Benjamin Roebuck – a Netherthong WW1 hero

In 2018, which was the centenary of the end of World War 1, I carried out detailed research into those men and boys from the village who gave their lives for their country, and I included photographs and as much information as I could find in my chapter titled Netherthong and its WW1 heroes . Benjamin was obviously included. However, in February 2019, I was given some excellent additional information, photographs and ephemera about Benjamin, which had been collated by Pamela Watson. This was an opportunity to give him his own chapter, as the Roebuck name features throughout many of the chapters in the history of the village, and his story is typical of what life must have been for other lads in the village, who would have known Benjamin and who also fought and, in many cases, gave their lives. I have used virtually all the information that Pamela sent and included her own comments in italics.

Benjamin Roebuck fought with honour in World War 1 and died a hero in France. He is remembered and commemorated on the War Memorial in Town Square and on Plaque 5 on the War Memorial at the Holme Valley Hospital. He was also listed on the Working Men’s Club memorial ( which has been lost ), as well as being named on the chart on the right hand wall inside All Saints’ Parish Church. His name features on the Villers- Bretonneux Memorial to the Missing and he is also commemorated on a family headstone in the churchyard of the Parish Church.

Ben was born on the 18th.November 1878 at Wood Nook,Honley and was the son of Rachel and Joseph Hirst Roebuck,a farmer. He was baptised on the 5th. January 1879 at St.Mary’s Church, Wilshaw ( see copy of certificate ). ( His elder sister,Emma,was my Grandmother and his younger sister, Mary Ann, was better known to me as my beloved Aunty Polly). He was educated at St.Mary’s Church of England School , attended Netherthong Parish Church and was a member of Netherthong Working Men’s Club. At that time his father,Joseph, had died and his mother, Rachel, had sold the farm at Wood Nook and moved into the Queen’s Head in the village until she had a stone house built,in about 1905, at Cliffe View, 90 Thong Lane. Ben worked for Batley’s Joiners as a teamer, driving a horse drawn wagon for Mr.Joseph Batley, and was described as a quiet , unobtrusive man with a loveable nature.

In 1910, Ben left ” Cliffe View” ( the house where I was actually born ) and emigrated to Australia on the ship ORMUZ, sailing to Freemantle ( see passenger list ). He worked as a farmhand, moving about and living in a tent ( see photo dated 1912), it upset his mother to know that he was living that way – but he found a permanent position, where he lived in the farmhouse. (Pamela could find no record that he owned his own farm and orchard). He enlisted in the 16th. Battalion , Australian Imperial Force and became Private, no. 5178 and volunteered at Blackhay Hill, near Harvey, on 19 January 1916, listing his mother, Rachel, as his next of kin. He sailed from Freemantle with reinforcements for the 16th. Battalion on 31st.March 1916, on board HMAT A9 SHROPSHIRE, stopping at Egypt on the way to the Western Front

He was killed in action at Moquet Farm during the battle of the Somme on Saturday, 12th. August, 1916 aged 37 years. He had no known grave and is commemorated on the Villers- Bretonneux Memorial to the missing ( I have laid wreaths near to his name and had The Last Post played for him by Bugler Pete.) Ben was either one of the 39 men known to have been killed , or one of the 19 reported missing believed killed in action with the 16th. Battalion on that day, serving under L.General John Mannash.

A letter, written by Ben shortly before his death, arrived in the village saying he was glad to get away from Egypt, which was a miserable place to live, and that he hoped to visit them at Netherthong before he returned to Australia. His mother received the news of his death on 2nd. September 1916, and his death was reported in the Holmfirth Express the following week. A memorial service was held in the Parish Church conducted by the Rev.H.H.Hind.

The photographs and ephemera are listed below, some of them are photocopies of the originals, many have been notated by Pamela.

Benjamin Roebuck in Australia
  • Baptism from Wilshaw Church register.
  •  Rachel, Benjamin’s mother( 1851-1931) outside Cliffe View
  • Joseph Hirst Roebuck, Benjamin’s father ( 1844-1891) in the front carriage.
  • Immigration Restriction Acts- Passenger List
  • Ben in his tent in Australia – circa 1912.
  • Village War memorial with B.Roebuck
  • Plaque 5 memorial with Benjamin Roebuck
  • War Graves Memorial – Villers-Bretonneux – long view
  • War Graves Memorial – Villers- Bretonneux – detail with B.Roebuck
  • Remembrance Cross
  • Photographs of Ben , which are also in my chapter of WW1 heroes
Village War memorial with detail for B.Roebuck.
Benjamin Roebuck on Plaque 5 at the Holmfirth War Memorial.
Wreath for Benjamin
Baptismal Certificate for Benjamin dated January 5, 1878
Commonwealth War Graves Certificate
Villers Bretonneux War Memorial with detail for Ben Roebuck
Commemorative Cross
J.Batley Workshop with B.Roebuck & A. Charlesworth
Rachel Roebuck ( 1851-1931 ), owner and landlady of the Queens Arms, outside Cliffe View
Private B.Roebuck
Ben Roebuck in army uniform 1914

In October 2019 I was contacted by Keith Bugden who is a war medal collector, specifically for soldiers who died on the Somme. He had obtained from a collector in Manchester, the Victory Medal for Benjamin Roebuck and had carried out research into his name which led him to my history and this chapter. I have put him in touch with Pamela and maybe they will find out what happened to the medal all those years ago.. Keith also sent me the following certificate which shows that Benjamin was awarded three medals. The 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal with dates and details.

Joseph Hirst Roebuck ( 1844-1891 ), Ben’s father, sitting in the front of the carriage.

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