Lieutenant Colonel Cyril Benton JOHNSON
1/6th Battalion SHERWOOD FORESTERS
(Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment)
Date of birth: 7 May 1890
Date of death: 21 September 1917
Killed in action aged 27
Buried in Sailly-Labourse Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France
Plot C 8
Cyril Benton was born in Marple the elder son of Charles, a solicitor with a practice in Stockport, and Lizzy Johnson. With his younger brother, Brian, he grew up in Buxton. Charles' practice provided the family with all the luxuries expected by the middle classes of the day. The 1901 Census shows they were able to employ five live-in servants - a nurse to look after the children, cook, waitress, housemaid and kitchen maid.
Cyril was educated at Moorland House in Heswall, and at Charterhouse (Daviesites House) from Oration Quarter (autumn term) 1903, to Summer Quarter 1909 where he was Captain of 1st Xi football team. At Christ Church Oxford he gained a BA. He was a fine athlete and played football for the University team.
In 1910, Cyril was commissioned as an officer into the 6th Battalion - the local Territorial unit of the Sherwood Foresters (more formally known as the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment). He decided to make his career in the law, was articled to W.P. Norton of Norton, Rose & Barrington of Old Broad Street, London, and was about to take his final examinations when War was declared in August 1914 and he was mobilised.
His service file still exists at the National Archives and gives many details of his War service. It also includes his original application form to become a Territorial officer, dated 22 December 1909 and recording his height - 5' 9".
He left Britain, with the Battalion, sailing overnight from Southampton to Le Havre on 25/26 February 1915. A few weeks later, he was promoted to Adjutant but on 31 July, he was admitted to the Divisional Rest Station suffering with Pyrexia, and did not return to duty until 18 August.
In the spring of 1916, he had a couple of weeks leave to the UK and, shortly after his return, was "Mentioned in Despatches" for gallantry and distinguished conduct, and promoted to Captain.
The Battle of the Somme opened on 1 July 1916, that day Cyril was wounded by shrapnel and evacuated to No. 2 General Hospital at le Havre, before being transferred to 2nd Western General Hospital on Manchester's Whitworth Street.
Returning to duty on 30 October, in early December he temporarily took command of the Battalion for a few days while more senior officers were on leave, but soon afterwards he was promoted to Major. In March 1917, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and took permanent command of the unit. At the time he was, reputedly, the youngest man of that rank. The following month, on 9 April, he was again "Mentioned in Despatches".
On 17 May, back in the UK on leave, he married Dorothy (Dolly) Lord, the only daughter of Charles Lord, a Manchester solicitor. The marriage was registered in Chapel-en-le-Frith. Possibly there was a later period of leave, as it appears he returned to duty with the Battalion on 9 September. Two weeks later, the Battalion was moving forward to take over a line of support trenches at a position known as Hill 70, near the French village of Loos, when a German shell exploded nearby. Cyril died instantly.
Dorothy was living with Cyril’s parents at Hall Bank, to which the dreaded telegram was delivered with the news that he had been killed. His brother, Brian, also serving with the Battalion as a Lieutenant, was promoted to Acting Captain on 14 September. He wrote to tell the family what had happened.
Cyril’s Estate amounted to £1058 6s 11d, probate was granted to Lewis Hentry Grundy, solicitor. Cyril’s address given as The Coburg Hotel, Mayfair.
By 1919, Dorothy had moved to a house called "Wood Edge", still in Buxton. She and other members of the family arranged for Cyril's name to be commemorated at St Giles' Church and, also, on the local War Memorial. However, by the time the War Graves Commission collated its casualty information Charles and Lizzy Johnson had retired to Wharfe Bungalow, Henley-on-Thames.
(further information about Cyril, including a photograph, can be found in the book "Remembered" by `P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff. The photograph below from Charterhouse archives, Lt Benton seated second from left)