Frank Ernest Henry Bennett

Mary Norris

Frank Ernest Henry Bennett was born on 17/08/1917 the son of Ernest John and his wife Annie Bennett nee Gurr. Frank’s grandfather Henry had moved from Arundel, where he had run a pub for 21 years, to take over the Lewes Arms in 1906.
He was a popular host and when he died in 1915 the licence was taken over by Frank’s grandmother who ran it for a further fifteen years, only retiring aged 74 when her daughter, Frank’s aunt, took it on. Frank’s father, Ernest John, had been born at Walberton.
When the Bennetts moved to Lewes they took a very active part in life in the town. The family were staunch members of the Commercial Square Bonfire Society and also worshipped at St John sub Castro.
Ernest had married Annie Gurr at St John sub Castro on 24/04/1916, giving his occupation as gardener. They had a son Frank and a daughter Mary. Ernest worked for East Sussex County Council and on the 1939 register he was listed as a county council labourer, but living at the pub. It has been suggested that Ernest was the landlord of the Lewes Arms; this is not correct however, because the licence was held by his married sister.
When he died, his obituary in the local paper detailed his work for the council.
His wife Annie was an in-patient at the Hellingly Mental Hospital in 1939, and she died there in 1943.

Frank, as printed in the Sussex Agricultural Express of 19/05/1944

Frank was brought up at the pub and after leaving school worked initially as a Post Office messenger and later as a postman in Brighton. In 1939 he was living at 11 Pelham Square in Brighton, not far from the main Post Office.

He joined the 4th Battalion, the Royal West Kent Regiment very early in the war. His sister Mary joined the WAAF. Frank’s battalion was sent to France in 1940 and became part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) stationed on the French/Belgian border. They were evacuated from Dunkirk in May and June of that year.

The battalion then remained in the UK for two years on home defence work and Frank married Flora Rose Wilkins, known as Rose, at Laughton in 1941. Rose remained at the family home of Church Cottages, Laughton when Frank’s battalion was sent to North Africa in May 1942.
While Frank was at sea Rose died. It is unlikely that he was given compassionate leave as his regiment were attached to the 8th army and fought at the battles of Alaim el Haifa and El Alamein in July 1942.
Frank rose through the ranks and became a sergeant.

In December the battalion was sent to Burma, where they became part of the 5th Indian Infantry Division. The fighting in the Burma Campaign was some of the most severe in the South-East Asian Theatre of the war, with combined allied forces resisting the advance of the Japanese army. Fighting was often hand to hand, and the Japanese advance was finally halted at the battle of Kohima.

Frank’s unit had set off from their station towards Kohima when he was killed in action on 06/04/1944. Frank is remembered on the Rangoon Memorial on face 16 but has no identified grave.

He is also remembered on the St John sub Castro Memorial and the Lewes War Memorial

This page was added on 06/11/2020.

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