John Walford Benton

 

Image from The Yorkshire Evening Post, 7 October 1916 – courtesy of Johnston Press Ltd

Born 2 June 1891

Died 28 September 1916

Studied at the RCA:  October 1913 – July 1915

A scholarship allowed Leeds-born John Walford, the older of two sons of consulting engineer Walford John, to study at the College. His files note that he was ‘possessed of good artistic ability – somewhat muddled as to his goal’.

He joined the the Artists’ Rifles at the end of the summer term 1915, only weeks after his younger brother (and underage soldier) George had been killed in action. John then received training through the University of London Officers’ Training Corps (OTC), writing to the College on 2 August 1915 to let them know he had obtained a commission. He went on to serve as a 2nd lieutenant with the 14th Battalion, the Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derbyshire Regiment).

On 12 July 1916 he arrived in France with the Battle of the Somme already raging, suffering a wound to his hand about two weeks later.

The date of his death, just over two months on, suggests he saw action during attacks on Morval and Thiepval Ridge. The OTC Roll of the Fallen notes he was ‘killed by a bullet through the heart while on patrol between Martinpuich and Le Sars’, while the battalion war diary records him leading a patrol from the ‘26th trench near Destremont Farm to try and contact a brigade of the 50th division’.  The Yorkshire Evening Post of 14 October 1916 states ‘In a letter his commanding officer says: He had only been with the battalion for a few weeks, and had already given proof of his bravery and ability as an officer, and his death is deplored by all the men and officers of the company’.

His father wrote to the College after the end of the war to arrange to have John’s paintings and drawings sent home. It appears that another former soldier and RCA student, J. Hollinshead, may have spoken to the Registrar, Cyril D. Fitzroy,  about the grieving family, as John’s father writes: ‘It was a pleasure to Mrs Benton and myself to hear you thought well of my son…’.

John was buried at the time of his death near the Le Sars and Baupame road, and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France, and the Leeds Cenotaph, Headingly.

Student file – Royal College of Art Archive
Student file – Royal College of Art Archive
Student file, report – Royal College of Art Archive
Student file – Royal College of Art Archive
Image from The Yorkshire Evening Post, 7 October 1916 – courtesy of Johnston Press Ltd.