngitis and Bronchitis’. Whether this was due to the harsh conditions or resulted from some earlier exposure to gas is unknown. He was buried in Plot VI. E. 32., in the Puchevillers British Cemetery adjacent to the hospital. Most of Plot VI was made by the two hospitals before the end of March 1917.
Puchevillers British Cemetery now contains 1,763 First World War burials and was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Joseph was awarded the Victory and British medals.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
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This article on Joseph Bench 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, November 2016.