b. 03/01/1891 Halifax, Canada. d. 01/10/1917 Zonnebeke, Belgium.
Philip Eric Bent (1891-1917) was born at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on 3rd January 1891. His father, Franklin Pierce Bent, was a 1st Class Clerk in 1872 and was working for the railway department. He later worked for the Halifax Post Office, and later a superintendent of railway mail services. He married Sophia “Sophy” Harvey on 15th December 1885 at Edinburgh, Scotland and they sailed for Canada. Sophia returned to England without her husband after 1901 and settled in Leicestershire. She eventually settled in Australia and then New Zealand, where she died in 1930. Philip had two siblings – Muriel (born 1888) and Lionel (born 1889).
Philip was educated at Ashby de la Zouch Grammar School from 1904-1907, where he was head boy. He was also educated at Royal High School, Edinburgh, Scotland, which was also attended by Harcus Strachan VC. Philip joined HMS Conway, the Merchant Navy training ship in the Mersey, in 1909 to gain sea-going experience and education. He was a senior cadet captain and a boxing champion in his last year. In December 1910 he left to become an apprentice on the steel four masted barque “Vimeria”, and qualified as a 2nd mate in early 1914.
Philip was ashore when war broke out and enlisted as a Private in A Company, 15th Battalion, Royal Scots on 2nd October 1914. He was commissioned on 30th November in the Leicestershire Regiment and joined A Company, 7th Battalion at Aldershot in April 1915. He also trained at Perham Down on Salisbury Plain. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 1st June and transferred to 9th Battalion in July. He went to France on 31st August 1915, and was Battalion Grenade Officer when he applied for a regular commission in March 1916. He was appointed Temporary Captain on 21st April 1916 and was granted a permanent regular commission in the Bedfordshire Regiment on 3rd May 1916.
After being mentioned in despatches, he transferred to the Leicestershire Regiment on 5th July 1916. He joined 9th Battalion as Temporary Major and second in command. He was wounded in September, and was also hit in the neck on 17th October, which saw him out of duty for a week. In February 1917 he was promoted to temporary Lieutenant Colonel. He was then awarded the DSO in the Birthday Honours on 4th June 1917.
On 1st October 1917, east of Polygon Wood, Zonnebeke, Belgium, during a heavy hostile attack, the right of his own command and the battalion on his right were forced back. The situation was critical owing to the confusion caused by the attack and the intense artillery fire. Lt. Col. Bent personally collected a platoon that was in reserve, and together with men from other companies and various regimental details, he organised and led them forward to the counter-attack, after issuing orders to other officers as to the further defence of the line. The counter-attack was successful and the enemy were checked. The coolness and magnificent example shown to all ranks by Lt.-Col. Bent resulted in the securing of a portion of the line which was of essential importance for subsequent operations. This very gallant officer was killed whilst leading a charge which he inspired with the call of "Come on the Tigers."
Sadly, his body was not recovered, and he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium. In addition to his VC and DSO, he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf. His mother presented his medals to Ashby Boys’ Grammar School in 1923 with a covering letter stating “I’m hoping that they will serve as a lasting stimulant to high ideals to following generations.” In 1972, the medals passed on permanent loan to the Royal Leicestershire Regiment Museum, Newarke House, Leicester.
LOCATION OF MEDAL:ROYAL LEICESTERSHIRE REGIMENT MUSEUM, LEICESTER.
BURIAL PLACE: NO KNOWN GRAVE -
NAME ON TYNE COT MEMORIAL, BELGIUM. PANEL 50-51
Philip Bent's medals including VC and DSO on display at the Royal Leicestershire Regiment Museum, Leicester (Feb 2016)
Two plaques above and right to Philip Bent VC at the Royal Leicestershire Regiment Museum, Leicester (Feb 2016)
National Memorial Arboretum
Leicester (1st October 2017)