Category Archives: Family

13 July 1916 – Ivan Bennett, Ben’s fiancé, is killed in Trônes Wood

Benedicta Berryman, the eldest of the Berryman sisters, was engaged Ivan Bennett who was killed in Trônes Wood, on the 13th day of the Somme.

Ivan Bennett (Wiggs) - © IWM (HU 113701)

Ivan Bennett (Wiggs) – © IWM (HU 113701)

Ivan’s childhood

Ivan Provis Wentworth Bennett was younger than Ben, 25 to her 30, and working for a law firm when war broke out. Ivan’s background was similar to the Berrymans’. He was the son of a retired army officer, and the grandson of a gentleman landowner on one side and a clergyman on the other. Ivan was the fourth of five children. However, there had been a scandal; Ivan’s mother Eleanor (née Senior) initiated divorce proceedings which were finalised in 1907.

Researcher and local historian Mary Alexander says very fairly:

[Ivan’s father Frederick was] guilty of adultery, assault and cruelty to his wife. Divorce was very unusual, difficult to achieve, and shameful. Perhaps Frederick was a particularly unpleasant man, or perhaps Eleanor was unusually determined. Frederick seems to have retired early from the army, and this, with the family’s frequent moves, might suggest an inability to settle down. … [Or perhaps] Eleanor was difficult to live with, sending Frederick into the arms of Mrs McTavish, with whom he was accused of committing adultery, and provoking him to strike his wife.

Divorce did not lead to closure. Epitaphs of the Great War says about Ivan:

[Eleanor] was … widowed in 1908 when her [former] husband committed suicide in Bournemouth. Following which, Ivan, who was 17 and in the Lower Sixth at Wellington College, left school and became articled to a firm of solicitors in Guildford.

So not only did Ivan suffer the emotional and social consequences of his parents’ divorce, but his professional opportunities were also curtailed by his father’s suicide.

As a child, Ivan sometimes stayed with his extended family. Epitaphs of the Great War also says:

In the 1901 census, ten-year-old Ivan is staying with his uncle and aunt and their five-year-old daughter Dorothy Joyce Husey-Hunt in Hove, Sussex. His parents and siblings were living in Bedford.

As we shall see, this family connection remained strong even after Ivan’s death.

Romance, and war

The Berrymans all called Ivan “Wiggie” or “Wiggs”, a naval nickname of unknown origin for someone called Bennett. The obvious question is whether Paul gave him the nickname.

Ben and Ivan probably met in Guildford between 1908 and 1913. Her mother, Gertrude, disapproved of the romance. Gertrude had strong but narrow convictions and there were so many things about Ivan for her to disapprove of: his parents’ divorce and his father’s suicide, his age and relatively junior position in a law firm, and a possible connection with spiritualism which Gertrude, deeply religious as she was, would have disliked. The Church of England was not without its feuds, and Gertrude may have disapproved of the churchmanship of Ivan’s grandfather the Revd Senior. And Ben mentioned that Ivan was “against soldiering” (perhaps he associated soldiers with his father’s domestic violence). Impossible now to know what Gertrude disliked so much about Ivan. Whatever it was, in 1913 Ben went (or was sent) to India to stay with her brother Ted and meet his much more eligible fellow officers. But war broke out, Ben came home and Ivan joined up.

In September 1914, Ben wrote

Wiggs tell  me he was inlisting (sic) into Kitchener’s 2nd Army, well it obvious the right thing to do, however much against soldiering one is. I do consider the civilians are fine all the same, as it’s not their job- after all one expects a soldier or sailor to live for a chance of active service, their whole training leads up to it, but with a civilian he has all the roughest part & none of the nice.

Within six weeks of Ben’s return, they were engaged and she wrote defensively to her mother:

I don’t know whether you’ll be pleased No I don’t suppose for a moment you will be I can’t quite expect it but Wiggs and I have decided that it’s best to be engaged. The unsatisfactory way in which we were going on was NO good, it isn’t all done on the spur of the moment, much thinking has been done & I’m sure it’s best. There are to be no great shoutings about it but anyone who wants to know can, you will I fancy think we are doing right, the other situation was rotten for me but I didn’t want to sort of rush Wiggs into anything so things had to wait.

