Peasants to Puddles
My Family History - By Nicky Rowberry

John William Bent - Private 13344

This page is dedicated to the memory of John William Bent who died on 20th March 1916 in France.

John William Bent (or William John Bent as he was sometimes known) was one of my second cousins twice removed, the grandson of Thomas Bent and Hannah Rowberry. He was born in 1894 in Armley, Leeds, the only known son of Charles Bent and Elizabeth Martha Pye. He died on 20th March 1916 in France, one of the many millions of men who lost their lives in World War 1. It seemed sad for him to have died and all but these bare facts remembered, so I've tried to find out at least a little about what happened to him in the war.

John William Bent was born in 1894 in Yorkshire, to Charles Bent and Elizabeth Martha Pye. Elizabeth was Charles's second wife and 17 years his junior; they had married in early 1893, just months after the death of his first wife. I don't know why John was born in Yorkshire - on John's baptism register his father's occupation is given as Striker, which I think has something to do with blacksmithing or iron working, so I expect he followed the work up there. Charles Bent was from Herefordshire and Elizabeth was from Shropshire. Sadly poor Elizabeth died when John was only 3 years old, by which time the family had returned to Shropshire. In 1901 Charles and 7 year old John were boarding with a family in Shrewsbury, while Charles worked as a General Labourer. In 1911 they were still in Shrewsbury, now boarding with a lady called Martha James, who would subsequently become Charles Bent's third wife. Sixteen year old John was now working as a porter for a wine merchant.

The next couple of years seem to have been better times for the Bents - not only did Charles marry for the 3rd time in 1913, but John Bent married Lucy Sarah Reynolds the same year. I think John & Lucy settled in the Birmingham area and had 2 children, although I've not confirmed that yet with birth certificates. Sadly this happy period was soon destroyed by the onset of WW1 and John Bent's enlistment.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website revealed that he was a private in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, that his service number was 13344 and that he was buried in the Fricourt churchyard in France. I can't reproduce the CWGC photo of the cemetery, but to see his page please click here

You can now look at the Medal Roll cards from the first world war online. These show a soldier's name, rank and what medals they were entitled to. Due to copyright issues, I don't think I can reproduce the image of the medal card, so instead I've transcribed it:

Campaign:-1914-1915(A) Where decoration was earned
 (B) Present situation
NameCorpsRankReg No.Roll on which included (if any)
(A) BentR.War.RPte13344
(B) John W.   
Medal.RollPage 
VICTORYL/104/B3608 
BRITISHdittoditto 
15 STARL/TB40 
Action TakenK in A
Theatre of WarFrance
Qualifying Date30-11-15

I'm guessing, but I'm not sure that Qualifying Date might be the date he enlisted or perhaps the date he first went to France - 30th November 1915. The index card does indicate that he would have been entitled to three medals. The British Medal was awarded to servicemen who served in a theatre of war between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918. The Victory Medal (Allied Victory Medal) was awarded for service in any operational theatre over the same time frame. The 15 Star was awarded to all those who served in any theatre of war against Germany between 5th August 1914 and 31st December 1915. Ideally I would have then looked up his service records, but much of the British Army World War One Service Records were destroyed when the War Office was bombed in London in 1940. John's service records seem to have been amongst these "Burnt Documents" as they are known.

In the absence of any detailed information of John's service history, I looked at the War Diaries for the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, which you can now download from the National Archives. War Diaries were kept as a daily record of operations, intelligence reports and anything else that was going on for a given battalion. I've transcribed the relevant war diary for the day of John's death below. I've also transcribed the days before - mainly because these give much more information about where exactly they were.

