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Courage left unsung: John Bentley's bravery during WWI

After the fighting at the French village of Lagnicourt
After the fighting at the French village of Lagnicourt

WHEN one looks at the recommendations for bravery medals in the First World War it is soon evident that a large percentage of these were ignored.

This could mean that those further up the line of command considered that too many awards would cheapen the value of the deed; however, it could also mean that there were a vast number of very brave men who did not have their deeds recognized.

When reading some of the stories behind the awards which were given it is amazing that men could be so brave under such terrible conditions.

Take for example the story of John Thomas Bentley of Casino. He was a linesman aged 28 when he enlisted in the War on September 2, 1914.

He must have been one of the first to enlist as the War started on August 4, 1914!

There was apparently a local recruiting campaign as he enlisted at Casino but joined the Queensland based 9th Battalion and sailed with the first units from Brisbane on September 24, 1914. Initially the Battalion went to Egypt where it underwent training.

The Battalion was the first ashore at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915 and took part in much of the initial heavy fighting.

It stayed there until the final withdrawal in December 1915. It then returned to Egypt. Some of its men were transferred to the 49th Battalion which needed reinforcements, but John Bentley remained with the men who stayed with the 9th.

In early 1916 it sailed for France and stayed there until 1918, taking part in many of the big battles.

On February 25, 1917 John Bentley was involved in an action at La Barque, France, which caused his superior officer to recommend the award of Military Medal.

The award was not made. However, on April 15, 1917 at Lagnicourt, Northern France an action resulted in another recommendation and this time an award was made. A third action on September 18, 1918 at Villaret, in the Picardie Region of France resulted in the award of a Distinguished Conduct Medal.

John Bentley had earned the rank of sergeant by the time he won his Military Medal.

It is stated that he showed great skill and coolness in handling his platoon and, even though wounded, continued to direct the fire of his men until the enemy were checked and driven back.

He showed great courage on reconnoitring patrols and his work at all times was performed with marked ability, devotion to duty, and tireless energy.

This was during the Battle of Lagnicourt where the Germans had withdrawn to the Hindenburg Line and the Allied Forces were confronted by well-prepared rearguard forces.

At least four Australian Battalions were involved in this Battle and these spearheaded the final attack and the success of the undertaking.

As a linesman in civilian life Bentley was very useful during these operations. Communications could easily be cut in battle and this meant going out under continual fire to find the breaks and repair lines so that communications could resume.

John Thomas Bentley survived the War and returned to Australia on October 16, 1918, still attached to his famous Battalion, the 9th!



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