Ben’s brothers mention Ivan occasionally in their letters. Their fondness for Ben led them to  accept the situation. The one photograph we have of him shows him with her brothers and looking as if he’s about to laugh, so maybe they came to like him for himself.

When she saw this photograph, Ivan’s great-grand niece said:

I … couldn’t believe the family resemblance “Wiggs” has to my Father at the same age!

Ivan Bennett

Back L-R: Ivan Bennett, Ted Berryman, Richard Berryman
Front L-R: Topher Berryman, Jim Berryman
Spring 1915

The Wartime Memories Project provides context for Ivan’s military career:

7th Battalion, The Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey) was raised at Guildford in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s Second New Army and joined 55th Brigade, 18th (Eastern) Division. The Division initially concentrated in the Colchester area but moved to Salisbury Plain in May 1915. They proceeded to France in July and concentrated near Flesselles. In 1916 they were in action on The Somme …. including the capture of Trones Wood….

Mary Alexander gives us the specifics:

He became a 2nd Lieutenant on 12 September and a Lieutenant on 27 January 1915. Ivan went to France in July 1915 and was made a Captain on 12 November 1915.

Ivan’s last Leave

In May 1916, Ivan was home for 10 days’ Leave. It seems likely that he would have visited his cousins in Hove, his mother in St Leonards on Sea, and possibly Ben who had a job using “adding machinery” in a bank (presumably in Guildford). Richard gives contradictory information when he comments on letters from Ben. On 2nd June he says:

Bad luck on Ben not being able to get away, now Wiggs is home.

But perhaps they did see each other; a fortnight later, Richard says:

[Ben] seems to have enjoyed herself when Wiggs was home

However, Ted reports:

Ben tells me his nerves were all wrong, so I’ve no doubt a few days at home did him no end of good.

100 years on, it is tempting to assume Ivan had shell shock but he could have just been exhausted and jumpy. This all hints at difficult and possibly rather fraught final encounters in a star-crossed relationship cut short by war. Poor Ivan. Poor Ben.

The Battle of Trônes Wood

Mary Alexander continues:

[Ivan] was not there for the first day of the Somme in 1916, but took part in the attack on Trônes Wood on 13 July.

The Regimental diary for July describes the action in detail in an appendix; these pages can be read here, here, here and here. The diary says:

The situation in TRONES WOOD was not clear. Enemy were known to have received orders that it was to be held at all costs.

Nobody in the battalion has reconnoitred the area from & over which the attack was to be delivered, & time would not permit of any such reconnaissance being made. All orders … had … to be made from the map, which, it was afterwards found, does not give a very accurate representation of the ground.

Bombardments took place all day, and the Battalion went into action at 7:00pm:

The remainder of the Battalion was immediately met with a heavy Machine Gun and rifle fire….. The first line suffered immediate & heavy casualties. The second line reinforced at once but also suffered heavily, & in spite of very gallant leading by CPT. I.P.W.BENNETT & 2/Lt P.R. WOOLATT was unable to get within 100 yards of TRONES WOOD.

The bombardment recommenced from 8.45 to 9.15 over ground which the men had been sheltering in, and before and after the bombardment, the remaining men withdrew, the wounded being brought in under shell fire and rifle fire by “2/Lt. J.S. WALTER and 2 men ….. working continuously and most gallantly for 3 hours”.

Ivan is not mentioned in the report again, other than being included in the list of those killed.

Wikipedia describes the terrain thus:

The wood had dense undergrowth which … made it difficult to keep direction and during the battle the trees were brought down by shell-fire, becoming entangled with barbed-wire and strewn with German and British dead.

Mary Alexander says:

During gallant leadership he was shot in the head and killed. His batman, Private Courtman, helped him until he too was wounded.

Wikipedia goes on to say:

By …14–17 July… all the trees in Trônes Wood had been toppled, with only low stumps remaining. Tree trunks, barbed wire and human remains lay everywhere, the ground open and easily observed from German positions.

