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William Thomas Bentley


J Licence
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Looking for information on William Thomas Bentley who was serving in the Machine Gun Corp around 4 April 1917 based at Wool, Dorset, aged 19 years.

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Hi and welcome to the forum

First take a look at the Long Long Trail for hints and tips researching, (tab at top of page) 

image.png.73b5b6daff0763e118f295736f9b70b4.png

 

Regards

Jon

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Hi @J Licence and welcome to the forum.

 

Wool is near Bovington, where the Motor Machine Gun Corps (Heavy Section) relocated in October 1916 from Norfolk. This was the branch of the Machine Gun Corps set up to man the new Tanks.  At the end of June 1917 it was renamed the Tank Corps.

 

There is some brief background here:- https://www.royalarmouredcorps.org.uk/blog/bovington/

 

If he  served in the UK only it can be difficult to track a man down - most of the other ranks service records were destroyed when German bombs in the Bliz hit the London warehouse where they were being stored and those who served only in the UK did not qualify for any service medals. But of men who did serve overseas, there are potentially two Medal Index Cards that might relate. (Medal Index Cards, (MiCs), were literally that, index cards created at the relevant records office at the end of 1918 \ early 1919 to keep track of the issue of service medals and related correspondence).

 

1) Private 200809 William T. Bentley, Tanks Corps. (Related service medal roll shows him as William Thomas according to the searchable index on Ancestry)

2) Private 92779 William T. Bentley, Tank Corps. (Related service medal roll shows him as William Thomas according to the searchable index on Ancestry)

 

Neither man has surviving service records, but Sergeant 92779 William Thomas Bentley was medically discharged post-war on the 11th April 1919 as a result of wounds. Because of this he was entitled to receive the Silver War Badge. https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/soldiers/how-to-research-a-soldier/campaign-medal-records/records-of-the-silver-war-badge/

The associated administrative control document, the Silver War Badge Roll can contain all kinds of information. Unfortunately it doesn't tell us how old he was when he was discharged, (a common piece of information), but it does say he enlisted on the 14th September 1914. That would tend to rule him out, although not entirely. His Medal Index Card shows he only qualified for the Victory Medal and British War Medal, a combination that means he did not serve in a Theatre of War until on or after the 1st January 1916. One explanation for that is when he enlisted he was underage for overseas service, (officially meant to be 19), but the Army retained him and only sent him abroad when he reached that age.

 

As he was medically discharged there could well be Ministry of Pensions paperwork for him available via Ancestry or it's US sister site Fold3. Often no more than control cards it may at least give you a year of birth to rule him in or out.

 

To look further into your man (and prevent duplication of effort), it would help if you can tell us what you already know, particularly why you know him to be 19 and in that area at that time.

 

Cheers,

Peter

 

 

Edited by PRC
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1 hour ago, PRC said:

2) Private 92779 William T. Bentley, Tank Corps. (Related service medal roll shows him as William Thomas according to the searchable index on Ancestry)

 

Neither man has surviving service records, but Sergeant 92779 William Thomas Bentley was medically discharged post-war on the 11th April 1919 as a result of wounds. Because of this he was entitled to receive the Silver War Badge. https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/soldiers/how-to-research-a-soldier/campaign-medal-records/records-of-the-silver-war-badge/

The associated administrative control document, the Silver War Badge Roll can contain all kinds of information. Unfortunately it doesn't tell us how old he was when he was discharged, (a common piece of information), but it does say he enlisted on the 14th September 1914. That would tend to rule him out, although not entirely. His Medal Index Card shows he only qualified for the Victory Medal and British War Medal, a combination that means he did not serve in a Theatre of War until on or after the 1st January 1916. One explanation for that is when he enlisted he was underage for overseas service, (officially meant to be 19), but the Army retained him and only sent him abroad when he reached that age.