7th Division

22nd Infantry Brigade

2ND BN ROYAL WARWICKSHIRE REGIMENT

WAR DIARY

FOR

MARCH - 1916

WAR DIARY
or
INTELLIGENCE SUMMARY
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and Information
In trenches1.3.16 

Strength of Officer:-29         No.s in Trenches Officers:- 19
Strength of O Ranks:-810     No.s in Trenches O Ranks:- 597

"   "2.3.16 Relieved by 1/R Welsh Fus. Hd Qrs +2 Coys proceeded to MORLANCOURT
in billet. 1 Cot to the Citadel, 1 Coy to 71 SOUTH
MORLANCOURT3.3.16 In billets
"4.3.16 In billets
"5.3.16 In billets
"6.3.16 In billets. Capt G. UNSWORTH to 4th Army School as assistant Instructor
Capt P.S. BRINDLEY proceeded to join 6th Corps Hd Qrs as CAMP COMMANDANT
"7.3.16 In billets
"8.3.16 In billets. Proceeded to trenches and relieved 1/R Welsh Fus in C.1. sector
Companies proceeded independently to trenches at 1 hours interval commencing 7am
Unit on our left 14th Manchester Regt.       Strength in Trenches 19 Officers
Unit on our Right 2/Queens Regt                                                 536 O. Ranks
In Trenches9.3.16 Casualties:- Wounded Lt G.R HAYES SADLER.
        O. Ranks Wounded 1
"10.3.16 Casualties:- O Ranks Wounded 1
"11.3.16 Casualties:- O Ranks Wounded 2
"12.3.16  
"13.3.16  
WAR DIARY
or
INTELLIGENCE SUMMARY
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and Information
In Trenches14.3.16 

Relieved by 1/R Welsh Fus & proceeded to billets at MORLANCOURT
Draft of 65 O Ranks joined for Duty.

MORLANCOURT15.3.16 In billets
"16.3.16 In billets
"17.3.16 In billets
"18.3.16 In billets. 1 O Rank Killed whilst on R.E Fatigue
"19.3.16 In billets. Lieut G H BINGHAM joined for duty.
"20.3.16 In billets. Proceeded to trenches & relieved 1/R Welsh Fus in C.1 Sector
No. in Trenches. Officers:-19
                          O Ranks:-558.
Unit on our Left:-24th Manchester Regt.
Unit on our Right:- 1/S Stafford Regt
Casualties O Ranks:- Killed 2.

Morlancourt where they were stationed, is a village in the north of Frances in the Somme region. When I first read War Diaries I thought it was so sad that although the dead or wounded officers were named, the other ranks were just recorded by numbers - so John William Bent wasn't mentioned by name. But this seems to have been standard procedure and perhaps the officer recording the events either didn't have the time or the information to record any more detail. So John was just one of the two Other Ranks recorded as killed that day 20th March. A search of the CWGC website reveals as expected 2 soldiers of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment who died on 20th March 1916 - John William Bent and Herbert Farndon. They are buried next to each other in Fricourt one of the Military Cemeteries of the Somme, France.

I have searched the newspapers currently available online for a report of John's death, but so far found nothing. I did however find a report of Herbert Farndon's death - the soldier who died with John. So it may be that John died with Herbert after a shell hit them while they were having lunch - hopefully they died instantly and didn't know anything about it. (Image Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

John was survived by his widow Lucy Bent. On the Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, Lucy Bent and one child are listed as the beneficiaries of what little money he had, plus the War Gratuity. Lucy I think lived to a ripe old age, dying in 1980. Someone out there must remember her, so it would be lovely to hear from them.

John William Bent and Herbert Farndon are buried next to each other in Fricourt Military Cemetery in France. (Image below courtesy of Wikimedia Commons). John is hopefully commemorated somewhere on a War Memorial back in Birmingham too, but I've yet to track it down. I would love to find a photograph of John William Bent, so if there are any descendants out there, please do get in touch, it would be lovely to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me at: n.rowberry@btinternet.com

In researching John's final days, several sites have been invaluable, so I've included links to some of them here.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is a great site to start with to give you the basic details you would need to then start digging deeper:

The National Archives at Kew now hold a huge number of records, many of which are available online, but it is well worth a visit down there if you can make it:

The British Newspaper Archive holds digitised images of newspapers from all over Britain. New pages are added weekly and it can be a great way of adding to your research:


If any of the above is of further interest, please feel free to contact me at: n.rowberry@btinternet.com

Nicky Rowberry 2016

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Peasants to Puddles - My Family History. By Nicky Rowberry