Writing home in August, Ted says to his mother:

Many thanks [for] the enclosures about Wiggs; pathetic reading but how splendidly he died, and what a general favourite he must have been. Thanks most awfully for sending them; I am so vastly relieved to hear he died quickly; I knew he must have died bravely.

“Crowned with the sunshine of eternal youth”

Ivan was initially buried on the battlefield, either near to where he was killed or possibly in the cemetery shown in this photograph.

Graves in Trones Wood just after the war: Michelin Guide to the Somme Battlefields

Graves in Trones Wood – Michelin Guide to the Somme Battlefields

Despite the amount of information available about his death, his grave wasn’t marked with his name and his body was not identified until it was moved to Thiepval Anglo-French cemetery in 1931.

Epitaphs of the Great War  says:

If Ivan Bennett had not had such distinctive initials his body would probably never have been identified. … his body was not recovered from the battlefield until it was discovered in December 1931. There was no identity disc on the body, which was wearing an officer’s tunic with the buttons of The Queen’s West Surrey Regiment, but among the effects discovered with it was a whistle, a cigarette holder and a pencil case engraved with the initials I.P.W.B.

Mary Alexander says:

When he died his address was in Hove. Administration of his will was granted to his mother. He is listed on the parish memorial in Holy Trinity, Guildford, and on the Merrow war memorial, where he was living before the war.

His mother administered his will, but in January 1917 Ted says

I do hope Wiggy’s things have been settled amicably by now, it seems strange that it can’t be done somehow & poor Ben must feel it frightfully.

This suggests that Gertrude wasn’t the only one who had qualms about the relationship, but that Ivan’s mother may have disliked it too. His short life was clearly full of complexity and it is interesting that he recorded his address as Hove. Did he see home as being with his aunt, uncle and cousins rather than with his mother in St Leonards on Sea?

In 1931, it was his cousin, Mrs Dorothy Joyce Bousted (nee Husey-Hunt) who chose his epitaph “Crowned by the sunshine of eternal youth”.

Epitaphs of the Great War says:

The lines come from ‘Rupert Brooke’, a poem by Alfred Dodd published in 1918 [which] outlines Dodd’s belief in the survival of the spirit after death, not as in the Christian belief in eternal life but as in the world of Spiritualism.


Ivan is just one of the hundreds of thousands of young men who died without children or grand-children; the great-uncles whose names are forgotten. My mother did not know who the “Wiggs” in Ben’s letters was, and my thanks are due to the many people who helped me piece together his story. Chris Miller identified that “Wiggs” was Ivan Bennett. Rebecca Aubert confirmed his photograph. Mary Alexander and Charlie Eve sent me most of the biographical details here. Sarah Wearne curates the Epitaphs of the Great War website giving other biographical details and information about his epitaph. The photographs of Ivan’s grave and Thiepval come from the War Graves Photographic Project at Additional information is from Wikipedia, WW1 Battlefields, and The Wartime Memories Project.



2 February 1916 – Richard to Gertrude

80 Indian General Hospital

June ate this block [ie this pad of writing paper]

Feb 2.


My dear Mother.

Many thanks for your letter Jan 12, also the enclosure. So Wiggs at last got home, I expect Ben was too busy to write and tell me all about her adventures. I hope I shall hear soon. Letters seem to come at all times & there must be a bit of a muddle in the various P.O.s. I would suggest Jane goes on the stage, why does’nt she write to Evelyn & get her advice. She knows her address & it’s quite a good profession.

Paul is lucky to get the Malaya, it must be a good job as she’s a big ship. Chubbie has recovered I suppose form her measles and is touring around again. Wonder how she is getting on. Jim expected to be kept in France did’nt he?

The Coat has’nt come from the Aquascutum yet but it rains so little here that I shan’t really want it. Yes write & hurry up Dutton & Thoroughgood. June’s very fit, only an order has come round saying no one of any rank may keep a dog, but as we are not sure of being fixtures here it does not affect me yet. It’s a nuisance though I expect Susan does enjoy a basket, very nice of you to give it to her.

