Family History by Percy James Bennett (1)
My paternal grandfather Percy James BENNETT enjoyed writing down his history. I have two versions – a long detailed versions that will gradually get transcribed and reported here – and a shorter version which I have reproduced here. He wrote it in a number of sections by person which I have split into three parts. His words are in italics while my notes providing additional information are in normal font.
Part One – Albert Josiah BENNETT
Your grandfather, my father, Albert Josiah Bennett was born in 1883 in Rainham, Kent and his father, as far as I know, was a nursery farmer or his grandfather was a yeoman farmer.
Albert Josiah BENNETT was actually born on 23 August 1873 at Slades Green, Crayford, Kent1 which is near Rainham. His parents lived in Rainham until shortly before his birth. His father’s occupation was most often recorded as Labourer although he was also stated to be an engineer on one record. His paternal grandfather was a shoemaker and his maternal grandfather was an agricultural labourer so not sure where the nursery farmer comes in.
I don’t know where he was educated but he was an apprentice to Messrs Heath, Instrument Makers of Clerkenwell, London. He finished his apprenticeship and worked for Heaths for some time learning more of his profession. Chris will be able to tell you more as you know she is 10 years older than me.
He courted your grandmother who lived in the Isle of Wight in Cowes and used to cycle down to see her. They were made of sterner stuff in those days.
I don’t know where they were married but the family is shown on the tree.
They were married at Cowes Wesleyan Chapel on the Isle of Wight on 1 July 18994. Albert Josiah’s wife name was Florence RICHARDS.
By now he had his own instrument making business in Bexleyheath, Kent where I was born. Albion Road.
Percy James BENNETT was born at ‘Sunnyside’, Albion Road, Bexleyheath, Kent on 11 July 19123.
By now he was making sextants and all captains of ships owned those instruments as Radar and shore to shore communication was yet to be invented.
During the 1914-18 war he made sextants for the US Navy and not only made them but tested them to the required stds [standards] of the NPL (National Physical Laboratory).
Also during the first world war towards the end a man invented the ability of firing a gun through the propeller of an fighter plane. Dad because of his knowledge of instruments and very accurate work was asked to cut the gears to permit this mechanism to work.
This resulted in a German Airship being shot down at Cuffley in Essex by one of our early fighters. He was presented with a ring made from the scrap metal to commemorate his part in the exercise. Chris I believe still has this ring.
Ironically I was part of the team that produced the jet engine which nullified the problem since the principle evolves re-action which pushes the aircraft along and the engines are normally placed aft of the cockpit!!
Information on Percy’s involvement in the development of the jet engine is included in an early blog.
Later Dad’s business changed in character and he went into light engineering. By now the motor car was being massed produced and Dad made components for the brakes for a firm called Alford and Alder in London for Standard Motors.
By this time I was at Chelsea Polytechnic (attached to London University) studying Metallurgy and when after 18 months intensive study I obtained my Diploma I joined his firm (*add note depression) responsible for the heat treatment of all the brake components.
No note was added regarding the Depression in the section about Albert Josiah however he did mention the impact of the Depression in the section on his own life.
In the later 30s Dad’s firm went into liquidation and was wound up.
The second world war was imminent and he was approached by the Ministry of Supply to study the possibility of making sextants again for the British and US Navies.
He was soon asked to head the exercise and found a small firm of Jewellery makers who were used to fine work and he started producing sextants until well after the end of the war.
He still would not lie down and thro’ a family friend the Managing Director of Ideal Homes Limited he became a member of a team promoting and selling houses at which he was most successful and did this until he retired and bought Naish Farm (*Chris to run; Fodge Widow)
Naish Farm was in New Milton, Hampshire. Fodge was his sister Florence Ellen BENNETT who married Geoffrey HOLT who died during the Second World War.
He died in 1953 and unfortunately I was down with TB and couldn’t attend the funeral.
Although I say it he was a remarkable man of the old school.
He was, with his wife and children, an ardent Churchman (Congregational denomination). He sang in the choir with mother at Bexleyheath, was a very good organist and Choirmaster and conducted oratories such as the Messiah etc at the Crystal Palace conducting choirs of a 1000 voices.
He also played the oboe, enjoyed playing Cricket and was a season ticket holder with the Arsenal FC at Highbury at the time of James, Bastin, Hagwood and Co and I remember many memorable matches at Highbury because naturally I had a ticket as well.
He took me many times to the Oval and we saw Don Bradman make his record score in 1935.
He was a very good chess player and attending several chess conferences at Hastings and finally took to bowls which he enjoyed thoroughly.
- Birth Certificate of BENNETT, Albert Josiah. September quarter 1873, Dartford Registration District, Vol 2a Page 369. Certified copy issued by GRO on 25 February 2003 held by Amelia Bennett.
- 1939 register. England. 29 September 1939. BENNETT, Christine L.. Bromley Municipal Borough. RG101/1239H/018/36, Letter Code CJNM, Schedule 242, Sub Number 5. https://www.findmypast.co.uk.
- Birth Certificate of BENNETT, Percy James. September quarter 1912, Dartford Registration District, Vol 2a Page 1176. Certified copy issued by GRO on 26 September 1939 held by Amelia Bennett.
- Marriage Certificate of BENNETT, Albert Josiah and RICHARDS, Florence. September quarter 1899, Isle of Wight Registration District, Vol 2b Page 1341. Certified copy issued by GRO on 1 August 2000 held by Amelia Bennett.