 

As he was medically discharged there could well be Ministry of Pensions paperwork for him available via Ancestry or it's US sister site Fold3. Often no more than control cards it may at least give you a year of birth to rule him in or out.

WFA/Fold3 Pension Index Card for a disability claim in Region 11 [SE England]:

William Thomas BENTLEY

B: Yeo: Regt [no Regtl. No. = I think perhaps a Territorial Force unit, perhaps Bedfordshire Yeomanry, into which I think he could perhaps have enlisted aged 17 - that'll need checking by somebody who knows much more than me on such matters = ???]

Tank Corps, 92779

Discharged 11/4/19

The claim was considered DEAD 22/7/25 

:-) M

Edited by Matlock1418
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Hi M,

 

Territorial Force took them from 17 and a half, although as always there were a few roles like musician that could be recruited younger.

 

26 minutes ago, Matlock1418 said:

The claim was considered DEAD 22/7/25 

 

If the man himself was dead, and if the death occurred in England & Wales, (big assumption), then the only like match was a 21 year old William T. Bentley recorded in the Civil records in the April to June quarter, (Q2), of 1925 in the Blackburn District of Lancashire. That seems way too young and is out of line with your likely region of residence.

 

If he didn't die elsewhere then is it more likely that he had recovered sufficently from his wounds that a review board found him no longer disabled by his injuries, or that the percentage disablement was so low that the Ministry of Pensions offered him a lump sum to finalise the pension?

It was then the claim that was dead, rather than the individual.

 

Turning to his birth and with the (big) assumption that he was born in England & Wales and the (equally big) assumption that his age of 19 in April 1917 is correct and that William Thomas Bentley was the name his birth was registered as, then you'd be looking at a birth between (roughly) April 1897 and April 1898. The General Registrars Office Index of births for England & Wales brings up only three candidates:-

William Thomas Bentley, mothers' maiden name Mills, Wandsworth District, April to June quarter, (Q2), 1897.

William Thomas Bentley, mothers maiden name Mitchell, Guildford District, July to September quarter, (Q3), 1897.

William Thomas Bentley, mothers' maiden name Larkin, Reading District, April to June quarter, (Q2), 1898.

No obvious deaths in infancy for any of them, so all could potentially have served in the Great War.

 

However even while still quite small a sample, the existance of MiC's for two William Thomas Bentley and the birth of three William Thomas Bentley's in the right time frame means that at least for me, more information is needed from the OP.

 

Cheeres,

Peter

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Hi,

 

 92779 Bentley appears to have had a connection with Reading - casualty list link.

 

image.png.685a40537100bc1f4d8ec41b59cbdfa2.png

Image sourced from the National Library of Scotland

 

Regards

Chris

 

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1 hour ago, Matlock1418 said:

The claim was considered DEAD 22/7/25 

 

This refers to the claim, and not to the man

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Thanks for all the posts.

 

William Thomas Bentley was married on 4 April 1917, at St Margarets parish church, Ipswich, to Elsie Emma Frost, [my great aunt]. Age given is 19 years, so born in 1898. Residence at the time of marriage was given as Wool, Dorset. Father: Henry Bentley an ex police officer. His rank or profession is given as Gunner, MGC. 

 

From my Ancestry research he seems to have been born in Reading.

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William Thomas Bentley #92779

 

14 Sep 1914 Enlisted in Berks Yeomanry in Reading

3 Nov 1917 taken POW

11 Nov 1918 released from POW

11 Apr 1919 discharged with SWB from Tank Corps

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A quick check of the 1901 and 1911 England censuses brings up a William Bentley aged 3 in 1901, and 13 in 1911, living in Reading, Berkshire, with father Henry Bentley, who is a police officer in 1901 and a caretaker in 1911, and mother Mary Bentley. So the Reading William Thomas Bentley appears to be the one that you are looking for. According to the 1911 census Henry and Mary had had five children, but William was the only one who was living in 1911. Given that the censuses say that William was born in Reading, his birth would presumably be this one that Peter found.

