Eugene Paul Bennett was born in 1892 at Cain Cross, Gloucestershire. He was the son of a school master and was the oldest of six children. The family moved to Stroud where he was educated at Marling School.
He was dissuaded from joining the Indian Police by his father who felt that it lacked security and found no further openings in the military. So in 1911 he moved to London to work for the Bank of England. With the increased tensions in Europe he became a territorial volunteer in the Artists Rifles in 1913, with whom he went to France in 1914. On being offered a commission he transferred to the 2nd Battalion The Worcestershire Regiment. He saw action from the start. In May 1915 he was wounded when his trench blew up beneath him. In September he won the Military Cross at the Battle of the Loos. He was also the only officer in his company to survive Neuve Chapelle and he survived the first day of the Somme.
On the 5th November 1916 he was commanding C Company at the Battle of Le Translay on the Somme. At 11:13 hours he stood up and gave the order to advance, as he did so a shell exploded near him throwing him into the air. His wounds were dressed by a Frenchman as he watch the first wave of troops meet intense fire and as a result suffer very heavy causalities. The officer in command was also killed and it seemed that the line was beginning to waver. Bennett took command and advanced at the head of his men, staying in command even when he was himself wounded. This won him his Victoria Cross.
His Citation reads:
“For most conspicuous bravery in action when in command of the second wave of attack. Finding that the first wave had suffered heavy casualties, its Commander killed and the line wavering, Lieutenant Bennett advanced at the head of the second wave and by his personal example of valour and resolution, reached his objective with but 60 men. Isolated with his small party, he at once took steps to consolidate his position under heavy rifle fire and machine gun fire from both flanks, and although wounded, he remained in command directing and controlling. He set an example of cheerfuless and resolution beyond all praise, and there is little doubt that but for his personal example of courage the attack would have been checked at the outset.”
London Gazette, 30th December 1916
Lieutenant Eugene Paul Bennett was wounded three times in the battle. He returned to duty and was attached to the War Office and served a spell in Aldershot. He returned to the front and was wounded again in October 1918 from which it took him a year to recover.
After demobilisation he read for the Bar and became a reputable magistrate. In the Second World War he became an RAF Officer and commanded a detachment of the Air Training Corps. He spent the last years of his life in Italy, with is wife Violet, until his death in 1970.