BAMBER BRIDGE IN WORLD WAR 1
10873 PTE. W. BENTHAM. L.N.LAN.R.
(I am grateful to Janet Davis for the summary of Walter’s service prior to 1914, and for the article from the Preston Guardian).
Walter Bentham was born on 17 December 1878 in Bamber Bridge and baptised at St Saviour’s on 9 February 1879. His father was Enoch Bentham (b. 1829 in Standish), a cotton mill mechanic. His mother was Ellen Cawley (b. 1841 in Oldham). Ellen was Enoch’s second wife. His first wife was Ellen Calland (b. 1829 in Wigan) and Enoch and his first wife had 6 children before Ellen died in 1864. Enoch and Ellen Cawley were married in Blackburn in 1865 and they moved to Bamber Bridge in 1872. They had 7 children: Amos (b. 1865), Joseph (b. 1868), Ruth (b. 1870), Naomi (b. 1873), Enoch (b. 1876), then Walter, and finally Eleanor (b. 1882).
In 1891 Walter aged 12 had started working as a cotton weaver and he was living with his family at 131 Chorley and Preston Road in Bamber Bridge. On 5 March 1897 he left the cotton mill and enlisted into the 1st Battalion of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps at Blackburn, later transferring to the 2nd Battalion. His age was recorded as 18 years and 2 months but he had actually turned 19 years old, he was 5’ 4” tall and weighed 118lbs and had red hair and blue eyes. Walter served in South Africa (Boer War), Ceylon and had two spells in India. However, in January 1903 he was tried by Regimental Court Martial and convicted of “absenting himself without leave”; he spent 21 days in prison for this offence. Unfortunately things didn’t get much better; in October 1903 he was tried again by District Court Martial for “using insubordinate language to his superior officer”, another conviction followed and this time he was awarded 84 days in prison. He was finally discharged on 6 January 1905 after 7 years and 308 days service. His discharge papers state (in red ink) “all service forfeited on discharge as incorrigible and worthless!”
After his discharge Walter returned to Preston and in the fourth quarter of 1905 he married Mary Swan in St. Peter’s Church in Preston. A son John was born in 1906 but he died the same year and he was followed by two more sons Walter (b. 1907) and Thomas (b. 1910). In 1911 Walter, Mary and the two boys were living at 68 Adelphi Street where Walter was working as a coal cart driver. The couple had another son born in 1912 and gave him the name John.
Unfortunately Walter’s papers have been lost so information about his service is limited but at some point after war was declared he enlisted into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment at Preston. He was allocated the number 10873 and posted to “B” Coy of 6th Battalion. During the evening of the 14 June 1915 the Battalion left Frimley for Avonmouth for embarkation on HMT Braemar Castle, embarkation being finally completed by 4am on the 15 June. They finally set sail on 17 June going to Gallipoli via Mudros and landed at Anzac Cove on the 4 August 1915. Walter’s Medal Index Card notes that his service abroad begins on 15 June but erroneously records his destination as ‘France’.
At some point during the weeks that followed, Walter was wounded in action and was eventually repatriated back to England and he died in hospital in Cardiff on 18 December 1915, the day after his 37th birthday. The announcement of Walter’s death was published later in the Preston Guardian. (There are some mistakes: Walter was 37 not 25 and he left three children not two.)
In 1919 Walter’s widow Mary remarried to John Chapple in St. Peter’s Church in Preston.
Service No: 10873
Date of Death: 18/12/1915
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, “A” Coy. 6th Bn.
Cemetery: PRESTON (NEW HALL LANE) CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of Enoch and Ellen Bentham; husband of Mary Chapple (formerly Bentham), of 33 Hammond Street, Preston