Wilson Bell was the son of Thomas Pearson Bell (born in Scotland in about 1851) and Elizabeth (born in Irthington, Cumberland in about 1854). He was born in West Derby in Liverpool and christened at St. Mary’s church in Edge Hill. Thomas was described as a book-keeper in 1891 and Chief Clerk to the Public Health Service in 1901. At the time of Wilson’s death, he was also a Hoylake and West Kirby councillor. Wilson became a solicitor. He married Dora Ellen and settled in Wakefield, where he worked as the assistant solicitor for West Riding County Council. He must have been a part-time soldier with the Territorial Army because he began his war service in November 1914. He went to France on 15th January 1917.
When he was still at home in West Kirby, like many Anglo-Scots, Wilson and his family attended the Presbyterian church. The Reverend Kirkland was their minister. He delivered Wilson’s eulogy at a remembrance service on 24th March 1917. He based his sermon on Revelation 21:3 – “God himself shall be with them and their God” and, movingly, went on to describe the young man: “No purer or nobler soldier has fallen in the great struggle of right against ambitious might. He was one of our own boys; we knew him from his childhood, and have followed his career with the closest interest all the way. He was a good man with a genial personality. He was a brilliant student; one well skilled in the law, and certain of high promotion in his calling, but the bullet of a German sniper has extinguished all our hopes – yes, extinguished all our hopes, but the man lives after his warfare has been finished; he lives crowned with the victor’s crown! … He lies – his body lies – in a grave in the fields of France. He himself is home with his Lord.”
On 1st May 1917 his estate, valued at £1,328 13s 8d, passed onto his father.
Birth: March 1881 in West Derby, Liverpool; christened on 20th March 1881
Death: 5th March 1917, killed in action aged 36
Addresses: 7 North Road, West Kirby (91, 01), Woodlands Cottage, Sandal, Wakefield, West Riding, Yorkshire (17)
Occupation: Solicitor’s Articled Clerk (01), Assistant Solicitor West Riding County Council (14 – 17)
Unit: 2nd/4th Bn. King’s Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry)
Number(s) and Rank: Captain
Medals: Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: GH, WK, France: Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 11C and 12A
Sources: BR, CWGC, SDGW, MC, Prob., DA, Census: 91, 11
RICHARD CHARLES BENYON
Richard was the son of two natives of the Welsh border county of Montgomery – John Benyon (1835-1902) and Elizabeth Williams (1845-1924). The 1901 census reveals that eight members of the Benyon family were living in a three-roomed cottage in Berriew together with a boarder called Lawton Jones. Everybody in the household spoke English as his or her first language. By 1911, only the widowed Elizabeth, Richard and their boarder, who was now a “waggoner on a farm”, were still living in the cottage. Richard’s older siblings must have found work and accommodation elsewhere. Elizabeth reported that she had given birth to 12 children but that four of them had died. Richard was employed as a grocer’s assistant. Later that year, Richard married Amelia Evans (born in about 1890, possibly in Crewe) in Hyde near Manchester. The Soldiers Died in the Great War database implies that Richard was living in Liscard when he joined up, but the Birkenhead News asserted that his widow lived in Church Road in West Kirby and that he worked for George Watkins and Son, Family Grocers and Bakers of 22 Village Road, West Kirby. He seems to have travelled to Wrexham in order to join up.
Very sadly, the poor man had only been with his unit for two days when he was killed. Imagine how his commanding officer, Major Cyril Farmer, felt when he had to write to Richard’s parents. He clearly did not know Richard very well, so had tactfully to describe him as favourably as possible and to describe his resting place: “I am sure he would have been a valuable and efficient soldier if he had been spared. In the absence of a clergyman, I read the service and he was buried in the cemetery near us. I have made arrangements as regards a cross for him.” The latter point is interesting because Richard’s name is one of the 54,896 inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres. It is probable, therefore, that his grave was destroyed by subsequent fighting over the ground in which he was buried.
Birth: c.1889 in Berriew, Montgomeryshire
Death: 24th July 1917, killed in action
Addresses: Keel Cottage, Berriew (01-11); Liscard (?); Church Road, West Kirby (17)
Occupation: Grocer’s Assistant (11 – 17)
Unit: 83 Battery 3rd Brigade Royal Artillery.
Number and Rank: 189728 Gunner
Medals: Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: GH, WK, Belgium: Ypres, Menin Gate Panel 5 and 9
Sources: BR, CWGC, SDGW, MC, FT, BN, Census: 01, 11