Bentham's part in the Great War

Bentham's part in the Great War

Local historian Dr David Johnson looks through the records at St John's Church, Low Bentham

Charles Graham Robertson, awarded the VC for gallantry. Picture courtesy of David Carter

First published in News

LOCAL historian David Johnson made a series of discoveries when he carried out research for an exhibition about Bentham’s part in the Great War.

One was the unexpected news that a Victoria Cross was awarded to a soldier born in Bentham and another was the large number of conscientious objectors in the town.

Details can be seen at the exhibition which will run throughout August at St John the Baptist Church, Low Bentham.

The exhibition - which will be open between 10am and 4pm - will be enhanced by a floral tribute to the soldiers entitled Flowers for Remembrance.

The commemoration will start with a Requiem Eucharist on Sunday at 10.30am and will be followed, at 6.30pm, by a special ecumenical service involving members of the future Ingleborough Team Ministry.

Research for the exhibition began with the St John the Baptist Roll of Honour together with the names on the plaque outside the town hall.

But it was soon evident that more was necessary and extensive research followed.

Dr Johnson has managed to identify 209 Bentham men who fought in the conflict and the exhibition gives a brief summary about most of them, with more detail about the 55 who died.

The information is based on the website, Craven’s Part in the Great War, which has been expanded by using the census, newspaper reports and pen portraits from proud families.

One contribution is an article by Monsignor Paul Hypher about the Rev Theodore Bayley Hardy VC, MC, DSO. Hardy was the headmaster of Bentham Grammar School between 1907 and 1913 and was the most decorated non-combatant of the war.

"It is a puzzle that despite his service to the community and country his name was omitted from the town war memorial," said Dr Johnson.

And work by Cyril Pearce, together with local information, has revealed a list of 31 conscientious objectors from Bentham.

Dr Johnson said: "This was an unusually high number in proportion to the 209 who served in the forces and from a total Bentham population of approximately 2,300. The figure is largely explained by the powerful Quaker influence in the area and the support provided by the Ford family, prominent Quakers, who owned the local silk mill."

Another surprise came from David Carter who has researched a book entitled The Stockbrokers Battalion in the Great War. He discovered that Charles Graham Robertson, awarded the VC for gallantry at Poderhoek Chateau Belgium, was born at 17 Millhouses, Wenning Avenue, High Bentham.

The story is complicated because his name changed three times and he moved from Bentham to Penrith at an early age and then to Dorking, which probably explains why Bentham has been unaware of his existence until now.

The town could now qualify for a high-tech commemorative paving stone, which would include a QR code or digital sign to let smartphone users find out more about the person commemorated.

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