23 hours ago, PRC said:

William Thomas Bentley, mothers' maiden name Larkin, Reading District, April to June quarter, (Q2), 1898.

 

Edited by Tawhiri
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The problem here, as I see it, is that the OP has a tree with his family

 

His Ancestry Tree

 

But the porviso is that the OP said in above post "From my Ancestry research he seems to have been born in Reading."

 

In other words I am not clear why this birth in Reading is the true birth of the man who was in MGC

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Perhaps a better way of phrasing it would be that the William Thomas Bentley who married in Ipswich in 1917 appears to be the William Thomas Bentley who was born and living in Reading in the 1901 and 1911 censuses, with service details still to be confirmed.

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36 minutes ago, J Licence said:

Age given is 19 years, so born in 1898.

 

if the age is correct then technically means he was born between the 5th April 1897 and the 4th April 1898, so 8 of the possible 12 months fall within 1897. (He is most likely born in 1898, see below, but genealogy will very soon teach you the danger of making assumptions :)

1 hour ago, PRC said:

William Thomas Bentley, mothers' maiden name Larkin, Reading District, April to June quarter, (Q2), 1898.

 

Q2 covers births registered between April 1st and June 30th - however you had 42 days after the event to register the birth, so narrows the likely birth date down to mid-February to 4th April 1898.

 

On the 1911 Census of England & Wales the 13 year old William Bentley, born Reading, was recorded living at 156 Friar Street, Reading. This was the household of his parents Henry, (47, Estate Agents Caretaker, born Shropshire) and Mary, (46, an Estate Agents Housekeeper, born Aldershot). Henry and Mary have had 5 children but William is the only one then still alive. The couple have been married 22 years. May be a co-incidence but the marriage of a Henry George Bentley to a Mary Larkin was recorded in the Farnham District of Surrey in Q3 1889.

 

So relatively strong link between birth and census and a degree of commonality with the man who married in 1917 in that the fathers name was Henry and he was an ex-policeman, (thank-you @Tawhiri ), but not a complete certainty that they all relate to the same individual.

 

BTW - familysearch has a transcription from the Dorset Parish Registers for the marriage at Wool of a William Thomas Bentley to an Elsie Emma Frost on the 18th March 1917. As it's only a transcription I'm reluctant to confirm it was an actual ceremony of marriage. Given that he was resident in the parish but potentially looking to marry in church elsewhere, this could have been the reading of the banns.

https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QJDC-X8N5

 

Cheers,

Peter

 

 

Edited by PRC
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1 minute ago, Tawhiri said:

Perhaps a better way of phrasing it would be that the William Thomas Bentley who married in Ipswich in 1917 appears to be the William Thomas Bentley who was born and living in Reading in the 1901 and 1911 censuses, with service details still to be confirmed.

 

 Yes , that's it

 

I may be wrong, but I think the OP knows that marriage took place in Suffolk in 1917 aged 19. That in turn has led to 1939 Register which shows him in Suffolk and a birth date in 1898.

And also to a BMD birth in Reading in 1898 out of Free BMD

 

Our house of cards continues with linking the William Thomas Bentley #92779 who enlisted in Reading, to the man that married in 1917

 

He may well be the same chap, but I think we are a long way short of proving it

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Ancestry has a set of Banns from Wool - original image. Showing WTB and EEF banns being read Sunday 4th, 11th, 18th March 1917. So 18th not marriage date. He is described as Bachelor of this parish and she as spinster of St Margarets, Ipswich.

FWR has a transcribed record that says 92779 was a returned POW on 15/1/19. Cannot find his ICRC record. 

Edited by Mark1959
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GUNNER W. T. BENTLEY Gunner W. T. Bentley, Tank Corps, formerly o? the Berks Yâeomanry, has been missing since November 23. He joined the Army on August 11th, 1911, and went to France in Julv, 1917. Deceased was 19 years of age, and was educated St ...

