Soldier’s photographs show life endured on the front line
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.