Category Archives: Ivan Bennett

3 August 1916 – Ted to Gertrude



Aug 3 1916


Dear Mother

A sad letter this week, for I have just seen the awful news of poor Wiggs’ death in the papers; I only saw it 2 days ago, the first time it was published in our papers out here. It’s impossible to express adequately one’s feelings on these occasions, – common enough alas! nowadays – and words are of so little use. I suppose poor Wiggs’ time had come; his luck did’nt hold, and indeed you want all your luck to see you through the fighting now going on; the best you can hope for is a wound, that is the biggest luck obtainable.

I have written to Ben, but I’m afraid it was a halting sort of letter, but it is so hard to write on these occasions. Poor Ben, my whole heart goes out to her – one of the best that ever lived – in her bereavement, and if anything I could say or do would give her one grain of comfort, it is hers and wholly hers. I feel I have’nt half expressed the depth of my sorrow, but it is deep enough, in all conscience. It is very much there, but it simply refuses to be framed in words.

I was in bed all day yesterday with fever following an inoculation, a new injection which inoculates against enteric, & para-typhoid A & B, 3 diseases all told, and so correspondingly strong. I think too it must have awakened some slumbering malaria germs, for I was clean knocked out, & felt just like I did that time I had malaria at home. However, I am out & about today as usual, though feeling rather a worm.

Persistent rain still every day. I am going to move out of this bungalow in a day or so, as Lyell wants to repaper & replaster my room. I am going into two tiny rooms in another house, but quite comfy enough for the present.

The English mail was due in today, but apparently rough weather at Bombay delayed things a bit, & we shan’t get it till tomorrow now, so I can’t answer any of your letters this week, unless perchance the mail leaves a day late, as sometimes happens, then I might.

Best love to all

from your loving son


I hope the last air-raid left you alone.


Wiggs was Cpt Ivan Provis Wentworth Bennett who was killed on the Somme, aged 25




JAMA report on history of  typhoid vaccines, 1943

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Posted by on 3 August, '16 in Ivan Bennett


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 June 1916 – Richard to Gertrude

C/o Cox & Co


June 2.

Dear Mother

I think that man must have run off with my watch! Has’nt it turned up yet? Many thanks for your letter (May 11.) Who do you think I met the other day. Trelawney! Turned up here from Mesopotamia, he’s S & T & was buying stores. He could’nt imagine I was Dick, he thought I must be Paul & he swears if I am Dick, I’ve grown younger! Nice eh? He has much improved & really quite nice looking in his old age.

What a shame it is that Topher does’nt get leave, I hope he’s had it by this time. Bad luck on Ben not being able to get away, now Wiggs is at home.

Yes I do hope they hurry up & shoot Casement. Many thanks for the Bystander, but you’ll know by now I’d like an overseas Daily Mirror or Sketch the best.

So Maggie Davids is engaged to Desmond, was’nt he the one who was out here with Harold somewhere.

Many thanks for the message from Susan. June sends hers to all.

I enclose some for my book photographs. Trelawney had lunch here yesterday & we had a huge buck over old times in the club bar till about 2 o’clock the other night. He seemed most keen about Dreda’s welfare. He sent his love to everyone.

So hot & dusty wind today. Rotten- Must stop as I’m sweating so.

Love to all

yr loving son                Richard.


S & T was “Supply and Transport” – 

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Posted by on 2 June, '16 in About, Ivan Bennett, Wiggs


17 May 1916 – Paul to Gertrude


c/o G.P.O.

17th May. 1916


Dear Mother. V. many thanks for your letter – I thought Jim told me his Aldershot stunt was off – I suppose it’s a sort of moving off place – so nice to have him near though.

I hear Ivan has 10 days leave – however does he manage it – lovely for he & Ben; such a rush last time you remember.

We’ve been having gorgeous weather up here lately – really hot during the day – so I have been ashore once or twice & played golf – on some links made by the Fleet – quite good ones really.

We had our regatta last week – two days of it – we won one of the officers races – most huge cheering – I entirely lost my voice for the two days after – because I shouted so – I’m alright again now though.

Sorry to hear about Colin Maud. I do hope he is allright- Tell him I asked after him & give him a Wouff Wouff-

I’m supposed to be dining with Tommy Drew & another Glo’ster tonight – but I don’t think I can get away. The Garden sounds lovely. I should much like some flowers when they come out.

