George Henry Bennett was born on the 19th December 1876 at Watford.
His father, John Bennett a Journeyman Joiner, married his mother, Jane Miller Lee, in 1861 at Newton Abbot, Devon. They had ten children:
- Emily born in 1863 at Newton Abbot.
- Ellen Jane born in 1865 at St. Pancras.
- Alice Mary Alberta born in 1867 at St. Pancras.
- Rose Matilda Webber Lee born in 1869 at St. Pancras.
- Arthur born in 1871 at St. Pancras.
- Walter Edward born in 1873 at St. Pancras.
- Lily born in 1875 at St. Pancras.
- George Henry.
- Harry William born in 1881 at Watford.
- Edith Amy born in 1884 at Watford.
During the 1881 census the family were living at 81, Sotheron Road, Watford. They were still there on the 29th June 1883 when George was Admitted to the Victoria Boys’ School, Watford. By the time of the 1891 census the family had moved and were now living at Cassio Hamlet, Watford. George was employed as a House Boy. Six years later he joined the Army.
Early Army Service.
George’s Army Service Record has survived and shows that on the 16th August 1897 he enlisted for short service of seven years in the colours and five in the reserves as Private 1019 in the Coldstream Guards at London.
The following was recorded: He said he was born in Watford, Herts., his age was 20 years 7 months and his trade was a Gardener. He stated he was not an apprentice, was not married, had never been sentenced to imprisonment but he had previous Military service in the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, although that record has not survived.
His description on enlistment was recorded as: Apparent age: 20 years 7 months. Height: 5 feet 11 ¼ inches. Weight: 135 lbs. Chest: 34 inches 36 ½ inches. Complexion: Dark. Eyes: Brown. Hair: Black. Distinctive Marks: Eyebrows meet. He said his religion was Church of England and gave his next of kin as his father John Bennett 5, Cassio Hamlet, Watford, Herts. which was later crossed through and replaced with his wife, Jane Bennett 5, Hempstead Road, Watford, Herts.
On enlistment he was Medically examined at London and found to be fit for service in the Coldstream Guard and he began his service at home.
On the 30th November 1898 he was awarded a 3rd Class Certificate of Education and on the 16th August 1899, he was granted Good Conduct Pay at 1d per day.
On the 18th March 1900 he was posted to the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards for service in South Africa. On the 1st July 1900 he signed the following declaration: I hereby elect to come under the rules regarding messing allowances contained in the Royal Warrant dated 31st March 1898 G.H. Bennett (signed).
On the 11th February 1902 on his return from South Africa he was posted to 3rd Battalion, Coldstream Guards. On the 16th August 1903 he was granted Good Conduct Pay at 2d per day. On the 16th August 1904 he was transferred to the Army Reserve Section A on expiration of the period of his Army Service. A year later he reverted on completing his term of engagement in Section A. Army Reserve to Section B. Then on the 15th August 1909 he was finally discharged as a Private on the termination of his 1st period of engagement.
George was awarded the Queen’s South African Medal with Clasps Cape Colony and Orange Free State and the King’s South Africa Medal with clasps South Africa 1901 and 1902.
It is believed that on leaving the Army George applied to join the Hertford County Constabulary.
His Police Service Record has not survived so his date of appointment is unknown, but he was Constable 206. At this time, he would have undergone his Probationer training on a Division by an experienced senior Constable under the supervision of the Superintendent. It is believed that he was posted to C Division at Watford.
General Order 9 of the 28th March 1906 instructed George that on Tuesday 3rd April 1906 he was being transferred from C Division to A Division at Ware.
General Order 32 of the 21st December 1906 informed George that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £1/3/11 to £1/5/8 per week from the 22nd December 1906.
In Hot Water!
From reports contained in the Police Service Record of PC 84 Albert William Bolton we know the following: On Monday 4th March 1907 PC 84 Bolton and PC 206 George Bennett were reported by PS 96 Josiah C. Bell for missing conference points between 6.00 a.m. and 8.00 a.m. whilst patrolling in Ware and apparently patrolling together when they should have been on independent patrols. This particularly upset Superintendent Henry Weeks as he had just drawn up new lists of Conference Points designed so that two officers should never patrol together. From PC Bolton’s Service Record, we can see that it was recorded as a disciplinary offence, but the exact details of the offence and the punishment were not saved. As the two men faced identical accusations it is logical to assume George was treated in the same way as PC Bolton.
George married Frances Mary Derham on the 16th October 1907 at Holy Trinity Church, Wimbledon. George was shown as a Police Constable living at 11, Gladstone Road, Ware. They had five children:
- Lois Mary born in 1909 at Ware.
- Muriel born in 1910 at Watford.
- James Noel Gordon born in 1912 Hertford. Served as a Colour Sergeant Major in the Coldstream Guards wining a Military Medal.
- Rowland born in 1919 at Watford Served as Guardsman 2656017 1st Bn. Coldstream Guards Died in 1940 at Dunkirk.
- Marjorie E. born in 1921 at Watford.
