Bennett, John

I found this article in the Chester Chronicle 23rd August 1941 Page 7 Col 5.


The Late Mr. J. BENNETT – News was received this week by his relatives in Connah’s Quay of the death at sea of Mr. John BENNETT, who had recently made his home at Deane Mont, Upperdale, Hawarden.   He was the youngest son of Capt. Thos.BENNETT, for many years proprietor of the New Inn.   He leaves a wife and two children.   He joined the merchant navy at the beginning of the war.

This set me looking for John in the Commonwealth War Graves Website but he is not, to my knowledge, recorded there nor on the Tower Hill Memorial under the name of the ship S.S. “LLANGOLLEN” on which he died, he is also not on the Connah’s Quay & Shotton,WW2 War Memorial, the town of his birth, nor on the Hawarden WW2 War Memorial where his was last residing.   He seems to have been missed completely.

So I started looking for information on the S.S. Llangollen.    The article below gives an insight into John’s life and his fate.

WW2 People’s War. An Archive of World War Two memories – written by the public, gathered by the BBC.

SS Llangollen Contributed by Angie Irvine

Archive List > Merchant Navy

People in story:  Tom Pimm

Location of story:  On board the S.S. LLangollen

Background to story:  Civilian

Article ID:  A3317212

Contributed on:  23 November 2004

I was born in Worcester 10/01/27 and spent much of my life growing up in Barnardo’s homes. When the war broke out in 1939 I was living in Cardiff in a Barnardo’s home. I was desperate to be involved in the war but was too young. In 1941 when I was 14, after spending many hours on the Cardiff docks looking for a job on a ship, I was offered a position on board the S.S Llangollen as a deck hand. The ship left soon after this bound for South Africa with supplies for Cape Town. No sooner had we arrived in the Atlantic than we ran into a terrible storm which caused severe damage to the ship. We were restricted to travelling at 6 knot’s, a rate which was far too slow with the danger of German U boats in the area. As well as this the deck had been stripped clean of life boats, and our radio had been damaged so we couldn’t contact anyone. Despite all of this, the decision was made by the captain to carry on even though it was going to take a lot longer than the five weeks originally expected. Because we had no fridges on board all of our food supplies were kept together in one hole, much of which was dried. We had to survive on dried lentils, beans and rice, but at the same time the food supplies was riddled with cockroaches and rats.

As we traveled south through the Atlantic we were still able to listen to other ships through our radio but not make contact. We heard numerous ships in our area being hit by German U boats and being sunk but luckily never came across them ourselves. It was a frightening sound to hear.

The captain made the decision to dock north of Cape Town in the end because of the risk of the Germans and because we had all but run out of supplies. As we came into the harbour we were greeted by an Allied destroyer. The captain had tried to announce our arrival but we were to find that during our journey south it was assumed that we were sunk as well and our deaths had been announced to all our families. The destroyer assumed that we were a German ship in disguise.

After proving who we really were, we were tugged into Cape Town harbour and afterwards fed like Kings, at least it felt like it after months of so little food. It was such a relief to be there, we knew we were all lucky to be alive. During our stay new life boats were fitted and repairs to any damage were completed. We restocked and headed for Aden, stopping in at Durban briefly. In Aden we needed to load coal for fuel. This was not done by ourselves though, but by local children, 400 tonnes of it. It was this that made me realise that my life growing up had never been as bad as I thought.

After this we headed for Alexander but at a very slow pace again because of the weight. At Alexander we were ordered to Tybruck in Italy to help collect wounded soldiers and help them to the hospital ship or back to Alexander. The deck was littered with wounded bodies causing blood to pour through to the lower decks. I had never seen anything like it and much to my embarrassment I fainted.

There were all sorts of people from different regiments, including the Guards, the Suffolks and many South Africans as well. While we were heading towards Alexander an Italian or German plane, I’m not sure which, bombed a merchant ship right in front of us. But it didn’t touch us nor did it touch the hospital ship.© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

British merchant seamen of World War II – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John was the son of Captain Thomas and Catherine Bennett (nee McKegney), who had been the Proprietor of the New Inn, they had married in St. Mark’s Church on the 15th January 1880.

Thomas Brown Bennett, of full age, (Over 21 years) was a Master Mariner of Connah’s Quay and his father was Benjamin Bennett, Inn Keeper.    Catherine McKegney, 19, Spinster of Connah’s Quay had to get married by Licence because  of her age and her father, Fergus McKegney was also an Inn Keeper.