Yes I took those shirts & have sent them to Ted. I was over for 2 nights staying with him & enjoyed it awfully. Their camp is much nicer than ours, much cleaner & so nice having trees about. I went for a long ride all down by the Gulf & picked up some lovely shells that I must try & send you.

We also went from here the other day 4 of us on mules, quite amusing. Otherwise we do nothing much. We’ve had one or two games of hockey & football against neighbouring hospitals, so far we’ve been successful. I met a Peak here the other day, a cousin of the Ashtead lot.

I will cable you when we hear any news.

Best love to all

yr loving son



The phrase “Jim expected to be kept in France” suggests he’d finally been posted outside Britain, if not to the front.

Wiggs, or Ivan Bennett, was Ben’s fiancé. 


12 September 1915 – Gladys to Jack Fielding, about Ted


Sept. 12th 1915-

Dear Jack,

We have been wishing you were home this week, we had a real old pre-war madcap of it on Friday- & longed for you & Marjorie. Captain Davis is now at the camp on Sneedham’s Green & he asked us to a tea party on Tuesday & we had a jolly time of it & played “up jenkins” on his bath for a table!

Two other officers – a Captain Berryman & Mr Culverwell were at the party, both very jolly & both home from the front- They belonged to the Indian army & were wounded & are now temporarily attached here. Well – during tea someone said what a pity we couldn’t have a fancy dress ball or some such jollification in the old Y.M.C.A tent! So we suggested our house as a trifle more feasible & so we fixed it up then & there for the Friday evening! The only other guests were Auntie, Bertha & the rector & Mrs Williams, who are staying at Belmont & Helen Fox.

We all dressed up & at 8 our guests arrived & were rigged up variously as greek, pirate & turk! Captain Berryman is a great sport, you’d like him awfully, he simply kept us in fits, Father was nearly ill & Auntie kept on gasping “I can’t laugh any more!” I hope he’ll still be here when you get your next leave.

Aileen Vinicombe & Margaret Walker are staying here too so we were quite a jolly party. I really think you would lose your heart to Margaret, she is one of the most taking little persons I know. A bit like little Marion only much more in her.

The rector came late & when he did make his appearance he came solemnly in pyjamas, & carrying a baby’s bottle & a candle, a beautiful dressing gown, night cap/& walking round the room, still very solemn, he at last found Babs to whom he presented the feeding bottle!

We had a very nice photo arrive yesterday from Oxo in his officer’s kit. He is attached to the 2nd Gloucesters. Did you hear we have a cart for Nobby. A ralli car in neutral coloured wood, upholstered in grey- It is quite smart & runs beautifully. So the C.O. looks kindly on you, don’t be overcome by his blandishments whatever happens!

I suppose it’s no good thinking yet about another leave but I do hope it won’t be so long on the way this time.

We had all the clerks from the office here yesterday, several of them said “We want Jack here today”. So we did & so we do so can’t you get down again soon. How about your teeth by the way – oughtn’t they to be seen to?

Must go now as I’m due at the camp.

Much love


Ted met four sisters at a tea party on Tuesday 7th September at the camp at Sneedhams Green outside Gloucester. The Fielding sisters had been invited to tea by an officer returning hospitality who asked Ted to come along to help him entertain them. As Gladys says in her letter to her brother, this led to the party on Friday the 10th at their house above Gloucester. 

The sisters were still in mouring for their grandfather and were not sure what to wear. Nell, aged seventeen and the youngest but one, compromised with a white blouse and a black skirt and tied her dark hair back with a black ribbon. 

Their father John Fielding owned an engineering works in Gloucester. He and his wife Pauline had five daughters including Gladys who wrote this letter to their only son, her brother Jack.

Ted in 1915

Ted in 1915

Nell c1915 aged 17

Nell c1915 aged 17

Fielding Family and Friends c1915

Fielding Family and Friends c1915

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Posted by on 12 September, '15 in Ted Berryman


19 June 1915 – W H Drake Brockman to Ted

Trenches 19/6/15

Dear Berryman

Thanks for yours of 16: received today. I am sorry to hear your wound is still troublesome necessitating an extension, but a bit extra leave will do you no harm & the rest ought to benefit you – though it may feel a bit boresome at times.

