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War Memorials



In Memory of
BENJAMIN BREWER DCM
Sergeant 14582
10th Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby) Regiment
Who died on Monday, 7th August 1916
Age 25

No Known Grave. Pier & Face 10C 10D & 11A
Thiepval "Memorial to the Missing", Somme, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
&
Remembered with Honour
Thiepval Memorial

Thiepval "Memorial to the Missing", France1

Benjamin Brewer was born in Cossall, Notts in 18912, the son of Samuel (b. c1864, Nottingham) and Elizabeth Annie Brewer (b. c1862, Beeston, née Turton). Benjamin was the third of their four children, the younger of their two sons3. The family lived in Digby Street, in the area known as Ilkeston Junction where Samuel was working as a lace maker4, probably at the Truman's lace curtain factory there, but had moved to Long Eaton by 1894. In 1898, Samuel died, aged only 345, but by about a year later, Elizabeth had married George Johnson, also a lace maker, and they had set up home on Bramcote Road, Beeston6, where two sons and a daughter were born to the couple. By 1911, Benjamin had followed his late father and his step-father into the lace trade and was working as a threader7.

As Benjamin's Army Service Record has not survived, we do not have a precise record of when he enlisted with the Sherwood Foresters, but it likely to have been in the very early days of the war as he become part of 10th (Service) Battalion which was formed at Derby on 13th September 1914, coming under the command of 51st Brigade in 17th (Northern) Division. After initial training locally, the regiment underwent final training at Wool and West Lulworth Training Camps in Dorset and at Winchester. It had been intended to use the division for Home Defences but this decision was changed and the battalion left for France, landing at Boulogne on the 14th July 1915. As part of 17th Division it concentrated near St Omer and moved into the Southern Ypres salient for trench familiarisation, taking over the the front lines in that area. In the spring of 1916 they were in action at the Bluff, south east of Ypres on the Comines canal8.

It was during operations on 2 March 1916, north of the Ypres Comines Canal, near the Bluff, that the then Corporal Brewer was involved in an action of conspicuous bravery, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He was a member of a party bringing up supplies to the front line under heavy shell fire when his Sergeant was killed. He took charge, got supplies through, and then remained tending his wounded comrades9. He was himself promoted to Sergeant following this incident.

The battalion then moved south to The Somme, seeing action during The Battle of Albert in which the Division captured Fricourt and took part in the Battle of Delville Wood - known as "Devil's Wood" by those who fought there - which had been captured by the 1st South African Infantry Brigade on the 15th July 1916, who continued to hold it, at very great cost, until the 19th. The fighting had been, and would continue to be, extremely fierce and by the time it came to an end on the 3rd September the wood had been completely destroyed with only the stumps of trees remaining. On 5th August, 10th Battalion had relieved the 9th Duke of Wellington Regiment at Longueval, taking over a line that was by now just a series of shell holes, roughly joined and with no connection between the front line and supporting trenches. Heavy shelling made all efforts to improve the position extremely difficult. Sergeant Brewer was killed in one of several unsuccessful attacks on Delville Wood, in conjunction with The Border Regiment, when they were held back by heavy machine gun and rapid rifle fire. During six days of fighting, 1 Officer and 43 other ranks from the battalion were killed and many more were injured10.

Sergeant Brewer's body was never found and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, which now stands adjacent to the Leipzig Redoubt. The Thiepval War Memorial to the Missing was unveiled on the 1st August 1932 by the then Prince of Wales and is the largest British War Memorial in the world. Standing 150 feet high, it dominates the surrounding area. The memorial stands on a concrete raft 10ft thick, built 19ft below the ground, the solution to the problems of building over the warren of tunnels that formed the German second line. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens the memorial has sixteen masonry piers, where can be found, on the panel faces, the names of some 72,000 British and 830 South African soldiers who died and have no known grave, during the period starting in July 1915, when the British Third Army took over from the French, through the Somme battles of 1916, until 20th March 1918, the eve of the last great German offensive on the Somme. The focal point of the memorial is the Stone of Remembrance, which lies under the great arch and centrally between the piers, for which Rudyard Kipling chose a quotation from Ecclesiasticus, "There name liveth forevermore".

Sergeant Brewer was posthumously awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal11. In addition to the memorial in Beeston Parish Church, he is remembered on the memorial in the Chilwell Road Methodist Church in Beeston.


Footnotes
1The photograph of the Thiepval Memorial is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was recorded in Basford Registration District (of which Cossall was part) in Q2/1891 (Ref 7b 154). The birth was probably at their home at Ilkeston Junction, a somewhat remote extension to the Cossall Parish.
3Benjamin's siblings were George (c1885), Alice (b. c1889) and Sarah Bradley (b. 1894>.
4Cossall, 1891 Census, Piece 2667 Folio 93
5Samuel Brewer's death is recorded in Shardlow Registration District (of which Long Eaton was then part) in Q3.1898 (Ref 7b 289) 6Beeston, 1901 Census, Piece 3153 Folio 49
7Beeston, 1911 Census, Piece 20427 RD429 SD3 ED2 Schedule 303. Elizabeth & George's children, Benjamin's half siblings, were Harry (b. c1900), Percy (b. c1902 and Maggie (b. c1905).
8Details of the battalion's formation, training and early involvemnt in France are from a review of "10th (S) Battalion The Sherwood Foresters" by W N Hoyte, at www.naval-military-press.com
9Based on the citation, quoted in the catalogue, when his DCM was sold at auction by Lockdales on 12 July 2014.
10This account is based on the Battalion's war diary.
11WW1 Medal Card - available on ancestry.com

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