John had been born on the 13th February 1903 according to the 1939 National Register, but sadly it looks as though Catherine died in the same Quarter of 1903 (March) as John was born and was her last child, so I do wonder if she died in childbirth, age 42 years, (Holywell  Vol  11b, Page 169), but this is speculation, the death certificate would have to be purchased to confirm or deny..

However by the 1911 census the family were living at the New Inn and Thomas B. Bennett, 53, a Licensed Victualler is described as a widower, he also tells us that 12 children had been born, all still living – (crossed out by the Enumerator as he was a widower).   The household is made up of his daughters Sarah Arnold Bennett, 21 and Catherine, 20, both single and both Assisting in the Business.   Fergus Bennett, 18, single and a Clerk in Iron Office, Grace, 16 Assisting at Home.   Children at School were Gilbert, 15, Mary 13, Phyllis, 10 and John 8.   There was a Servant, Daisy Ratcliffe, 19 and born in Staffordshire.

We do see John’s family on the 1921 census, which was taken on the 19th of June 1921, now living at Dee View, Connah’s Quay and John’s father, Thomas Brown Bennett was head of the household, age 65 years and a widower, also still a Licenced Victualler at the New Inn and an Employer.   Fergus Bennett was now 29 years and 1 month old, he was a Clerk at J. Summers & Sons Ltd., Hawarden Bridge Steelworks but was “Out of Work.”   Mary Bennett was 23 years and 3 months old; Phillis Bennett was 20 years and 11 months old; both were single and doing “Home Duties.”   Another daughter, now married was Grace Rowlands, she was 26 years and 8 months old, she too was doing “Home Duties.”  However, there was no sign of John Bennett, he would have been about 18 years old when the 1921 census was taken so he could have moved for work, any help with his whereabouts at this time would be gratefully received.

I do not know about John’s childhood or teenage years, but I believe that he married in St. Deniol’s Church, Hawarden on the 28th June 11924.   John, 21, a Bachelor and Shipmate was living at Holly House, Mancot and Thomas Bennett, Publican was his father.   Eleanor Wright, 21, a spinster was living at the same address and her father was William Wright a Pattern Maker.    Witnesses were Herbert & Winnie Wright.

They appear on the 1939 National Register which was taken on the 29th September 1939, the war was declared on the 3rd September.  They were living at Dene Mont Ventnor, Hawarden and John was  a Wharf Labourer (Heavy Work), Eleanor’s date of birth was the 22nd November 1902 and is described on this Register, as most married women not in a job, doing “Unpaid Domestic Duties.” There was also a Thomas G Bennett, born 20th May 1934 in School, and a Closed Record, these I suspect were their children.

According to the newspaper John Bennett joined the merchant navy at the beginning of the war.  However, with help from Jo Wren from the City Archives – Southampton, she found his CR10 Card which tell us that he was a Cadet, so perhaps he had been in the Merchant Navy and rejoined at the beginning of the war.  The Casualty Card gives us the name of the Ship, when he died and the cause of death -Cardiac degeneration  due to Cachodocia*(sic)of Malignant Malaria.

* I cannot find the meaning of “Cachodocia,” in the “Dictonary of Medical Terms.”  However in the Penquin English Dictionary the word – Cachexia means – “A general physical wasting and malnutrition, associated with chronic disease.”

Taken from this website:-


Falciparum malaria is the most severe form of malaria, caused by Plasmodium falciparum, with severe constitutional symptoms and sometimes causing death.   The number of imported falciparum malaria cases has been increasing in the past 20 years with the highest number seen in people travelling to West Africa. (1).   It is commonly seen within 3 months of return from an endemic area (2).   Falciparum malaria may lead to intravascular haemolysis with haematuria and then is known as blackwater fever.

The fact was that he died of Malaria and as such he died as a result of his War Service and as such should be added to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database, as he would not have caught that if he had stayed in the UK and not volunteered to “Go to War,“ so to speak.

