b. 29/03/1883 Bermondsey, Surrey. d. 06/01/1949 Woking, Surrey.
DATE OF AM ACTION: 25/02/1918 Brie Railway Station, France.
George William Bennett was born in Bermondsey, London, on 29th March 1883 and attested for the 5th Lancers on 25 February 1907. Issued with the service number L/114, Bennett was posted to the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers, but was subsequently drafted to the 12th Royal Lancers and served with that regiment in India and South Africa before returning to England in 1913. Transferring to the Army reserve on 24 February 1914, he was recalled to the Colours on the outbreak of the Great War and posted to the 12th Lancers. He served during the Great War on the Western Front from 15 August 1914 until 25 February 1918, on which date he performed his selfless act of gallantry at Brie Railway Station: ‘I have never been so proud of a 12th Lancer in my life as I was of you this morning. It was the finest deed a man can do and I am proud of you a 12th Lancer. Accidents will happen but yours was more than this: man cannot do more than lay down his life for another.
Bennett was severely injured in his rescue attempt, and had to have both legs amputated, the right leg above the knee and the left below. For his gallantry he was additionally awarded the French Medal of Honour in gold (French Government Decree dated 4 October 1918). He was presented with his Albert Medal by H.M. King George V at Buckingham Palace on 18 September 1918, and was discharged on 16 January 1919, after 11 years and 324 days’ service. George was discharged as a consequence of his injuries on 16 January 1919 and was issued with a Silver War Badge. He was living at the Disabled Soldiers’ Home on Wattisfield Road in Hackney when he was sent the clasp and roses for his 1914 Star on 12 November 1920. Chum Bennett can be seen prominently on a Pathe newsreel taken during the visit, when he was filmed on crutches going down the steps to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Brussels. In later life he worked as a silk rinser but was based at Brookwood Hospital, Woking due to his disability. He died on 6th January 1949 in Woking, aged 65.
A woman who was crossing the line in front of a troop train at a railway station in France, to reach a passenger train, was caught by the buffer of the engine. Private Bennett, 12th Lancers, hearing the woman’s screams, and seeing her position, rushed to help her and pulled her into the six-foot way between the two trains. Unfortunately a basket which the woman was carrying was struck by the troop train and knocked Bennett against the passenger train, with the result that he was badly injured and suffered the amputation of both his legs. Had it not been for his presence of mind and courage the woman probably would have been killed.
BURIAL LOCATION: UNKNOWN.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: PRIVATELY HELD. SOLD AT AUCTION FOR £7,500 IN MARCH 2017.