Kilnhurst at War

The Kilnhurst War Memorial

Kilnhurst War Memorial

Kilnhurst War Memorial

Kilnhurst War Memorial

Kilnhurst War Memorial

Kilnhurst War Memorial

Kilnhurst War Memorial

Kilnhurst War Memorial

Kilnhurst War Memorial

Kilnhurst War Memorial

Kilnhurst War Memorial

 

Charles Bentham

The last photograph of Private Charles (Chuck) Bentham, of the York and Lancaster Regiment.

The last photograph of Private Charles (Chuck) Bentham, of the York and Lancaster Regiment.

Before he enlisted ‘Chuck’ lived at North Terrace, Kilnhurst, which was off Glasshouse Lane.  He was employed at Thrybergh Hall Pit and played in the local football team.  Private Bentham lost his life in the Battle of the Somme.  This battle opened at approximately 07.30 on the 1st July 1916.  Chuck Bentham was in the first wave of troops to go ‘over the top’ on that fateful day. 

 

Battle of the Somme

Battle of the Somme

The first day of the Somme saw the largest loss of life ever suffered by the British Army in a single day.  The German lines had been bombarded by artillery for several weeks before the advance.  The British High Command believed that all the enemies barbed wire would be cut, their trenches smashed and their garrisons either all killed or numbed into submission.  They ordered that the British Forces were to proceed only at walking pace and set the troops ambitious objectives.  All of these plans were in deadly error.  The German troops were well sheltered from the bombardment in deep solid bunkers.

Once the shelling stopped they knew the advance would begin.  The Germans came out of their shelters mounted their machine guns and began a murderous fusillade of fire on the advancing British troops.  The walking pace of the advance made the defenders job all the easier.  The mainly newly trained young soldiers were mown in waves.  Some battalions had up to 70% causalities.

Charles Bentham was only one of many.  He had only just got over the parapet when he was wounded in the leg.  Before he could turn he received a further wound in his shoulder from an explosive bullet.  He fell down and while he lay a piece of shrapnel hit him again in the same shoulder.  This indicates the storm of steel that was being fired at the advancing troops.

Charles lay unconscious for about 3 hours and then he managed to crawl back to a dug out.  The Army Medical Services were almost overwhelmed by the sheer volume of causalities they had to deal with.  During the Battle of Somme, which lasted from 1 July to mid-November 1916, the British Army lost over 200 doctors killed or wounded.  The medics had to evacuate the wounded as soon as possible after carrying out much life saving surgery close to the front lines.

Charles was eventually transferred to Wrexham Hospital.  His wife was able to visit him there taking their 4 year old son, Bill Bentham.  In later years Bill became Chairman of Swinton UDC and was a Councillor representing Kilnhurst for several years.  Bill remembered the visit and the fact that they took as a gift some black grapes. The young Bill was really attracted to these grapes and his dad said he could have them.  The last letter that Charles wrote to his wife was dated 11th July 1916.  He said “I shall be a week or two before I am anything like stronger.  They have smashed me up I can tell you. I have a wound four inches long at the top of my shoulder and you can see all my collar bone.  Then I have two more big gashes down the back of the shoulder and another through the arm, besides a bullet through the thigh.  Talk about Dante’s Inferno!  It was nothing compared with the sight when we went over the top that Sunday morning.  The ground seems one mass of fire with shells bursting.  I should think every German has a machine gun”.

Charles Bentham died of his wounds on 23rd July 1916.  His body was transferred by train to Kilnhurst West Station and he was interred at St. Thomas’ Church Cemetary on 26th July 1916.  The funeral had full military honours and the grave was bedecked with floral tributes.  The annotation on his memorial card read as follows – “He nobly answered duty’s call, his life he gave for one and all; a loving husband, father kind, a beautiful memory life behind”.

 

Symeon Lyson (Licence)

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A few years ago Swinton Heritage was fortunate to be offered the purchase of a so called ‘Death Penny’ issued in memory of a Kilnhurst soldier.  The Death Penny is a metal memorial disc which was presented to the next of kin of those who lost their lives during the First World War.  Various adaptations, according to individual choice, were made to the discs and the example we purchased was fitted with a wooden surround and was clearly intended to be hung on a wall.  Named on our Death Penny was Private Simeon Lyson (License).

Simeon who was known by his family and friends as Sim was born in Kilnhurst.  He enlisted in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI’s) in Swinton at the rank of Private and given the number 21816.  Following basic training he was sent across to France and was to lose his young life in one of the most dreadful battles of the war.

On the 15th September 1916 he was killed in action during the Battle of the Somme which had been raging since 1st July.

Sim left a widow in Kilnhurst called Martha; she later remarried and moved to Rawmarsh.  It is reported that they had one son, believed to be called Simeon after his father.

Sim rests with over 5,500 other 1914-1918 United Kingdom and Commonwealth soldiers in Delville Wood Cemetery, Longueval, Somme, France.  The wood was known as Devil’s Wood by the troops. This tract of woodland, only 1 kilometre square was the subject of fierce fighting and changed hands a number of times.  Thousands of lives from both sides were lost in this section of the line.  The cemetery which holds Sim’s grave, which has the plot number X.1.2 was created after the Armistice by the concentration of a few small cemeteries and isolated graves.  Nearly two-thirds of the graves are unidentified.  The cemetery covers an area of 21,408 square meters.

Locally Sim is commemorated on the Kilnhurst Village War memorial in the churchyard where his name appears as Pte. S. License. On the Roll of Honour inside the church he is listed as S. Lyson.  It was not unknown for soldiers to serve with a name other than their own.  The reasons for this would have been as varied as the men concerned.  It is possible that as a consequence of the vast numbers of recruits, which had to be processed, documented, trained and equipped many clerical errors could and were made.  Sim may well have been entered on the official record as Simeon Lyson and the army left it at that!  His death was reported in the local press with the spelling License and his large family lived locally and remembered him with affection.

Almost three months after his death the South Yorkshire Times of Saturday 11th November reported Sim being killed.  Other Kilnhurst men mentioned in that edition were John Gilliver (killed); Tom Bamford (killed); Horace Lomas (Malaria) and C. G. Stancy (wounded).

The Death Penny produced in his memory can be seen on display, courtesy of Swinton Heritage, in the Kilnhurst Resource Centre along with a framed information sheet.

A special assembly was held at Kilnhurst Junior and Infant School, where Simeon had been educated, and the children had the opportunity to hear about one of the village’s lost sons and his Death Penny which had eventually come home.

1921 opening of the War Memorial.

1921 opening of the War Memorial.

 

 

Baker and Bessemar girls producing Shells for WW1

Baker and Bessemar girls producing Shells for WW1

 

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  • Dorothy Cooper (nee Gomersall)

    My uncle John William Godley of, I believe, Thomas Street, Kilnhurst was killed during the Battle of the Somme he died on the 3rd July 1916 and is buried in Puchvilliers Cemetery. In 2000 myself and four other nieces and nephews visited his grave. It was a very sobering moment. His name is engraved on St Thomas’Church Cenotaph. He was 21 years old. He was my mother, Eveline Godley’s (later Gomersall) brother. He was one of 10 children five girls boys and five boys.