One death in millions unites villages across Channel

Bob Bennett admires the pupils’ display on the First World War

This year is the centenary of the end of WW1 and the sacrifice of one soldier just three weeks before the Armistice has created an unforeseen bond between Bray-sur-Somme in northern France and Old Coulsdon in south London. Connexion writer Sally Ann Voak, who lives in Old Coulsdon, explains

Genealogist Carole Skinner and her neighbour Sally Ann Voak, pictured [right to left] were planning a First World War exhibition when they discovered a historical link between their village of Old Coulsdon and Bray-sur-Somme.

Sally said: “Carole was researching the life stories of the 41 men whose names are engraved on our war memorial when she found that 12 Old Coulsdon soldiers are buried in France.

“With the help of the team at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, we learned that one of the 12, Major Frederick Barberry Bennett, was laid to rest in the Bronfay Farm Military Cemetery on the outskirts of the village of Bray, which is similar to Old Coulsdon with a thriving community spirit, and strong history of wartime heroism.”

Before the war, Maj Bennett worked in the City of London as a stockbroker and lived with his family in a comfortable detached house surrounded by rolling chalk downs and wooded valleys.

He was called up in 1914 and died on October 22, 1918, aged 38, in a field hospital near Bray after being wounded and gassed in the battle of Le Cateau-Cambrésis.

“Sadly, like many others, he was killed during the final days of the war,” said Sally. “He had already fought in one heavy conflict near Bray and had been made up to acting lieutenant colonel just before the disastrous Cateau battle in which over 600 men of the Royal Artillery were killed.”

Major Fred Bennett died just weeks before the Armistice

Carole discovered pre-war pictures ...

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