14 April 2013

Arthur William Bennett

This search turned in to a pretty tricky one and it was the combined effort of some of my friends that bought it to a successful conclusion.
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Sandi A who had a British War Medal awarded to 5801 Arthur William Bennett. Sandi's maiden name was Bennett but Arthur was not from her family. From the service record I quickly established that Arthur was allocated to 28th Battalion, AIF, what his parent's names were and that he died of TB in 1918. A Google search bought up a link on the Great War Forum about Arthur which was only a month old. I contacted Charles, who posted the initial enquiry, as I thought it a coincidence that two people were researching the same man at the same time. Charles told me that his interest in Arthur was: 'tracing service personnel who were born (or other wise connected to) Bristol but who had emigrated and enlisted in Dominion forces. Bennett came up as one of these but also as someone who didn't seem to be listed on the CWGC site: a non-commemoration'. How intriguing I thought.
I then sought assistance from my friends Sandra and Drew who provided me with two bits of information which were of great assistance. The first from Sandra was a link to the Wooroloo Cemetery which is near the site of the hospital where Arthur died and the second came from Drew in the form of Arthur's death notice.
It is now that things got confusing. At Woorollo Cemetery there is a memorial to an Arthur William Bonnette, But nothing for a Bennett.
However, Bonnette died on the same date as Bennett, was the same age and from the same battalion. A check of the National Archives gave a nil return for Arthur Bonnette.
The death notice gives Arthur's sister as Mrs Francis and his brother as H.C. Bennett. A search of the electoral roll revealed that Henry Charles Bennett lived at the same address given for Arthur's parents. Mrs Francis proved more difficult to find. On a hunch I searched for a notice of Bonnette and got a hit. An In Memoriam notice for 1928.

This notice gives more clues which led me to believe that Arthur Bennett and Arthur Bonnette were the same person. Additionally, I learnt that his sister was Sarah Lucy Francis. It was back to the electoral rolls and I found Sarah Lucy Francis at the same address as in the service record. The notice also mentions nieces and nephews. I then followed Henry and one of Lucy's children, but they have all died and only in recent years.
My friend Heather (Frev), a very talented researcher, located all the UK census information which confirmed it was one and the same. She also came up with a reasonable explanation as to why the name variation. She thinks that Bonnette is pronounced Bonnay but mispronounced Bonnet. So as to avoid confusion it is possible the name Bennett was used when it suited the family.
Frev also provided me the final clue which broke the case. It was the 1940 death notice for Ellen, Arthur's mother. It mentions a grand daughter, Mrs Phyllis Cherrington and a great grand son. It didn't take long to connect Mrs Cherrington to her son through the electoral rolls and yesterday, 5 minutes after I received the medal in the post I was on the phone to Arthur's great nephew.
Thank you Sandi for sending the medal to me. The returned medal tally is now 1268.

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