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 in many locations which include: The War Memorial in Netherthong 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 was unfortunately lost when the Club closed in the 1930s and has never been found. His name is on the chart on the right hand wall inside All Saints’ Parish Church and he is commemorated on the family’s gravestone in the churchyard of the Parish Church. His name features on the Villers- Bretonneux Memorial to the Missing. He is on the Harvey war memorial, S.W. Australia. and King’s Park , South Perth, Australia. A recent addition ( 2021 ) has been his name being placed on a plaque on the Lochnagar Crater walkway ( see the end of this chapter for details of the Lochnager Crater )
Ben was born on the 18th.November 1878 at Wood Nook,Honley and was the son of Rachel and Joseph Hirst Roebuck,a farmer at Wood Nook. 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 Public House 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 1910/11, 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’ during the battle of the Somme on Saturday, 12th. August, 1916 aged 37 years near Moquet Farm, in an action described in The Old Sixteenth by Captain Longmore : The enemy bombarded the left of the line causing heavy casualties. 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. 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.)
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.
- 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
- Lochnagar Crater walkway
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 of Netherthong and this chapter. Keith also sent me the certificate below which shows that Benjamin was awarded three medals. The 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal with details and dates. I put Keith in contact with Pamela and he very kindly sent her the medal so that one could say it found its proper resting place. He also sent her additional information which has been incorporated in this chapter.
* The Victory Medal, known as the UK British Empire 1st. World War campaign medal was awarded for Campaign Service – the total issued was circa 5,725,000
This episode of the medal has had a major impact on three people – Pamela has closure and will be taking the medal this summer to Ben’s grave on the Somme so she can place it on the grave and say a few words.( Unfortunately the onset of Corvid with all its effects on travel etc. means that, as of July 2021, Pamela has not been able to fulfil her objective.) Keith commented that reuniting the medal with Pamela was the highlight of 2019 for him. The role of my website and this chapter in acting as the catalyst has also been a highlight for me.
I asked Keith about his collecting hobby and he said that he was a relatively new collector and had medals for some 16 men who died on the Somme. He recently acquired the medals, memorial plaque and photo of a man who died on the first day – 1st July. Tragically he was wounded and lay in no man’s land from 8am until dark when he was brought back, but died of wounds. His friend stayed with him the whole time. Very moving. The research is very satisfying but he is rarely able to trace living relatives.
- Step 1: Personal Details
|Enlisted:||19 January 1916|
|Last Unit:||16th Infantry Battalion|
|Born:||Honley, England, 18 November 1878|
|Home Town:||Harvey, Harvey, Western Australia|
|Schooling:||St. Marys C of E|
|Died:||Killed in Action, France, 12 August 1916, aged 37 years|
|Memorials:||Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, Harvey War Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux Memorial (Australian National Memorial – France)*|
World War 1 Service
|19 Jan 1916:||Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 5178, 16th Infantry Battalion|
|31 Mar 1916:||Embarked Private, SN 5178, 16th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Shropshire, Fremantle|
|31 Mar 1916:||Involvement Private, SN 5178, 16th Infantry Battalion, Pozières|
Although the following War Diary is not specifically relevant to Benjamin Roebuck or in fact any of the Netherthong WW1 heroes, it is a most interesting and informative document as a War Diary. and is worthy of being included in this chapter. It was supplied by Keith Bugden – it is titled 10th. Battalion South Wales Borderers War Diary and dated 6/10/16. Keith has not only supplied the original Diary with the writing faded but also a “transcript “which makes it easy to read.
10th. Battalion South Wales Borderers War Diary 6/10/16.
Battalion in support to 11th. SWB usual fatigues carried out. At about 9pm a Fighting Patrol of 1 Officer and 10 ORS under Captain G F Charlton entered Enemy Sap No. 9 and killed the Garrison of 6 men. After obtaining necessary identifications the order to withdraw was given owing to large enemy reinforcements. After withdrawing for a few hundred yards it was noticed that Captain Charlton and 10/23064 Pte. D. Spanswick had been left behind. Despite terrific Machine Gun fire 2nd. Lt. T.T. Taylor and 10/20400 Sgt. P.F.Evans proceeded again to the Sap with the intention of looking for Capt. Charlton and Pte. Spanswick. Capt. Charlton was seen on a stretcher carried by 4 Germans following which were another 8 Huns. Pte. Spanswick was not seen. Under the circumstances 2nd Lt. Taylor and Sgt. Evans again withdrew during which the former was wounded. The skill with which this small raid was carried out gained the compliments of the Divisional & Corps. Commanders. For their excellent work in this raid 2nd,Lt. T.T. Taylor an d 10/20400 Sgt. P.F.Evans were awarded the MILITARY CROSS & MILITAY Medal respectively. Our caualities; Capt.G.F.H.Charlton missing and wounded. 10/23064 Pte. Spanswick missing, 2nd. LT.T.Taylor wounded and Sgt. R. Edwards wounded.
Earlier in the chapter I commented about the Lochnager Crater. It is dedicated to memories of The Great War and is an inspirational piece of work The photograph below is the front cover of the latest issue No. 11 : Spring 2022 and is courtesy of Stephen Kerr. The website is www.lochnagarcrater.org and the Editor, who has been so helpful in my research, is Rob Kirk on email@example.com .