General Order 34 of the 11th December 1908 informed George that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £1/5/8 to £1/6/10 per week from the 19th November 1908.
The record has not survived but it is clear from the following General Order that George was transferred from A Division at Ware to F Division at Bayford, possibly following his marriage.
General Order 2 of 13th January 1910 gave instructions to dozens of Police officers in connection with the General Election of January 1910. Voting was carried out over several days and schedules were drawn up detailing where and when officers would perform duty. The following excerpt refers to George: Schedule A Return of Officers and Men detailed for duty in the Eastern or Hertford Division on Wednesday 19th January 1910. Div. Rank No. Name Station Place for Duty F PC 206 Bennett G H Bayford Rickmansworth Schedule B Return of Officers and Men detailed for duty in the Northern or Hitchin Division on Friday 21st January 1910. Div. Rank No. Name Station Place for Duty F PC 206 Bennett G H Bayford Stevenage Schedule C Return of Officers and Men detailed for duty in the Mid or St Albans Division Tuesday 25th January 1910. Div. Rank No. Name Station Place for Duty F PC 206 Bennett G H Bayford Essendon Schedule D Return of Officers and Men detailed for duty in the Western or Watford Division 27th January 1910. Div. Rank No. Name Station Place for Duty F PC 206 Bennett G H Bayford Hemel Hempstead
The 1910 and 1913 Electoral Rolls list George Henry Bennett as living at Bayford whilst the 1911 census records that living at Well Row, Bayford were Police Constable George Henry Bennett, his wife Frances and children Lois and Muriel.
Again the record has not survived but from the following General Order it can be seen that George had been transferred again, this time from F Division at Bayford to C Division at Chorleywood, possibly due to the reorganisation required when those Police Officers who were Army Reservists were recalled at the outbreak of the war.
Another Minor Blemish.
General Order 150 of the 9th October 1915 announced that the Chief Constable had fined George five shillings for omitting to attend two conference points at Chorleywood during the night of the 28/29th September 1915 and making an incorrect entry in his journal and weekly return.
General Order 167 of the 25th October 1915 announced two resignations and read: Police Constable 206 George Bennett C Division having submitted an application to resign his appointment as a Constable of the Hertford County Constabulary, the resignation is accepted to take effect on 23rd November 1915. Police Constable Bennett will be paid up to and including the 23rd November 1915 and will be struck off the establishment as from that date. Police Constable 284 William Hull C Division having submitted an application for permission to be allowed to resign his appointment as a Constable of the Hertford County Constabulary for the purposes of joining H.M. Army. Owing to the number of men who have enlisted from this Force, the Standing Joint Committee have given instructions that permission to join H.M. Forces cannot be given to any more men. Police Constable Hull is permitted to resign that on the clear understanding that the privileges conferred by the Police Constables (Naval and Military Services) Acts will not be extended to him. He will be paid up to the 24th November 1915 inclusive.
George may have decided to resign due to his recent problem as there is no reference to him joining the Army but, had there been then there can be little doubt then the same threat made to PC Hull would have applied to George. It was not something to be taken lightly as Army pay was less than Police pay, and the Police paid any dependents of a serving Police Soldier an allowance to make up the difference. Furthermore, any military service could count towards an officer’s police service for pension purposes. However, it can be seen that despite the fact George was approaching his 39th birthday he did in fact enlist and was apparently planning to before he left the Police.
Army Service During The War.
George’s Army Service Record, despite it being part of the burnt collection having suffered in the Blitz of World War 2, has substantially survived. It contains a letter which was dated the 8th November 1915 and was from Lieutenant Hunt, Recruiting Officer for Commandant Military Police to George Henry Bennett Police Cottage Chorleywood Near Rickmansworth and read: Permission is hereby given to you to enlist in the Military Foot Police in the rank of Lance Corporal, provided you are fit for service abroad, daily rate of pay 1/9 per diem with usual Army rate of separation allowance, and 5/- for the first child, 3/6 for the second and 2/- for each additional child per week. If you accept the above you should proceed to the nearest Recruiting Officer in your District for the purpose of being Attested for General Service. The Recruiting Officer is requested to note that no candidate is to be Attested into the Military Police who is not fit for service overseas. The Recruiting Officer is authorised to issue the necessary railway warrant (provided you fulfil the above conditions) for your joining at Aldershot as soon as possible. Attestation papers to be forwarded to the Provost Marshall Aldershot. This paper must be presented to the Recruiting Officer on 24th November 1915 after which date it becomes obsolete.
On the 24th November 1915 George enlisted at Watford, for the duration of the war, in the Military Foot Police as Lance Corporal 2791. The following was recorded: He gave his address as the Police Cottage, Chorleywood, Herts., his age as 38 years 10 months and his trade as Police Constable. He said he was married and that he had previously served in the Coldstream Guards for 12 years.
His description on enlistment was recorded as: Apparent age: 38 years 10 months. Height 5 feet 11 inches. Chest: 40 inches 3 inch expansion. He gave his next of kin as his wife Frances Mary Bennett of the Police Cottage, Chorleywood, Herts.
