Sapper William BENNETT

Royal Engineers
Railway Troops, Railway Operating Division
Service Number:
WR/289913  ("Waterways and Railways")
(Formerly: 284320)
Date of Death:
30 August 1918 - Died
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Reference:
A. 241

Personal History:

William was born in the June quarter 1883 at 39 Eaves Knoll Road, New Mills, Derbyshire, the son of George (Coal miner) and Martha Bennett. He had an elder sister, Hannah, and five younger siblings, Walter, Martha Ann, Sarah and Florence. (1891 Census RG 12/2786  and 1901 Census RG 13/279). In 1901 he was employed as a "Cotton card room grinder".

By 1911 (Census RG 14/21303) the family were still all together but had moved to 9 Knoll Street, New Mills. William was now employed as a "Shunter" - which probably accounted for his posting after enlistment.

Military History:
William enlisted in the Royal Engineers in Buxton. His Medal Index Card indicates that he entered the War after 1915 and unfortunately his Service Papers have not survived. His peacetime background probably led him to service with the Royal Engineers. Railway Operating Companies were set up to run the trains, with the tracks being laid by Royal Engineers Railway Construction Companies. In total they consisted of about 200 men, with few Officers. The men called up around this time were railwaymen in civilian life who had volunteered in late 1915 under the Derby Scheme and had their call up heavily deferred due to their Reserved Occupation, being finally called up in October 1917.

William's cause of death was "Died" - suggesting he succumbed to one of the many illnesses and diseases rife in the Middle East at that time. (For example, Sapper Frank Furness - see below - died on 18th September 1918, in the 24th Stationery Hospital of "Acute Bacillary Dysentery".)
It is possible that William had embarked for Egypt on the 17th December 1917 aboard HMS Aragon. After arriving at Alexandria on the 30th December 1917 with 2,700 onboard she was ordered back out of the harbour as no berth was available. Immediately having cleared the harbour she was torpedoed and the German submarine UC 34 and sank with a loss of 610 lives, HMS Attack a destroyer who came to her aid was also sank.

Four other Sappers from Buxton, commemorated on the Memorial were involved in this action
· Sapper Arthur KITCHEN, of the 98th Light Railway Operating Company, was killed on board the Aragon and is commemorated on The Chatby
· Sapper Frank FURNESS, of the same Company, survived the sinking but died in November 1918 and is buried in Kantara War Memorial
· Sapper Francis John BOWDER, of the same Company, was killed on board the Aragon and is commemorated on The Chatby Memorial
· Sapper George WARRINGTON, 96th Light Railway Operating Company, also died in the same action.

· I am grateful to Jonty Wild for the photo of William's grave

Link to CWGC Record
Spr. Bennett's Grave