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John Bennett was born in 1882 and before the War he worked as a cotton weaver, probably at Thomas Moss’ Cuerden Green Mill.  He was married to Sarah Slater, and they had two children – Emily Ellen and Annie – and they lived at Moss View, Leyland Road, Farington.  As Bennett was a Lance Corporal, he would have had previous military experience and was probably a reservist, but there are no records of his enlistment or service before 1914.

1/Loyal North Lancs arrived in France on 12th August 1914.   In the first days of the War, the British Expeditionary Force was in full retreat in face of the massive German attack, retreating over 136 miles in 13 days.  Once they had crossed the River Marne, however, the BEF turned to face the enemy, although at this point, during the Battle of the Marne, 1/LNLR was in reserve.  L/Cpl Bennett arrived in France on 9th September 1914 as part of a draft of 80 men, led by Lt. J H Miller.  The men were immediately in action.

The Battalion’s first general action of the War was at the Battle of the Aisne, on 13th September 1914.  That day, 1/Loyal North Lancs and 2/King’s Royal Rifles, in pursuit of the Germans, had crossed the Aisne at Bourg then billeted for the night at Moulins (near Reims).  The next day they moved to Vendresse to support an attack on a factory, which was successful, but then the enemy counterattacked heavily and the Battalions’ ammunition supply began to run out.  The Battalions were finally ordered to fall back to a ridge previously occupied and ‘dig-in’.  In this, its first general action of the war, 1/LNLR lost 14 officers and over 500 Other Ranks, killed, wounded or missing, and in ‘B’ Company alone 3 officers out of 5 and 175 out of 220 other ranks were casualties.

The Battalion was not used to digging trenches: this was a new kind of warfare and they had to work out the ‘rules’ as they went, but they soon encountered conditions which would become typical – on the 19th it began to rain and the trenches began to fill with water, which turned to mud.  In early October, British troops withdrew from the Aisne, to be replaced by the French, and 1/LNLR moved north to Boesinghe, near Ypres, where it was to prepare to play its role in the First Battle of Ypres.  On 22 October they were ordered to march to Pilkem, which they reached just after dawn on the 23rd, and they were then ordered to attack the German trenches.  They came under very heavy shell fire but (as one officer recorded in his diary) “The order to fix bayonets was given; a bugle sounded the charge, and with loud cheers the Battalion dashed forward and in less than ten minutes had carried the trenches and cleared them of the enemy.  Six hundred prisoners were taken, a number that might have been increased but that further pursuit was hampered by our own artillery.”  That evening the Battalion was relieved in the line and withdrew via Pilkem to Ypres.  In this action they had two officers killed and four wounded, while 178 other ranks were killed, wounded or missing, including John Bennett.  He was 33 years old.

His War had lasted just 45 days.  He was the first man from the village of Lostock Hall to be killed in action and a local newspaper reported his death;

6185 PTE JOHN BENNETT 1ST BN BILL BRIERLEY ARTICLE

Sarah remarried in 1918.  Her new husband was William Yates, and they moved to “West View” on Croston Road.

Rank: Lance Corporal
Service No: 6185
Date of Death: 23/10/1914
Age: 33
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st Bn.
Memorial: YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL

Bill Brierley

Before taking early retirement in 2007 and returning to his native Lancashire in 2009, Bill Brierley was head of the School of Languages and Area Studies at the University of Portsmouth.Bill has researched his own family history and has developed a further interest in World War 1 especially as it impacted on the villages of Lostock Hall and Bamber Bridge, where his family originates from.Bill has also displayed his work at Lostock Hall library and contributed to other displays at Leyland Library and South Ribble Museum.
Bill Brierley

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