Maurice Victor Beningfield

Rank Second Lieutenant
Service No Unknown
Date of Death 10/03/1915
Age 17
Regiment/Service Worcestershire Regiment. 1st Battalion.
Memorial Le Touret Memorial. This is located near Richebourg-l'Avoué, France. It commemorates over 13,400 British soldiers who were killed in this sector from the start of October 1914 to the eve of the Battle of Loos in September 1915 and who have no known grave.

 

Maurice was born on 26th June 1897 in Hampstead, London and baptised on 27th March 1898 at Primrose Hill. His parents were Colonel John William Beningfield (b.1850) and Mrs. Phoebe Emily Beningfield (b.1866). He had four siblings: Violet (b.1892), Kathleen (b.1895), John Philip (b.1898) and Anna (b.1905).

At the time of the 1901 Census, the family and three servants were living at 9, Elsworthy Road, Hampstead, London. Maurice’s older brother, is not listed as he was a pupil at St Catherine’s School in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, so he was almost certainly boarding at a private school. His father was a ‘linen merchant – employer’.

At the time of the 1911 Census, his father, older brother, now an insurance clerk, and youngest sister were living at 11 Seymour Road, Finchley, with a cook and a domestic servant. There is no mention of his mother, his two older sisters, Violet and Kathleen, who was a boarder at Queen Anne's School, Caversham, Reading, or himself, as he was a boarder at Felsted School, Great Dunmow, Essex. His father is still a linen merchant – employer.

Maurice enlisted on 5th August 1914, giving his age as 18 years and no months, which is untrue as he was only 17 years old.  He stated that he had served in the Cadet Corps at Felsted School for 3 years and 2 terms and that his trade was ‘clerk’. He joined the London Regiment as a Private. By 23rd October he was stationed at Bricket Wood, Hertfordshire, and three days later he embarked at Southampton for France. On 14th February 1915 he was posted to the 1st battalion Worcestershire regiment, with his character being described as, ‘very good’. He died less than a month later, on the first day of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. The circumstances of his death were described by a number of comrades:

Sergeant Taylor 6516 sent a note to his older brother from the Maritime Hospital, Chatham, Kent, in which he said, ‘this officer was killed by machine gun fire during the attack on Neuve Chappelle .... He was, I believed, killed instantly. He was hit in the head and throat. The men in support buried him and others at night’. 

On 13th May 1915, Lieutenant Garratt wrote from the Princess Hospital, Boulogne, as follows: “They had taken the first line of German trenches and found them flooded. Beningfield jumped back on the parapet and fell short into the flooded trench. His body was never seen again and we had to fall back and evacuate that trench…”’

On 18th May 1915, Lieutenant F C Roberts also wrote from the Princess Hospital, Boulogne, saying “He was shot through the head and fell into a disused trench full of water and that was all that was seen of him. Those who saw him were wounded themselves and therefore could give no assistance. He was either killed by his wounds or he was drowned in the trench”.

www.archives.felsted.essex.sch.uk/of/showwars.php?SelectedWar=WW1 supplies additional information from the school’s archives:

“Beningfield will be remembered by all his contemporaries for his athletic prominence. He came in September 1910 and left in April 1914. At that time he was full back at football and goalkeeper for the hockey eleven. He took part in the attack on Neuve Chapelle on March 10th 1915. His platoon was halted in rear of an old German trench, and while he was getting his men into the trench they were enfiladed by machine guns and he was killed instantly with a bullet in the head.”

Football XI 1913. Hockey XI 1913-14. Previously enlisted in Artists Rifles, Aug., 1914. Enlisted in Aug, 1914. 2nd Lieutenant 1st Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment. Killed in action at Neuve Chapelle, March 10 1915.

On 22nd April 1915, just 48 days after Maurice’s death, his older brother, John (known as Philip) died of wounds, aged 23, while serving near Ypres, Belgium, with the Royal Field Artillery 59th Battery. His name is also on the St Paul’s memorial plaque.

On 7th May 1915, his mother wrote to the War Office about John Philip’s death saying she is ‘a complete invalid’, signing the letter, ‘the saddest and proudest of broken-hearted mothers’. She also said her husband ‘has been very will …. since his younger boy’s death’. This refers to Maurice’s death, on the Western Front at the age of 17 on 10th March, just 48 days earlier.

Maurice’s father is listed in the London Gazette of 7th June 1918 as follows: Colonel John William Beningfield, V.D. (Volunteer Officers' Decoration, an award for long and meritorious service by officers of the UK’s Volunteer Force), Commandant, City of London Special Constabulary. On 20th November 1918, he forwarded an application for the 1914 star medal on behalf of Maurice. The Officer Commanding Worcestershire Regiment submitted his name. The decision to award the medal was made on 6th February 1920.