Date of birth: 1892
Date of death: 1.7.1916
Regiment: King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Husband of Alice nee Stanley
Service number: 17439
Benjamin joined the 9th Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry who were in France in 1916, as Private 17439. On the 1st July – later to be known as the first day of the Battle of the Somme – the battalion were in the thick of the action as the war diary records. The British barrage was to be halted at 7.30am to allow troops to advance, so at 7.25am waves of men started to leave the relative safety of the trenches to crawl forward as far as possible into No Man’s Land. Wave after wave followed in 1 minute intervals. When the first men had got about 25 yards forward, the enemy, who had not suffered from the previous barrage as much as had been hoped, brought their machine guns out onto the parapet of their trenches and peppered them in a hail of machine gun fire. If any man managed to get within range of the enemy trenches they were met with cylindrical stick bombs being hurled at them. Despite heavy losses and with the support of the Durham Light Infantry they managed to drive the enemy out of the support trenches, with the diary recording that “from here to the SUNKEN ROAD the attack became a running fight or series of small fights.” The battalion advanced to Crucifix Trench and “consolidated their guns”. During this engagement the battalion lost a total of 415 “other rank” soldiers.
Benjamin was one of 60,000 casualties on the 1st July 1916 – the first day of the Battle of the Somme – and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, France. He was awarded the 14/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.
I believe Benjamin was the son of Thomas and Martha Ward and brother to Joseph (killed 1915). He was born in 1892 in Wakefield and married Alice Stanley in 1912. I believe they had a little girl Mary in 1914 – the Register of Soldiers Effects, which records who is entitled to inherit what was due to a deceased soldier, stated that the grants were for “self (Alice) and child.”
The Wakefield Express of 2nd September 1916 reported:
“NEW CROFTON SOLDIER KILLED
News has been received that Private B Ward , Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, was killed in action on July 1st. Deceased, who was 24 years of age, worked at Newton Colliery before joining the colours.”