Published: Saturday 22 December 1917 
Newspaper: Reading Mercury 

 

 GUNNER W. T. BENTLEY Gunner W. T. Bentley, Tank Corps, formerly ol the Berks Yeomanry, who has been missing since November 23rd, the only son of P.C. Bentley, of Reading. was in England fortnight before being ...

Published: Saturday 05 January 1918 
Newspaper: Reading Mercury 

 

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/search/results/1910-01-01/1919-12-31?basicsearch=william bentley tank corps pow reading&exactsearch=false&county=berkshire%2c england&retrievecountrycounts=false&mostspecificlocation=berkshire%2c england

Edited by travers61
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The SWB has POW against  him

 

I too cannot get him in POW records

 

If we could get him in POW records, then it would be likely to be a way of determining who he was from NOK

 

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5 minutes ago, travers61 said:

GUNNER W. T. BENTLEY Gunner W. T. Bentley, Tank Corps, formerly o? the Berks Yâeomanry, has been missing since November 23. He joined the Army on August 11th, 1911, and went to France in Julv, 1917. Deceased was 19 years of age, and was educated St ...

 

Never, ever trust the transcription software on BNA :)

 

1651025197_ReadingMercury22December1917p2GunnerWTBentleysourcedFMP.jpg.ce5d6f31991e1f27afe59efa54c173ba.jpg

(Image courtesy FindMyPast\British Newspaper Archive)

 

Difficult to make out but enlisted August 14th, 1914, (SWB roll has September 14th, 1914) and parents live at 156 Friar Street - the address from the 1911 Census.

 

Cheers,

Peter

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Although looking deeper does not appear to be the correct man

image.png.c979192628adc49e6d5f035e165cf26a.png

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The 1901 census return for what looks like the family identified by Peter in Reading in 1911 gives father Henry's profession as Policeman in 1901. 1911 - caretaker. So circumstantial evidence in favour of 92779. https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?dbid=7814&h=1514804&indiv=try&o_vc=Record:OtherRecord&rhSource=2352

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This tree in https://www.ancestry.co.uk/family-tree/person/tree/82602271/person/32474048860/facts is pertinent. Is this yours J Licence?

The is another article in the BNA that indicates the mother of the mother of the Reading  man who was taken prisoner in Nov 1917 dies a few weeks before, There is a death reg for a Mary Bentley 4Q 1917 in Reading. A 55 yo "police officer" Henry Bentley maaries a widow called Horry in 1918. The medal roll shows 92779 was taken prisoner 23/11/1917. So not much doubt that Reading man is 92779. The only real doubt is there is only circumstantial evidence linking that man to the marriage 

Edited by Mark1959
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We have had that tree already in post#11 in this thread

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William Thomas Bentley

 

I have the marriage certificate so know that the information is correct.  Elsie Emma was 27 when they married. I also have a photograph, although I don't know when it was taken. The child is my aunt, she looks to be about 8 when this was taken. She was born in 1916. So William T Bentley was still alive into the 1920's. 

Family sources said that the marriage failed and she went back to live with her parents. She is buried in Ipswich Cemetery under the name of Bentley.

Elsie Frost.jpg

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4 hours ago, Mark1959 said:

The medal roll shows 92779 was taken prisoner 23/11/1917.

 

The report in the Reading Mercury, Saturday December 22, 1917 also states he has been missing since the 23rd November 1917.

 

The 23rd was the day that the British Cambrai offensive began to run out of stream, with fresh German reserves having been rushed to the area.

