4th Royal West Surrey Regiment attached to 4th Suffolk Regiment, 16th February 1917
Trench Raid on the 13th February 1917
In his Memoir, Captain Charles Cobden Stormont Gibbs as Adjutant of the 4th Suffolks knew Leslie Punsfer Bennett as one of the officers, who had come to them in support as they had used up all their reserve officers. He was known to Stormont Gibbs as ‘Bunny’ Bennett. He recalls that the regiment was to conduct a trench raid on the 13th February 1917 and it was ‘Bunny’ Bennetts’ turn to lead. Stormont Gibbs having picked the Company to conduct the raid.
He spent a morning with Bennett with maps and plans drawn in the sand, working out the plans of the raid, and in the opinion of Stormont Gibbs, Bennett was dithering with fright and neither of them thought there was much chance of getting through as officers always stood a poor chance. The plan was for the raid to be preceded by a creeping barrage, followed by the Company who would then jump into the German front line and capture prisoners and obtain information.
Stormont Gibbs mentions that during the artillery barrage the Brigade Trench Mortar officer was also to fire in support of Bennett but was to stop at the same time as the barrage ended. The Trench Mortar Officer liaised with Bennett prior to the raid. Stormont-Gibbs was later of the opinion that the Trench Mortar Officer was the cause of some of the Trench Raiding parties casualties / deaths.
The Report on the raid is as follows:-
Report on Raid Carried Out by the 1/4th Suffolk Regiment at 9.30pm, February 13th 1917
At Zero the parties who had been formed up in our trench by the gap got out and lay down in front of our wire, in the order in which they were to go over. They followed up the barrage, led by 2/Lieutenant L.P. Bennett, and as it lifted the first party got through the German wire, and entered the trench at about 1.7.d.08.65. 2/Lieutenant Bennett established his Headquarters at this point, and the first party pushed down the trench to the right (South), under Sergeant T. Lamb. Before they had gone far they discovered a dug-out; they shouted to the occupants to come up and they did so, the first having an overcoat over his head. The party pushed on for at least another 40 yards, meeting little or no opposition, and did not find anything. The prisoners were sent back under an escort of 2 men to 2/Lieutenant L.P.Bennett, who sent them under the same escort back to our line. On reaching the enemy wire, a shell or mortar (believed to have been one of our own) fell amongst them and killed them all. (Their remains can be seen in the enemy wire this morning.) Time now about 9.45 p.m. In the meantime the second party had entered the enemy trench directly after the first, and had moved North. Before going far, however, they encountered a strong party of the enemy; these parties bombed each other, and progress became very slow.
The third party got into the trench behind the second party, and, owing to the second party making slow progress, found themselves very crowded.
2/Lieutenant A.W. Hare, who was leading this party, pushed forward to discover what had happened to the second party. He succeeded in reaching a small latrine, from which he was able to throw bombs. He considered that altogether the second party must have inflicted considerable casualties on the enemy party, but they were only able to make very slow progress up the trench, one reason for this being that the leading bayonet man of the second party had become a casualty.
The enemy were throwing the majority of their bombs over the heads of the second party into the third party, who were crowded, but the throwing was bad and we sustained a few casualties. 2/Lieutenant L.P. Bennett, who was controlling the three parties with great coolness, ordered the third party to ease back a little as they were crowded. (Time about 9.48 p.m.)
Shortly after this 2/Lieutenant L.P. Bennett was badly wounded in the thigh. This left the parties without a leader, and just then the bugle was blown at the prearranged time. This was unfortunate, as the second party had not had time to make much progress Northwards, owing to the opposition they encountered.
We sustained a few casualties as our men returned to our trench from fragments of shell and mortar.
- The strength of the raiding party was 2 Officers and 53 Other Ranks.
- Our total casualties amounted to:
- 1 Officer wounded severely.
- 1 Other Rank killed.
- 3 Other Ranks missing (believed killed).
- 5 Other Ranks wounded.
The Medium Trench Mortar Officer told me yesterday that he had not been able to register before the raid.
Signed H.C. Copeman, Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding 1/4th Suffolk Regiment.
Leslie Punsfer Bennett died a few days later of his injuries on 16th February 1917 and was buried at Bray Military Cemetery, Somme, France.
Further Military and Civilian Research
- 1890 born at Wandsworth, London.
- 7 December 1915 – Commissioned from Lance Corporal 5144 Leslie Punsfer Bennett from Inns of Court, Officer Training Corps to The Queens (Royal West Surrey Regiment) as 2nd Lieutenant.
- 10 August 1916 – Moved to the French / Belgian Theatre of War.
Leslie Punsfer Bennett was born in 1890. His father, Alfred James Bennett married Elizabeth Baker Punsfer on 1 March 1877 in St John’s Church, Richmond, Surrey. The following family information is taken from the 1901 Census.
His family is shown as follows :-
- Father – Alfred Bennett, born c.1855 at Gloucestershire – Certificated School Master.
- Mother – Elizabeth Baker Punsfer or Bennett, born c.1879 at Exeter, Devon.
- Brother – Robert P., born c.1879 at London.
- Brother – Stanley Punsfer, born c.1881 at London.
- Sister – Winifred Mary Bennett or Windows, born c.1884 at London.
- Brother – Clifford Punsfer, born c.1886 at London.
- Sister – Emily Mary Bennett or MacLean, born c.1889 at London.
The address of his given next of kin after the war was given as Clifford Punsfer Bennett, 33 Sutherland Gardens, East Sheen. This is where his medals were sent.
The 1891 Census shows his address as being 40 Dempster Road, Wandsworth, London.
Leslie Punsfer Bennett, although not personally remembered, he is honoured on the Inns of Court War Memorial, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire.
Links to Additional Information
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Leslie Punsfer Bennett
- A Street Near You website – Leslie Punsfer Bennett
- Find a Grave – Leslie Punsfer Bennett
- London Gazette dated 13 December 1915
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
- Medal Index Card.
- Soldiers Who Died in the Great War.
- Register of Soldiers Effects.
- Pension Card.
- Census 1891.
- England and Wales Births 1837-2006.
- London Gazette dated 13 December 1915.
- Book – From the Somme to the Armistice – The Memoirs of Captain Stormont Gibbs, M.C.
- Vincent Stuart
- Mark Moore