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NORMAN BENNETT


Private 13447, 9th Battalion, The Welch Regiment.


Died 25 September 1915, aged 23.



Norman was born in 1892 to be the oldest of 12 children, born to Frederick and Rosa Bennett. He was baptized at St. Brides and brought up at Woodbine Cottage, north of Llanvaches. His father was a stonemason and also a cabinet maker. In 1910 the family moved to Museum Cottage which is built on to the side of Caerwent Baptist Chapel. His father had become curator of Lord Tredegar’s private museum which later became the Institute.

The family is pictured here in 1910 at Museum Cottage. Fred and Rosa are in the middle, then clockwise starting from top centre: Amy, Norman, Harold, baby Ruby, John, Edgar, Ethel, Phyllis, Doris and Ernest, and in the background the Roman hypocaust in the garden.

Norman and his brother, Ernest, were miners and worked at Bedwas Colliery. When the Great War started he enlisted and became a private in the Welsh Regiment. He seems to have been a gentle family minded person. On returning home for his last spell of leave he brought a puppy for his young sister Phyllis. Unfortunately Rosa decided that the place was already full with cats and chickens and Norman had to find a home elsewhere for the puppy.


In February 1915 he was sent to the trenches in Flanders. At this stage in the war the Allied Commanders were still living in the past and had refused to adopt machine guns in spite of the Germans using them with devastating success against Norman and his comrades. The British troops were not even allowed to run across "no-man’s land" - they had to walk! On 25th September the Allies launched a new offensive: the Battle of Loos. It was ill conceived - the ground to be gained was a mining area full of waste tips and ruined cottages. Artillery support was known to be insufficient. The British used poison gas but it blew back on their own troops. Norman was killed on the first day.  


The family at Museum Cottage was beset with tragedies - youngest brother Edgar had died in March 1914 and sister Doris was killed on the railway line just after Christmas. Nine months after that Norman was killed and their father died in 1916. Then in 1923 an invalid sister died and within three days Ernest died at the colliery. He had lifted a dram of coal back onto the tracks and suffered a heart attack. The double burial took place in Caerwent churchyard.

 

Norman’s grave was never found. His name is on the memorial at Loos, about 50 miles inland from Calais.


JN Oct 1999