BENISTON Archibald Frederick 1896 – 1918

95529 Private A. F. Beniston, 15th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 23 October 1918, aged 22. He is buried at Amerval Communal Cemetery Extension, Solesmes, France and commemorated on the Witton Park War Memorials.[1]

Family Details

Archibald (Archie) Frederick Beniston was born 1896 at Nottingham[2], the son of Joseph and Mary Beniston.  In 1901, the family lived at Lower King Street, Ilkeston, Derbyshire where 27 years old Joseph worked as a coal miner (hewer).   There were 4 children, 4 years old Archibald, 3 years old John, 1 year old Nellie and 3 weeks old Joseph.[3] 

By 1911, John and Mary lived at Grimethorpe near Barnsley, Yorkshire with their growing family, now 6 children:

  • Archie, 14 years old born at Nottingham
  • John, 13 born at Ilkeston, Derbyshire
  • Nellie, 12 born at Eastwood, Nottingham
  • Hannah, 10 born at Ilkeston, Derbyshire
  • Mary, 7 born at Ilkeston, Derbyshire
  • Joseph, 2 born at Grimethorpe

There were 3 lodgers.  John worked as a coal miner (hewer) and Archie was a “lamp carrier” at the colliery.

7 April 1917, Archibald F. Beniston married Elizabeth Bell at Bishop Auckland.  They then lived at 9 Comer Street, Witton Park, near Bishop Auckland, County Durham.[4]  Archie and Elizabeth had 2 children:[5]

  • John born 26 June 1917
  • Archibald Frederick born 22 August 1918

Later, the family lived at 9 Carwood Street, Witton Park, County Durham.[6] 

A note on an army form relating to his parents and siblings, written by his wife Elizabeth, states, “Unknown.  He was a stranger to the place when we were married & I do not know any of his relations.”[7]

Military Details

26 June 1916: Archie Beniston was deemed to have enlisted.[8]

17 May 1918: Archie Beniston, aged 22 years 6 months, was called up for service being posted to the Durham Light Infantry and was attached to the 15th Battalion, being given the service number 95529.[9] He stood 5’ 5” tall and weighed 128 lbs.[10] 

95529 Private A. F. Beniston, 15th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry

The 15th (Service) Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry (15/DLI) was formed at Newcastle in September 1914 as part of K3 Kitchener’s New Army and came under orders of 64th Brigade, 21st Division.  It landed in Boulogne 11 September 1915. [11] The Division saw action in 1915 at the Battle of Loos, 1916 the Battle of the Somme, 1917 the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, the Arras Offensive and Passchendaele then in 1918 during the German Spring Offensive, (the Battle of St. Quentin and the First Battle of Bapaume), The Battles of the Lys, (Messines and the Second Battle of Kemmel), the Battles of the Aisne, Albert and the Second Battle of Bapaume, the Battles for the Hindenburg Line including the Battles of Epehy, St. Quentin Canal and Cambrai and finally the Battle of the Selle, a phase of the Final Advance in Picardy. 

The following units served with the 64th Brigade: [12]

  • 9th Battalion, the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
  • 10th Battalion, the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
  • 14th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry (left November 1915)
  • 15th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry [15/DLI]
  • 1st Battalion, the East Yorkshire Regiment (joined November 1915)
  • 64th Machine Gun Company
  • 64th Trench Mortar Battery

21 September 1918: Private A.F. Beniston joined the battalion in the field.[13] The 21st Division was involved with the Battle of Epehy on the 18 September and the Battle of St. Quentin Canal between 29 September and 2 October.[14]  15/DLI saw action on the 18 and 19 September when it was reported that losses had been 76 men killed, wounded and missing including Colonel Holroyd-Smith.  Several days were spent at Elsom Copse and Lesboeufs where a draft of 300 men joined the battalion.[15]  It is presumed that Private A.F. Beniston was in its number.

6 October: 15/DLI delivered an assault on the Beaurevoir defensive system.  After hard fighting, 1 company carried Montecouvez Farm and 2 companies were established in the road leading towards the Beaurevoir line.  These gains were held until 1am on the 8th when, under a heavy barrage, 15/DLI went forward again to burst into the Beaurevoir defences.  On the evening of the 8th, the East Yorkshires took the village of Warlincourt, pushing the British line further forward.  15/DLI were billeted in the village.  The action had cost the battalion 213 casualties.[16] Later research confirms that between 6 and 12 October, 15/DLI lost 46 Other Ranks killed in action or died of wounds.[17]

15/DLI stayed at Warlincourt for 9 days and moved off north eastwards to Montigny, arriving there 22 October to relieve the 9/Duke of Wellington’s Regiment in a position east of Amerval, beyond the Selle river.[18] Actions between 17 and 25 October 1918 are known as the Battle of the Selle.[19]

23 October at 2am, 15/DLI attacked and soon entered Ovillers and before 7.30am were fighting their way to Vendegie-au-Bois:[20]

“There was some close work here before the German resistance weakened but eventually many of the enemy, including a regimental commander and his staff, yielded themselves prisoners.”

