Burin Penin­sula na­tive re­calls war-time ser­vice

Max Ben­nett: From ra­dioman to businessman

The Southern Gazette - - Front Page - BY COLIN FAR­RELL FOR­TUNE, N.L.

Max Ben­nett has worn many hats in his 97-years—son, soldier, hus­band, businessman, fa­ther, grand­fa­ther and great­grand­fa­ther.

Ben­nett was born in De­cem­ber of 1921 to par­ents Charles (Chet) Ben­nett and Effie Ben­nett of For­tune. He was the sec­ond old­est of six children.

Ben­nett en­listed in the Bri­tish Army in the sum­mer of 1940.

“I was not 18 when the war broke out,” he ex­plained. “I was still 17… so I had to wait un­til the end of De­cem­ber.”

Ben­nett, who now makes his home in No­vato, Cal­i­for­nia, said at the time his fa­ther sup­ported his de­ci­sion to en­list, but his mother was not happy, “be­cause my name Max is af­ter my un­cle who got killed in World War I, her brother — they seemed to feel at that time, once you got on that boat go­ing over to the war zone you were never go­ing to come back…my fa­ther thought prob­a­bly you should go.”

He of­fi­cially re­ceived his en­roll­ment doc­u­ments in July 1940.

Ben­nett ex­plained that at the time any man that was able to do so was en­list­ing, “I just thought it would have been some­thing for two or three months for a bit of ex­cite­ment, but it was five years later be­fore I got back,” he said with a laugh.

Ben­nett re­called that be­fore go­ing to Europe he was sta­tioned at Sham­rock Field train­ing camp in St. John’s.

“We didn’t have a road to St. John’s at that time,” he ex­plained to The South­ern Gazette on Thursday, Oct. 25, “so we took a boat.”

Af­ter de­part­ing from St. John’s, Ben­nett and the other sol­diers with the New­found­land Heavy Ar­tillery Reg­i­ment spent much of its time on the south­ern shores of Eng­land, pro­tect­ing the coast­line, be­fore the in­va­sion in 1944.

“I spent a month in Nor­mandy — just bomb­ing — there wasn’t a brick left stand­ing,” ex­plained Ben­nett, “then we started mov­ing all the way up through the coast.”

Ben­nett said he is not sure of the ex­act dates that he was over­seas.

“It’s not like a tourist say­ing when you’re go­ing, say­ing, ‘Well, I’ll be there till a cer­tain date.’”

Harsh win­ter

Ben­nett can still re­call his first win­ter in the Nether­lands.

“I was in a slit trench all through the win­ter of 1944-45 un­til the spring,” he said. “Half the army must have gone to the hospi­tal. I had a sort of heavy flu…but I didn’t go to the hospi­tal.”

He com­pared the weather to that of what you would find in Canada.

“It was a pretty se­vere win­ter.” Ben­nett also re­called an­other soldier from the Burin Penin­sula by the name of Stan St. Croix who shared the trench with him.

“He used to jump out­side (the trench) and swing his arms back and forth (to warm up).”

Op­por­tu­ni­ties

Ben­nett took on var­i­ous roles while in the ser­vice — he was a gun­ner, a ra­dio op­er­a­tor, and even vol­un­teered to be dropped into the front­lines to trans­mit back to base.

“So I put the ap­pli­ca­tion in and waited two-weeks and no­body ever came back, so I went up to the of­fi­cer and said, ‘What hap­pened?’ ‘Oh’, he said, ‘I tore it up and threw it away’, he said. ‘You stupid…you’d au­to­mat­i­cally get killed there.’”

Re­turn­ing home

Ben­nett re­calls he was out­side Ham­burg, Ger­many when he got news that the war had ended. He re­mained there for an ad­di­tional three months be­fore mak­ing his way home to New­found­land.

“My par­ents met me in Marystown,” he ex­plained.

Ben­nett said his mother waited in the car, and it was his fa­ther met him when he got off the boat.

“She (my mother) turned her back be­cause she thought I would not be there, cause I had not sent a mes­sage or any­thing to say I was com­ing home,” he said.

He added his mother was cry­ing un­til she saw that he had

made it back.

Next chap­ter

Fol­low­ing his re­turn from the war Ben­nett moved to Toronto to fur­ther his ed­u­ca­tion. Some­time af­ter grad­u­a­tion he gained em­ploy­ment at AVRO air­craft where he worked on the AVRO Ar­row jet fighter.

Dur­ing his time with the com­pany he spent two win­ters in Cal­i­for­nia to help with test­ing of the Ar­row. The project was even­tu­ally can­celled and Ben­nett moved to Santa Mon­ica and started work­ing for AMPEX Corp. in their com­puter prod­ucts di­vi­sion from 1962-2016 where he ad­vanced to vice-pres­i­dent and gen­eral man­ager.

Ben­nett was in­stru­men­tal in de­vel­op­ing the com­pany’s fac­tory in Hong Kong, not­ing “my ex­per­tise was form­ing fac­tory’s in the far east.”

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO FROM GARY BEN­NETT

Ninety-seven-year-old Max Ben­nett re­sides in No­vato, Cal­i­for­nia with his wife of 70 years, Is­abelle.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO FROM GARY BEN­NETT

A photo taken in May 1945 of Kit Pow­ell, Jerry Malone and Max Ben­nett. Be­hind them is the truck used for car­ry­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment in­clud­ing large spools of wire and an op­er­a­tor’s sta­tion where Morse code would be sent.

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