Sol­dier’s pho­to­graphs show life en­dured on the front line

The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands) - - NEWS -

A remarkable set of pho­to­graphs taken by a First World War hero have been re­vealed for the first time – 104 years af­ter he brought his cam­era to the bat­tle­fields of Ypres.

Cap­tain Robert Ben­nett, known as Bob, used his Vest Pocket Ko­dak to doc­u­ment life on the front line from Oc­to­ber 1914 to Jan­uary 1915.

He em­barked for France at the be­gin­ning of the con­flict aged 25, serv­ing as a ma­chine gun­ner in 1st Bat­tal­ion, the Som­er­set Light In­fantry.

Capt Ben­nett pho­tographed the muddy, snowy and flooded fields en­dured by sol­diers, as well as his fel­low men build­ing for­ti­fi­ca­tions and us­ing anti-air­craft guns.

His cam­era, nick­named the Sol­dier’s Ko­dak, cap­tured im­ages of Capt Ben­nett with com­rades as well as at his bat­tal­ion’s makeshift head­quar­ters in Ploeg­steert Wood.

One poignant im­age de­picts the grave of Capt Charles Carus Maud, a friend of Capt Ben­nett who was killed while fight­ing on December 19 1914.

Capt Maud’s body lay be­tween the trenches un­til Christ­mas Day when Ger­man and Bri­tish of­fi­cers agreed they could re­trieve their dead.

Pho­to­graphs of his fi­nal rest­ing place – now part of a Com­mon­wealth War Graves Com­mis­sion ceme­tery – are cap­tioned “Maud’s Grave” in Capt Ben­nett’s scrap­book.

The scrap­book, along with Capt Ben­nett’s cam­era, were found by his fam­ily in the at­tic of his home in Ot­ter­ton, Devon, decades af­ter the war.

His son, Tony Ben­nett, 82, who him­self served as a lieu­tenant colonel in the Som­er­set Light In­fantry, said: “He went right at the be­gin­ning of war and he brought his cam­era with him.

“It was a Vest Pocket Ko­dak, quite a few of them were taken out by peo­ple in the Army. There are about 30 pic­tures or so in the scrap­book.

“He never talked about the war. I have so many ques­tions I would like to have asked him.”

Af­ter the war, Mr Ben­nett con­tin­ued to serve with the Som­er­set Light In­fantry, re­tir­ing in 1937.

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