It is very tiring work this & so monotonous- & now with the smell, flies & bluebottles in the trenches, they are not very charming dwelling places. We shall be in these trenches for another 10 days & so with our time in support in trenches, we shall have done 20 days – quite like old times.

As usual plenty of rumours, I don’t think we are likely to be withdrawn, but I don’t think we shall do another winter campaign. I trust NOT, with the riff raff of B.M.P. we get as reinforcements.

Col. Ewing has another extension- Mainwaring & Lane also. Lumb is a fixture at Marseilles as C off. Base Depot- he is not very strong just yet. Clarke rejoined a day or two ago – so I am full of B.Cs & no GOs hardly

Yrs sincerely

W H Drake Brockman

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Posted by on 19 June, '15 in Ted Berryman


31 May 1915 – Fellow Officer to Ted



My Dear Berryman

Your cards etc reached me, but I had no time to write as I went up to the Regiment on the 11th to try and help in the night show. Well between the 11th and 15th we were pushed about between the firing line and the death traps & in the orchard and Rue du Bois, and then back to do that night show on the 15th. There was a continuous bombardment by our guns for 60 hours without a stop, and you bet the Bosches let us have 0 back.

Bax and Monk both got killed with “Wizz bangs” and Gatherer got one into his dugout but only got slightly damaged. If we had been kept there a few more days we should all have been laid out. Smokes had 19 men laid out with one ‘Crump’ and we lost about 40 to 50 men a day during the bombardment, so you can imagine what we felt like when we were ordered to do this night show.

Smokes’ company was in front with mine just behind the parapit of the fire trench. Smokes got his company out before the attack and lay down in front of the ditch but as soon as he got up to move the Bosches were onto us, and Smokes got a bullet through the ankle and the attack only went about 30 yards, I came over the parapit with my two leading platoons but by the time we reached the ditch everyone was down. Eventually Percy came out and told us to get back.

The Bosches had a searchlight on all the time and brought up machine guns as well. I think it was rather a tall order asking us to do a night show after the 6 days’ hammering we had had by artillery.

Old Smokes was tophole by the way, he carried on all through those 6 bloody of bloody days, & the Perce did very stout working under a heavy fire in front of our fire trench on the night of the 15th.

We have been back here in so called billets since the 17th, but it’s been very wet and we have got the whole battalion into a space that ordinarily would be called tight for a company.

No news yet but I fancy we shall go up again very shortly. We have had several new 80’s join and have done away with one company so have only 3 now.

I went up yesterday morning to old fire trenches of the 2nd Division with etc, and we got shelled the whole time with  Jack J etc but fortunately had no one hit, one landed within 5 yards of me, but didn’t take a hit. Anywhere within a mile of the firing line is to be avoided these days.

(Final page missing)

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Posted by on 31 May, '15 in Ted Berryman


27 May 1915 – J M Shaw to Ted


By the way- the C.O. has
asked me to tell you that
your Mess Bill is Fr 11.50
(say 9/-) Could you send P.O.
Sorry to trouble you but C.O. &c.

My dear Berryman

I was pleased to get your letter of the 23rd & glad to hear you are making satisfactory progress. I thought I told you in my previous letter what happened after you left. The attack failed & we lost roughly 7 killed, 46 missing & 103 wounded. Rogers was wounded in the attack just 15 yards from our trenches, no other B.O. was hit. Rogers I believe has a painful wound in the ankle but I think is getting along nicely. He is now at No 1 London General Hospital, St Gabriel’s College, Camberwell, London.

The regiment went back again to the trenches last night. Etherton is sick away with measles & Fox is doing Adjutant. They apparently had a narrow escape yesterday as a “Jack Johnson” fell just by the side of their (C.O. & Fox) dugout & took away a part of the side. Burton has been temporarily transferred to assist the 154th Highland Brigade of the Highland Division. As you may guess we are short of B.Os & the battalion is divided up now into three double Cos. Your kit & rucksack are being sent off immediately to Messrs Cox & Coy with instructions to reforward to your home address. I am having the rucksack put in your valise for safety’s sake, as en route I believe there are some people who have light consciences &c., shall be glad to hear from you as soon as received.

