Whitby High School
Battlefields Tour 18-21st March 2006
Vimy - Albert - Somme Tour, France - Monday 20th March

Private Benjamin Whitby

B Company, 11th Battalion Cheshire Regiment
Died 30th July 1916, Aged 44

Private Benjamin Whitby

We are most grateful to Val Price of Chester, descendant of Ben Whitby who sent us her story about Ben's family, plus the family trees and the photograph of Ben and his family:

Benjamin Whitby was born in Crewe, son of Benjamin and Elizabeth Whitby, in 1872. He married Christina Anney Thompson in 1895. Christina’s father had been a railway labourer, and Benjamin himself became a fireman tending the furnaces of the local iron foundry. Their first daughter, Florence Elizabeth (Kenneth’s mother - see tree below) was born in March 1898, then followed Edith Mary in November 1899; Hannah Cecilia on 15 November 1902, Benjamin; Hilda in December 1907, John Charles in April 1910; Christina in 1912; and finally their eighth child, Frances, in November 1915.

With the advent of war, Benjamin joined the 11 Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment “for the duration” and marched briskly away to the battlefields of France in November 1914. Before he left he gathered his whole family around him for a photograph at the photographer’s studio in the main street of Ellesmere Port. Hannah, his third daughter, was just twelve years old then.

The “Port” as it was affectionately known, was a sleepy little village surrounded by fields of corn and cowslips, depending on the season. It was hard for Benjamin’s children to understand what was happening in France, or that the whole of Europe was locked in a war that was wasting young lives and scarring the land. He sent countless cards and letters back to his family telling them that he was well, but by 1916 his words could hardly disguise the hardship and danger he was having to confront every day, and eventually they stopped coming altogether. Christina knew what had happened. She contacted the War Office and was told that Benjamin had died of wounds on July 30th 1916. Later she received the sum of two pounds, four shillings and one penny, being the settlement of accounts of her husband. Of that amount two-thirds had to be used for “equal and exclusive benefit” of the children, no further sum being due to the family from army funds.

The whole family had to find ways of earning money, and Edith was able to find work for Hannah and Hilda with her own employer, the manager of the Station Hotel. To be taken on in service at this hotel – known as the Pride of the Port – was a good start for a young girl; a respectable occupation, with a secure future. The girls wore little white starched aprons edged in lace, over black dresses, and were just proud of their uniforms.

Val added a footnote:

As I was collating everything, I suddenly noticed that Benjamin's daughter (my husband's mother) married Alfred Price and as you will see in the footnote on the Price family tree he also served in the first world war and was also wounded at the battle of the Somme - so father and son-in-law served together. I don't know exactly when Florence married Alfred but as her son Alfred Benjamin (too many Benjamin's in the family!) was born in 1917 they probably married in 1916 possibly when Alfred was repatriated after being wounded, but this is just a guess.

Val Price



Birth certificate of Elizabeth Thompson
Birth Certificate of Ben Whitby



Stephen Jones, Grandson of Ben Whitby, kindly brought in the memorial penny of Ben Whitby for us to photograph and record here. Until Stephen came in to see us, we were unaware that he had grandchildren at Whitby (Kayleigh happened to walk past and he pointed out his grand-daughter - of course we were very excited to discover our first descendants of someone on the war memorial attending Whitby High School. We swiftly sought out her brother Mitchell and their photograph is below).

(below; Stephen pictured with Mrs M. Hughes, Headteacher of Whitby High School)

Kayleigh and Mitchell Jones

Great-great grandchildren of Ben Whitby and pupils at Whitby High School

Kingsley Road in Ellesmere Port. It is likely that Benjamin signed on in Birkenhead.


CWGC RECORD for Private Benjamin Whitby

Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France



On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, thirteen divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance. Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained.

At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July. Attacks north and east continued throughout October and into November in increasingly difficult weather conditions. The Battle of the Somme finally ended on 18 November with the onset of winter.

In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line, and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918.

The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial also serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive and a small cemetery containing equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves lies at the foot of the memorial. The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 31 July 1932. The dead of other Commonwealth countries who died on the Somme and have no known graves are commemorated on national memorials elsewhere.

From Albert our tour roughly followed the dotted trench line

Casualty Details

Initials: B
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Private
Regiment/Service: Cheshire Regiment
Unit Text: "B" Coy. 11th Bn.
Age: 44
Date of Death: 30/07/1916
Service No: 17953
Additional information: Son of the late Benjamin and Elizabeth Whitby; husband of Christina Annie Whitby, of 12, Kingsley Rd., Ellesmere Port, Birkenhead.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Pier and Face 3 C and 4 A.


In Memory of

17953, "B" Coy. 11th Bn., Cheshire Regiment
who died age 44
on 30 July 1916
Son of the late Benjamin and Elizabeth Whitby; husband of Christina Annie Whitby, of 12, Kingsley Rd., Ellesmere Port, Birkenhead.
Remembered with honour


Commemorated in perpetuity by
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Most of the Cheshires are recorded on the panels behind the memorial party

  Additional research, visit to battlefield site/photography by M.W. Royden August 2007


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