His Medical History Army Form B178 recorded that he was examined at Watford on the 27th October 1915 and it noted the same information as his description on enlisting with the addition that he said he was born at Watford, his weight was 158 lbs. and his physical development was good.
On the 18th March 1916 George embarked at Southampton aboard SS Maiden and disembarked at Le Havre the next day. On the 21st March he joined for duty at Abbeville. On the 18th May 1916 he was attached for duty at Abancourt. On the 31st May 1916 whilst at Abancourt he was accused of when on Active Duty absenting himself without leave from 1 p.m. on the 31st May 1916 to 5.45 p.m. a total of 4 hours 45 minutes. No reason was recorded as to why he was believed to have been absent and his punishment was to forfeit 10 days pay.
George’s Service Record goes on to show that the sentence was found to be illegal and it was cancelled, and the entry expunged from his conduct sheet and pay book.
On the 29th December 1916 he was granted leave to the UK returning on the 8th January. On the 1st April 1917 he was absorbed into a vacancy at Abbeville but on the 17th July, he returned to Abancourt
On the 7th January 1918 he was again granted leave to the UK returning after 14 days to Abancourt. He was granted another two weeks leave from the 24th November 1918 and again returned to Abancourt. His final two weeks leave was granted from the 28th May 1919 after which he once more returned to Abancourt. On the 28th June 1919 he returned to the UK via Boulogne for demobilisation being transferred to Class Z Army Reserve on the 26th July 1919.
His Statement as to Disability Army Form Z22 recorded: Unit: Military Foot Police. Regiment or Corps: Military Police. Regt. No. P/2791. Rank: L/Corporal. Name: Bennett George Henry. Previous service: Coldstream Guards. Date of Discharge: 15th August 1909. Cause of discharge: T.E. Particulars of pension or gratuity received: Nil. Permanent address: 60, Chester Road, Watford, Herts. Age last birthday: 42. First joined for duty: 24th November 1915 at Caterham Surrey. Medical Grade: A. I do not claim to be suffering from a disability due to my Military Service signed: G. Bennett. Place of examination: Dieppe 24th June 1919.
His Protection Certificate and Certificate of Identity Army Form Z11 recorded: Name: Bennett George Henry. Regt. No. P/2791. Rank: L/Cpl. Record Office: Aldershot. Unit: MFP. Regt.: MP. Pay Office: Woking. Address for pay: 60, Chester Road, Watford, Herts. Theatre of War: 1C. Born: 1876. Medical category: B1. Place for re-joining in emergency: Hounslow. Granted 28 days furlough. Issued: Dieppe 27th June 1919.
He was awarded the British War and Victory medals.
Life After The War.
George did not re-join the Hertford County Constabulary and there could be a number of reasons for this. Firstly, he simply may not have wanted to. There again his Army Form’s Z22 and Z11 conflict each other in that the first reports he was Medical Grade A and the second B1 and it is possible that he would not have been fit enough for Police duties. He may have been concerned that his Army Service would not have counted towards his Police pensionable service, meaning that he would have been in his late 50’s before he could retire on a Police pension. However, several returning men in his position were retrospectively awarded the privileges conferred by the Police Constables (Naval and Military Services) Acts, by the Police Standing Joint Committee, including Constable Hull.
Whatever the reason he went on to have a successful life running and living at The Bakery, Theobold Street, Elstree for many years.
The 1939 Register shows that living at 31, Brighton Road, Chertsey, Surrey are George H. Bennett, a Gardener, his wife Frances and their daughter Marjorie and three lodgers.
George Henry Bennett died on the 29th March 1949 at St. Peters Hospital, Chertsey.
The following obituary was published: Last Tribute to Boer War Veteran. Coldstreamer – Legionaire’s Funeral. Eight Sergeants of the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards acted as pall bearers at the funeral on Friday of Mr. George Henry Bennett (72), of 31 Brighton Road, veteran Coldstreamer who served in the Boer War and first World War, and whose death occurred the previous Tuesday. Mr Bennett was well known and respected in Addlestone, where he had lived for 18 years. He was a member of the British Legion and the Darby and Joan Club, and leaves a widow, a son and three daughters. For many years a Sergeant in the 3rd Battn. Coldstream Guards, Mr Bennett was believed to have been one of the remaining four Coldstreamers who served in the Boer War. During the last war he was a policeman at Vickers. At the funeral at St Pauls, conducted by the Vicar (the Rev. E.L. Beynon) there were full military honours, the coffin was draped with the Union Jack and a drummer from the 3rd Battalion sounded the ‘Last Post’ and ‘Reveille’ at the graveside. The mourners included the widow, C.S.M Bennett M.M. (son), Mr. and Mrs. Brownsea, Mr. and Mrs. Adams (sons-in-law and daughters) and Miss M. Bennett (daughter). Representatives attended from both the men’s and women’s sections of the British Legion and the Darby and Joan Club. The many wreaths included two from the British Legion sections.