I have no other news – am just going off to the trenches with the rations – everything seems so changed now, so few of the B.O’s left. Blair has come back to take charge of a double Coy.

Must really hurry now- excuse scrawl in haste. Look after yourself & stay away as long as you can & keep fit.

Best regards   cheer oh!

Yours ever

J.M. Shaw.

I am amused by how modern J.M.Shaw sounds when he says “Sorry to bother you, but C.O. etc”. Because time-shift. 

&c is etc
Fr are Francs.
P.O. is a Postal Order.
B.O. is a British Officer.

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Posted by on 27 May, '15 in Ted Berryman


24 May 1915 – Gwynedd Russell to Gertrude


May 24/15.

Dear Mrs Berryman,

I am sure I saw you on Thursday at the meeting at the L.O.F. but when I tried to find you at the end you must have gone! I was so sorry and I wanted to ask after Ted.

We were so sorry to see his name in the Casualty list. I do hope his wound is slight and will cause you no anxiety, but give you the pleasure of having him home.

I suppose everyone at Guildford is nursing. I have not had any opportunity to do so yet but am to start a month’s training in June which I am much looking forward to. David seems very contained at the front and says trench life suits him down to the ground, bar the noise.

Tony is in the 3rd Army so won’t go out for a bit. He turned up today on a motor bike to our surprise and delight, as we have hardly seen him since he joined. Please give my love to Ben and the others. Mother sends her kindest regards

Yours very sincerely


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Posted by on 24 May, '15 in Ted Berryman


23 May 1915 – Frances Palmer to Gertrude


Whit Sunday

Dear Gertrude.

I fear very much it is your dear boy who is reported as wounded. I am grieved to think of your anxiety, but I trust his injury is slight & that he will soon recover from it- & perhaps you will have him at home soon.

We have seen a good deal of young Mr Fisher lately- he has been billeted with a friend of ours, he often spoke of you. I think you must know his people- he has left now for Cambridge.

I have many friends & relations out, & I hear 4 of your boys – are fighting for us – how much you have to think of. We have left this house to Capt Enscombe who is now in command of the anti-aircraft to defend the Castle, he has a very unrestful time during the visits of the King & is called up day & night with warning messages.

Our cottage at Wareham has been let out all winter to a soldier. With our love to you

Believe me

Yr affecte Aunt

Frances Palmer

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Posted by on 23 May, '15 in Ted Berryman


23 May 1915 – George Palmer to Gertrude


May 23rd 1915

My dear Gertrude

I saw amongst the list of wounded the other day the name of Capt E.R.P. Berryman of the Garhwal Rifles. I fear this must be your son Ted.

I hope you can find time to send me a few lines to tell me about it & how he is – is he able to come home? Also please tell me about the others. Paul & Christopher & the girls. Has Richard come home from India? I fear I have been a very bad correspondent but believe me I do not forget you all.

I hope this terrible war will not last much longer but I fear there is little sign of daylight as yet.

Hoping to hear good accounts from you

Yr affecte Cousin

George Palmer.

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Posted by on 23 May, '15 in Ted Berryman


23 May 1915 – M G S Stoppard to Gertrude

Elmer House, West Street

23rd May

Dear Mrs Berryman,

I see your son has been wounded & if it would not give you too much trouble to send me a p.c. I should much like to know how he is. I do hope you are in no anxiety about him & that he is going on well. –

This war is terrible, still those at the Front seem always optimistic, my husband among them. He & Montagu are at Headquarters which is a great relief to me. I suppose your sons are scattered in all directions, I wonder where the naval one is?

It would be very nice if you could come over to luncheon one day, do if you can. My telephone no is 160 Farnham. My mother would like to see too.

Yours very sincerely

M.G.S. Stoppard

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Posted by on 23 May, '15 in Ted Berryman