My best love to you all

Your ever loving son


Here is Ben’s fiancé Ivan (with pipe) in a photograph taken in 1915. 

Ivan Bennett

Ivan Bennett, Ted and Richard Berryman (L-R at back),
Topher and Jim Berryman (L-R at front).



17 March 1916 – Richard to Gertrude

c/o Cox & Co



March 17.

Dear Mother.

I got a letter from when I got to Bombay dated Feb 3, & now another on from Suez dated Feb 9. We arrived up here on 8th and are opening a hospital for people from Mesapot. I expect we individuals may have to go up there to replace men who have been there sometime. I shan’t mind going, but I will never believe I’ve got to go until I am there.

Karachi does not seem ½ a bad place. We are allowed to wear mufti so I’ve had to buy some! Is’nt it rot with all that mass of stuff at home. I wish I had the car & so do lots of other men wish they had brought theirs, but as we were ordered to Egypt no one ever thought of bringing cars or mufti. No 1 hospital who are here as well, were originally ordered to India and have brought all their clothes & cars.

June is here with me. I have rooms in a hotel, it’s cheaper than living at the club. There’s a Gymkhana club here where we play tennis & Badminton & dance twice a week. I’ve had to hire a bike to get about on.

Ted did’nt tell me much about that woman he saved. She was crying out I’m dead I’m dead & Ted said no you are’nt & dragged her along. I am sure he ought to get a medal.

Yes it must be lonely at home. I expect you are glad of the dogs to keep you company! Do you remember how that cat used to annoy us, following around. Topher is allright still then. People say this Mesapot business may soon fizzle out. You do not say if Dutton has sent those boots yet. The air raids seem awful nowadays. I don’t think you’d better go & live near London. But I suppose no one is safe anywhere nowadays. They ought to turn out every light all over England.

I never saw Geoffrey or Wooldridge. We were only in Alex a day or so. Ted only said address him c/o India Office as then should he be shifted they know, & send letters direct. He should be out here now. I left a letter for him with Cox at Bombay. I am glad Paul is pleased with his ship.

The heat here is similar to Assam but there is a continual breeze blowing which makes it so much cooler. There are no rains they say. So they post those wk end cables do they. They are quite cheap from Egypt only 3d a word.

I did’nt know Cicely was being confirmed. Yes Ben told me Wiggs was Capt. I ought to be ought’nt I? I’ll see what I can do. Fancy Ben being so overcome when she found that bag. I thought she would be.

May Louth engaged is she? I believe there are some quite nice girls here, & I expect I shall get to know them soon but I rather go to Mesapot.

Best love to all

Yr loving son     Richard.

Dust blowing about so today. Grit all over this letter. Feel it? I’m writing at the hospital, no patients in yet we are busy getting ready

“Mesapot” is Mesopotamia, roughly equivalent to modern Iraq.

Mufti is non-uniform clothing. 



Posted by on 17 March, '16 in About, Ivan Bennett, Wiggs


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. 


9 September 1915 – Paul to Gertrude

H.M.S. Gloucester


Tuesday 9th


Dear Mother. Very many thanks for your letter & I am so glad to hear you are having a good holiday, & such a good rest – So you are off to Pitney to-day – now do stay away as long as you can, & don’t do any work – but just rest yourself.

Poor old Ted – that fever is a rotten show is’nt it – & I hear Jim has got shingles – he always seems to be in the wars-

I have had several letters from the girls- Jane tells me she has left her P.O. job. Quite right under the circumstances I think- & I do hope she gets another job to her liking-

Our weather has been lovely too just lately – & I’ve been ashore once or twice & taken some exercise. I believe we are going to have some sports soon – if possible – they might be rather amusing – tho’ an awful bother these days.

I’ve had letters from both Willie & Wiggie lately. The latter doesn’t seem to like it a bit – poor old Wiggie – soldiering was never his line I’m afraid – but he’s awfully cheery and all that

Wonder what America is going to do over this new Hun frightfulness. I suppose it will all end on paper again – sickening isn’t it-.

Well there is no news really – give my love to all at Pitney and heaps of love to you Mother dear-

Your ever loving son


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Posted by on 9 September, '15 in H M S Gloucester, Ivan Bennett, Wiggs