Benjamin John James Osmond: WWI Bedfordshire Regiment

John & May Osmond

Title: John & May Osmond
Description: John & May Osmond wedding photograph. © Private Collection. by-nc

Benjamin Osmond Senior married Louisa Hider on 12 October 1890 in Camberwell and they had 7 children. Their second child, and first son, Benjamin John James – known as John – was born in early 1893 in Southwark.

John’s service record is missing, like many of those from WWI, but his medal card and other documents survive so we know that he joined the 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment (no. 15141), which was formed in September 1914 and was based at Colchester and Salisbury, before arriving in France on 26 July 1915. John’s medal card confirms he arrived in France on this date, showing he signed up early in the war. John was promoted to Corporal (date unknown) and then to Lance-Sergeant in C Company after 2 December 1917.

From arrival in 1915 until it was disbanded in August 1918, the battalion fought in France and Flanders, taking part in (amongst others) the battles of the Somme, including Delville Wood and Thiepval Ridge in 1916, Arras and Paschendale in 1917 and further battles on the Somme in 1918, including St. Quentin and Avre. During his service, his certificates show that John trained as a rifle bomber, got vaccinated and underwent gas training, live bomb training and musket training, being classified as 1st  Class for the last. He qualified for the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

In April 1918, the battalion was part of the battle of Villers-Bretonnuex, as recorded in its war diary:

In billets. Battalion ordered to “stand to” at 4 am. Moved up to line by stages during the day & took up position just South of Cachy. Battalion ordered to do counter attack at 10 p.m. From information received the enemy had penetrated our defenses to a depth of 2000 yds (approx.) on a wide frontage. Battalion was formed up in position for attack with Royal West Kents on right and Australians on left. Night was intensely dark. Battalion moved forward to the assault and encountered slight opposition for first 1000 yds. When battalion on our right was held up by heavy machine gun fire, the reserve Company was ordered forward at this stage & thus reinforced the assault was continued & final objective reached in spite of fierce enemy opposition & with two exposed flanks. The left company of battalion was ordered to withdraw in order to conform with line of battalion on left. The right flank still remained exposed. At this stage 2/Lt.Tysoe was the only Company Officer left. Lt.Tysoe reorganised the line & sent in very clear reports as to the situation as known to him. As a result of this a section of the 54th Machine Gun Coy was ordered forward to cover the exposed right flank – a weak line being formed of headquarter details. During the whole of the 25th April, Lt.Tysoe held this line & repulsed an enemy attack on his right flank, which was launched after a heavy bombardment. Frontage held by battalion 1100 yds. About 10 p.m. the battalion was relieved by French Colonials & marched to bivouacs in Support in rear of our original line. During this action the regiment alone took over 200 prisoners. Many enemy dead were observed on the captured ground. Five enemy machine guns were captured during this action & handed over to the French on relief. Throughout the action 2/Lt.Tysoe displayed the greatest gallantry and leadership & the success of this difficult operation was largely due to his efforts. The bearing of all ranks was most commendable, and deserving of the highest praise. Casualties: Officers: 3 killed; 7 wounded. Other Ranks 13 killed 105 wounded 70 missing.

(http://www.bedfordregiment.org.uk/7thbn/7thbattalion.html)

John was one of those killed. He is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial (Panel 28/29), as his body has not been found. The exact circumstances of his death are unknown.

John had married May Brown in Salisbury on 27 October 1917, presumably during a period of leave; perhaps he met her while the battalion was stationed in Salisbury before his posting to France.

Like many others, John left an informal will, dated 2 December 1917, so shortly after his marriage and before his promotion to Sergeant. Soldiers had pre-printed forms for wills but many simply wrote their wishes on paper and signed and dated it. There was a process set up to determine whether the document was genuine and should be honoured as a legally binding will. In this case, the will is marked by the authorities as “appearing to have been written while he was in actual military service within the meaning of the Wills Act 1837” and so was recognised as a valid will.

John’s will simply said:

In the event of my death I give the whole of my property and effects to my wife, Mrs J. Osmond, Cliff Side, Folkstone Road, E. Harnham, Salisbury, Wilts.

May appears to have married again in 1926 to Marshall Yeates of Salisbury.

To read about Benjamin John James Osmond’s brother Albert Victor Osmond, uncle Silas Frederick Osmond and cousin Frederick George Thomas Osmond, click on their hyperlinked names.

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