Josiah BENNETT
Rank: Lance Corporal
Number: 142294
Unit: 19th Battalion MACHINE GUN CORPS
Date of Death: 18 April 1918
Age: 28
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnbeke, Belgium

Josiah had been born in Grangemouth, Stirling and nothing has been discovered about his early life. The family history website, FreeBMD, records the marriage of a Josiah Bennett to Matilda (believed to have been known as Hilda) Brooke, in late 1908 in the Stockport area.

When War was declared, Josiah joined the South Lancashire Regiment (service number 22325). This may have been the Regiment's 7th Battalion which, like his later Machine Gun Battalion, was part of the British 19th Division. It was disbanded in February 1918 and it would be very likely that this was when Josiah was transferred to the newly formed Machine Gun Battalion.

The Battalion operated 64 heavy Vickers guns, each with a seven man team. The guns could fire off a full ammunition belt of 250 bullets in just 30 seconds and, when used to defend the front line, was a devastating weapon cutting down the enemy infantry as they tried to cross No Man's Land.

On 9 April, the German launched the second phase of their spring offensive in what would become known as the Battle of the Lys. On this day, Josiah and his mates were in reserve near the French village of Neuville-Eglise. The following day, they were in action across the border into Belgium before being ordered to withdraw. The British army undertook further retreats over the coming days.

By the early hours of the 16th, a further retreat had brought the Battalion to a position known as "Regents Trench". Their numbers were much depleted from the previous days of fighting and the War Diary indicates that only 2 guns were in action, firing 12,000 rounds at the enemy advancing towards the front line at "R E Farm". They inflicted many casualties.

At 10.20 on the 17th, the Battalion's own positions came under attack from shellfire and then infantry. The guns fired 5000 rounds onto targets only 200-300 yards away, again inflicting heavy casualties. 30 minutes later, British artillery opened up and this finally forced the German to withdraw. The remainder of the day was quiet.

This relative peace was not to last for long. The Battalion's War Diary records that in the early hours of the 18th, they came under heavy bombardment from German artillery. One gun was damaged. It's thought that Josiah was one of this gun's team and was killed instantly, literally blown to bits. A pal later reported that they could find no trace of him.

Further information about Josiah, including a photograph, can be found in the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.

   
           
   
     
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