 

1st Brigade

 

D Battalion started the day with 14 tanks. One failed to start, but although some were damaged all 13 that went into action aginst Bourlon Wood rallied at the end of the day.

https://sites.google.com/site/landships/home/narratives/1917/cambrainarratives/23nov1917dbattalion

 

E Battalion started the day with 11 tanks. One ditched while crossing the British trenches. Of the remainder six were knocked out. It's probably worth checking the narrative , but while crew of most are described as dead or wounded, only in the case of the tank Essex are four of the crew recorded as missing.

https://sites.google.com/site/landships/home/narratives/1917/cambrainarratives/23november1917ebattalion

 

G Battalion started the day with 17 tanks. They attacked north of Bourlon Wood. 2 ditched, 2 were hit and burnt out - no reference to fate of their crew.

https://sites.google.com/site/landships/home/narratives/1917/cambrainarratives/g-battalion-23-november-1917

 

2nd Brigade

 

B Battalion started the day with 13 tanks. These were supporting the attack on the village of Fontaine. By the end of the day 6 crews are recorded as missing.

https://sites.google.com/site/landships/home/narratives/1917/cambrainarratives/comp-coy-b-battalion-23-november-1917

The officer and crew of B23 in particular are all known to have been taken PoW. Their section commander, Captain Frank van Agnew was also with them and was captured. A descendant has published Franks' War Diary - Veteran Volunteer: Memoir of the Trenches, Tanks and Captivity 1914 - 1918 by Frank Van Agnew MC

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Veteran-Volunteer-Memoir-Trenches-Captivity/dp/1783462779

 

H Battalion started the day with 12 tanks. 6 were involved in the attack on Bourlon Wood and if successful were to join the attack on Fontaine, six went straight into the attack on Fontaine. 3 of the tanks attacking Fontaine were knocked out and abandoned. The Landships site doesn't cover the fate of the crews.

https://sites.google.com/site/landships/home/narratives/1917/cambrainarratives/24-25-companies-23-november-191

 

3rd Brigade

 

C Battalion, 7 Company had 5 tanks at the start of the day, split between Bourlon Wood and Fontaine. 1 was knocked out, one ditched in the Wood and was abandonned.

https://sites.google.com/site/landships/home/narratives/1917/cambrainarratives/7-company-23-november-1917

C Battalion, 9 Company. Ordered to attack Fontaine Notre Dame and Bourlon Wood from La Justice. 3 tanks knocked out.

https://sites.google.com/site/landships/home/narratives/1917/cambrainarratives/9-company-23-november-1917

 

I Battalion started the day with 12 tanks. One tank abandoned, one had a smashed track (I41), one crew member killed, all the rest PoW.

https://sites.google.com/site/landships/home/narratives/1917/cambrainarratives/i-battalion-23-november-1917

 

The Commonwealth War Graves Commisson lists 54 men of the Tank Corps as having died on this day. Most have no known grave and are remembered on the Cambrai Memorial.

 

8 hours ago, clk said:

92779 Bentley appears to have had a connection with Reading - casualty list link.

 

image.png.685a40537100bc1f4d8ec41b59cbdfa2.png

Image sourced from the National Library of Scotland

 

 

The Casualty list linked to is an update - he had been previously listed as Missing. I assumed that at least some of the dead from the days action who have no known grave would also be likely to turn up on the same original Missing list, along with names of other missing men whose fate like Gunner Bentley was also to be captured. But looking for the more unique names all I could find is Casualty Lists from early January 1918 reporting them as killed.

 

I looked via the FMP link to BNA for:-

Boucher, T W G, B Bn, 200284

Cresshull, F H, B Bn, 76476

Jacques, R, E Bn, 78003

Luxford, W, B Bn, 200225

McBlain, W, B Bn, 200315

Peattie, D, B Bn, 92342

Pridmore, J, B Bn, 75883

Sapsead A.G, E Bn, 91963,

Wheddon A. H, B Bn, 78809.

 

All this just to try and find an ICRC report that includes him in the hope that it lists his Battalion and so it can be narrowed down which tank he might have been serving in :)

 

Hopefully someone wiser can lay there hands on the information.

 

Cheers,

Peter

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