15/DLI took over the whole brigade front during the morning, while tanks pushed forward.  The 62nd Brigade came through the 15/DLI in order to carry on the attack and by the evening the line was established NE of the village. 

23 October 1918: 95529 Private A.F. Beniston was killed in action.[21]

Heavy shell and machine gun fire prevented any further movement but operations were resumed on 24 October.  Fighting continued into the 25 October when a German counter attack was repulsed and in the evening, 15/DLI withdrew to Vendegie-au-Bois when 110th Brigade relieved its position.  Losses in the ranks amounted to 246.[22] Later research records that 15/DLI between 23 and 27 October lost 1 Officer and 66 Other Ranks, killed in action and died of wounds, including 29 ORs on 23 October.[23]

The fighting of 1918 saw the highest casualties of the war.  15/DLI saw plenty of brutal fighting during the last weeks of the allies’ advance which culminated in the armistice on 11 November.  Captain Miles offers the following comment:[24]

“The Fifteenth take pride of place in this story of the final campaign seeing that they started in the advance from the Ancre in August and were in action until the end, encountering a full share of the stoutest opposition offered by the Germans in retreat.”

15/DLI lost 11 Officers and 510 Other Ranks between 17 April 1918 when the battalion entered the fray in 1918 at the First Battle of Kemmel and the signing of the Armistice, 11 November 1918.[25] 

In fact, 15/DLI actually lost more NCOs and men than any other battalion of the Durham Light Infantry during the entirety of the Great War, 1508 of the 12,006 men lost.[26]

Medals and Awards

Private A.F. Beniston was awarded the Victory and British War medals.[27]

Medal Roll index card

Burial

Private A.F. Beniston is buried at grave reference C.9, Amerval Communal Cemetery Extension, Solesmes, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France.[28]

A.F. Beniston’s headstone

Effects

Private A. F. Beniston’s widow Elizabeth was the beneficiary of his pension and effects.[29]

Summary

Archie Beniston came from Nottingham who found his way to Witton Park via the colliery towns of Derbyshire and South Yorkshire, marrying a Witton Park girl Elizabeth Bell in April 1917.  They had 2 sons, one of whom, his namesake, he would never see.  He was called up in May 1918 and joined the 15th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry on 21 September 1918.  Within 2 weeks, the battalion was involved in heavy fighting at Beaurevoir.  Two weeks later at Ovillers, as the Battle of the Selle raged, 95529 Private A F Beniston was killed in action 23 October 1918, aged 22. He is buried at Amerval Communal Cemetery Extension, Solesmes, France and commemorated on the Witton Park War Memorials.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the following:

  • Dale Daniel
  • Bob Dixon
  • Carole Beniston, granddaughter of Archibald Beniston
Lest We Forget

REFERENCES

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.7b p.407 Nottingham 1896 Q4

[3] 1901 census

[4] England & Wales Marriage Index 1916-2005 Vol.10a p.357 Auckland 1917 Q2 and Army Form B.2513

[5] Army Pension card index and Army Form B.2513

[6] Army Pension Card Index

[7] Army Form W.5080G

[8] Army Form B.103

[9] Army Form B.2513

[10] Army Form B.178

[11] http://www.1914-1918.net/dli.htm

[12] http://www.1914-1918.net/21div.htm

[13] Army Form B.103

[14] http://www.warpath.orbat.com/battles_ff/1918_pt2.htm

[15] “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-18” Capt. W. Miles 1920 p.326

[16] Miles p.326 & 327

[17] Officers Died in the Great War & Soldiers Died in the Great War

[18] Miles p.327 & 328

[19] http://www.warpath.orbat.com/battles_ff/1918_pt2.htm

[20] Miles p.328

[21] CWGC

[22] Miles p.329

[23] ODGW & SDGW

[24] Miles p.331

[25] ODGW & SDGW

[26] “Faithful The Story of the Durham Light Infantry” 1962 SGP Ward p.446

[27] Medal Roll card index

[28] CWGC & photo courtesy of http://www.findagrave.com/memorial

[29] Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects Record No.852323