Thanks to

Thanks to Tim from WW2 Talk  –  tells us that the S.S. Llangollen was part of Convoy SL82, and the others on that Forum, who again turned up Trumps with information, showed on a Google map where he died and was buried at sea, thanks to TD showing us where 24 – 27 N, 20 – 29 W, at sea was, which was the place on the Brit. Armed Forces & Overseas Deaths & burials. 1941’00.0%22N+20%C2%B029’00.0%22W/@24.1283131,-25.9234374,4z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x0!8m2!3d24.45!4d-20.4833333

The CWGC need to know, among other things, whether the ship:-

* Had to take measures to either avoid or prevent enemy action against ships (in this case did the ship call at different ports to those on previous trips in order to avoid the enemy?) 
* Was not displaying or using navigation aids, normally carried in peacetime, because of the danger presented by the enemy to ships (in this case did the ship made unscheduled stops at port(s) in a malarial region because they were operating without navigation aids and strayed from their route?) 
* Was carrying wartime cargo in a manner which would be abnormal in peacetime and which involved danger to the ship or to her crew (is there evidence the crew were exposed to malaria due the cargo it was carrying?)
* Had on board the existence of any other wartime conditions which would be abnormal in peacetime (in this case was the ship’s route the same as that in peacetime – if so, could the casualty have been exposed to malaria pre-war?)

I found, with help from Lisa of the CWGC, a document that proves that the S.S. Llangollen was in the waters of West Africa calling at Freetown, Port Harcourt, among others.   I hope that this will persuade the CWGC to add him to the database and give him recognition for his sacrifice, as among thousands of other Merchant Seaman, they have been sorely treated, as Hugh on WW2talk tells us:-

They(CWGC) are quite strict on this and there are over 5000 merchant seamen who died during WW2 who are not recognised by the CWGC as war dead. Still to this day they are the forgotten fourth service and their treatment has been shameful to say the least.

Please click on to read

British merchant seamen of World War II – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Merchant seamen at war, 1939 – May 1941

From the outbreak of war in September 1939 individual seamen could decide if they wished to sail and risk attack by German forces, or in the face of extremely high losses, if they wished to change their occupation to work ashore or otherwise enlist in the Armed Forces.[14] Losses of shipping and their crews in 1940 and 1941 were staggering and were nearing a peak with 779 ships sunk and 16,654 seamen killed or missing (approximately 49 percent of their crews). Fortunately for Great Britain the great majority of seamen continued to take the risk and the nation’s war supplies and food continued to arrive.[15]

Until May 1941 merchant seamen sailing aboard British vessels attacked and sunk by enemy action received no pay (wages) from the moment that their ship sank. If the seaman was fortunate to survive the sinking only to spend days or weeks in an open lifeboat hoping for rescue, it was regarded as “non-working time” and the seaman was not paid for that time because their employer, the shipping company who had owned the lost vessel, no longer required their services.[16][17]

Emergency Work Order – May 1941

In May 1941, “Emergency Work (Merchant Navy) Order, Notice No. M198” was passed by the British Parliament in recognition of the desperate situation facing Great Britain. Under this new order a Merchant Navy Reserve Pool was established which was to ensure that available seamen were allocated to ships which needed crew, it required seamen to continue to serve for the duration of the war, they were guaranteed a wage for that period including time spent in lifeboats or in captivity and it provided for two days paid leave earned per month served.[18]

Merchant seamen 1939 – 1945

The British Merchant Navy was the biggest in the world and required more crew than Great Britain had merchant seamen, as the result large numbers of Indian, Chinese and West African seamen were engaged to crew ships which regularly traded from Great Britain to ports in those areas. Additionally seamen from Commonwealth countries sailed abroad British ships as did many seamen from Scandinavia, the Netherlands and most countries of the world including Germany and Japan.

Traditionally it was a very open society almost free of all distinctions of class, race, religion, age or colour. The mixture of nationalities making the atmosphere similar to a “Foreign Legion”. Some were sailing under aliases to escape family problems, legal issues or simply because they wished to begin new lives.   Women frequently worked aboard the larger passenger carrying vessels as stewardesses.   Many seamen came from British port towns and cities and followed their fathers and uncles to sea, quite normally sailing with family members.

It was not unusual for seamen to have no fixed abode and to live in “Seamen’s Hostels” in port for a week or two before they engaged aboard ship for their next trip away at sea.

However John Bennett did have a family and home and John Bennett needs to be remembered, so I waiting to see if he will be recognised, and in any case he will be remembered on this website.   If  anyone can help in this matter, it would be very much appreciated.














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