Lance Corporal Wilfred Bennett
5089, 58th Bn., Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) who was killed in action on 22nd March 1918, age 21
Remembered with Honour
Barrow Hill Memorial
Staveley Parish Memorial
Pozieres Memorial Panel 90 to 93
WILFRED BENNETT was born in Staveley in 1897, the only son of Samuel and Louisa Bennett. Samuel originally hailed from Dronfield and worked as an Insurance Agent, rising to be a Superintendant by 1911, whilst his wife Louisa was a local girl. Wilfred’s five sisters were Edith, Lilian, Florence, Doris May and Eva and the family lived at 179, Chesterfield Road. By 1911, Wilfred was a banksman working on the surface at a local colliery and is known to have been employed at Ireland Colliery before enlisting.
Wilfred enlisted at Staveley on 30th September 1915 and joined the Scottish Rifles with the service number 22410. He went to France early in February 1916 and had “taken part in a good deal of the fighting”. He was wounded 3 times but never seriously enough to be invalided home. This was despite him having been gassed, suffered shell shock for a time and sustained a wound that required 3 months in hospital.
Wilfred was transferred to the 58th Bn., Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) in the 58th Division which was formed on 2nd March 1918, and which was part of 5th Army. Less than a month later, the Battalion was involved in the Battle of St Quentin (21-23 March).
This account of the Battle of St Quentin is taken from here
In the spring of 1918, Luderndorff ordered a massive German attack on the Western Front. The Spring Offensive was Germany’s attempt to end World War One. With 500,000 troops added to Germany’s strength from the Russian Front, Luderndorff was confident of success.
The colossal German offensive launched on 21 March, following the largest bombardment ever seen on the Western Front, resulted in spectacular successes but failed to achieve the outright breakthrough sought by Ludendorff….
The night of 21/22 March witnessed a frenzy of activity as near-reeling British Divisions readjusted to the incursions into their defensive zones and German forces were reinforced to inflict further damage.
Dense mist again prevailed on the morning of the 22 March; a day of intense and continual fighting. Third Army continued to hold ferocious German assaults in its Battle Zone until mid-afternoon when its centre was forced back producing scenes of disarray on the Bapaume-Cambrai road. More seriously Fifth Army, under incessant pressure began to show worrying signs of collapse. No longer holding a continuous front, extensive enemy infiltration between its units destroyed any semblance of co-ordinated defence; in the bewildering turmoil of exhausting and never-ending small retirements. British casualties were heavy.
Wilfred Bennett was killed in action on 22nd March 1918, aged just 21. He is remembered with honour on the Pozieres Memorial and on an inscription on his parent’s grave at Staveley Cemetery.
He was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
© Ann Lucas