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Lance Corporal George Beynon

X148, 1st Regt.,South African Infantry
Died 28th April 1918 Aged 26
Son of Mr and Mrs G Beynon of 12 Westbourne Grove, Sketty, Swansea.
Born Kimberley South Africa

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Remembered with Honour

Berlin South Western Cemetery
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A South African by birth, George Beynon was born on 18th August 1892 in Kimberley, Cape Province. He was baptised a little under one month later at the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Kimberley.

He was the eldest of two sons born to George and Marian Agnes Beynon, born 1858 and 1866 respectively, and married on 21 April 1890 at the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Kimberley.

On 1st September 1879, George Beynon (senior) deserted from the ship ‘Golconda’ in Cape Town on which he was an Able Seaman. He had signed on in Swansea on 30th May. He had been a seaman on various ships trading out of Swansea since 1875 at least. From Cape Town it is likely that he travelled to Kimberley in eastern Cape Province to work in the diamond mines.

George senior was shown as a Miner on passenger lists in 1904 and 1919.

Swansea Boy in Kimberley. Mr. Geo. Beynon (senior), a Swansea boy, who has been 20 years working in the mines at Kimberley, has returned to Swansea with his wife and family. He intends staying in his native town until August, when he returns.

Mr. Beynon senior is the son of the late Mr. Richard Beynon, captain of Swansea tugboats for some years, and a brother of Mr. John Beynon, one of the harbour pilots. Originally, Mr. Beynon was going on to sea for a livelihood, but he changed his mind and made for South Africa, where he took up mining with success, and now holds property in Kimberley. In the recent Boer War Mr. Beynon served in the Town Guards at Kimberley.

Source: Cambrian 15 April 1904.

George is listed on the Passenger List of the “Damascus” sailing from Cape Town to Plymouth in 1904, together with his parents and four siblings: Lillian Agnes b.1891, Edward b.1897, Madeline Stella b.1901, and Dorothy b.1903/04. Another sibling. Margaret Lucy b.1895, was not present.

After his return to South Africa a few months later, he worked with his father in the De Beers Diamond Mines at Kimberley where he remained until war broke out.

In 1927, George’s mother gave her Sketty address as ‘Rosebank’ Dillwyn Road.

George enlisted in 1914 into the ft Regiment South African Infantry, no. X/48 and fought the German army first in East Africa before being despatched to France in 1915.

Lance-Corporal George Beynon died from wounds in a German prisoner of war camp near Stettin, Pomerania, Germany on 28th April 1918.

Sketty Man’s Death in German Camp

News has been received by Mrs. M.A. Beynon, of 12 Westboume Grove, Sketty, of the death of her son, Lance-Corporal George Beynon, of the 1st South African Infantry. The information is contained in a letter from Private T.S. Stewart, of the Argyll and Sutherlanders, who is acting as orderly at the hospital attached to a prisoners’ of war camp at Johanisthal, Stettin, Germany, who says that Lance- Corporal Beynon was brought there on April 25th last suffering from a severe wound in the leg. The wound was attended to but unfortunately a blood vessel burst and Beynon passed peacefully away on the 28th.

A service attended by his comrades “who could walk and some wounded officers” was held by the German minister, who speaks English, and the deceased was buried in the cemetery amongst other comrades. “Those of us who can,” the writer adds “are contributing to erect a simple cross on his grave.”

Lance-Corporal Beynon was 26 years of age, and prior to the war was working with his father (who is still in South Africa) at the famous De Beers Diamond Mines. In 1914 he joined General Botha’s force and fought in German East Africa, and in November, 1915, he was drafted to France. Another brother, Private Edward Beynon, Lancashire Field Ambulance, is still at the front.

6th July 1918

Johanisthal Prisoners of War Cemetery, near Stettin, in the Province of Pomerania, was the cemetery at the camp where George died and the site of his first burial. After capture, men were sent to camps in Germany in the area administrated by the corps that captured them.

In 1922-23 it was decided that the graves of Commonwealth servicemen who had died all over Germany, including Johanisthal, should be brought together into four permanent cemeteries. Berlin South-Western was one of those chosen and in 1924-1925, graves were brought into the cemetery from 146 burial grounds in eastern Germany for re-burial.

There are now 1,176 First World War servicemen buried or commemorated in the Commonwealth plot at Berlin South-Western Cemetery. The total includes special memorials to a number of casualties buried in other cemeteries in Germany whose graves could not be found.

It cannot be determined where George Beynon received his fatal wound in April 1918, other than it would have been along the Western Front where South African forces were active until October 1918.

On 21st March 1918, following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the Germans were free to concentrate their resources on one front and they launched astride the Somme the first of five massive offences. The second offence, across the river Lys near Armentieres in northern France, which lasted from the 9th April to the 29th April, may well be when George Beynon was wounded and taken prisoner, along with 75,000 prisoners from the allied forces.

Ironically the fighting of 1918, despite causing a short term crisis, caused critical damage to the German army, and helped to prepare the way for the great Allied counterattacks of the last hundred days of the war.

Having been sent to France in November 1915, it was likely that George Beynon had been involved in the earlier Battle of Deville Wood in July 1916 where only one quarter of the South African fighting force survived. Of the 3,153 men from the South African brigade who entered the wood, only 780 were present at the roll call after their relief.

Delville Wood was sometimes known as Devil’s Wood, and the fighting there during the battle of the Somme was particularly ferocious. The majority of the wood was eventually taken by South African soldiers on the 15th of July 1916, and they held on grimly during numerous German counterattacks for six days, until they were relieved.

After the War, South Africa purchased the site in 1920, and it serves as a memorial to those of that nation who fell, not just here but elsewhere.

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Additional Notes

BEYNON George died on 28th April, 1918, aged 26. He was a Lance Corporal in the South African Infantry ft Regiment. His service number was X/48. He is buried in Berlin in the South West Cemetery (V.B.4). His parents, Mr and Mrs G. Beynon, lived at 12, Westbourne Grove, Sketty.

George and his family lived in South Africa. There are records of them travelling to and from the UK and records of births of children to George and Marion Agnes Beynon (also Begnon i.e. wrongly transcribed).

There is no record of the family in Swansea in the 1911 census. In 1901 and 1891 they were living in South Africa.

In 1881, Margaret (56 – born Gower), a widow, was living in Garden Street, Swansea, with Richard (21 – general labourer) and Philip (13).

In 1871 the family lived at 42, Upper Bathurst Street, Swansea, Margaret (45 – widow), John (19 – mariner), George (12), Richard (11), Elizabeth (5) and Philip (3).

In 1861, the family was living at 14, Gower Place, Swansea. Richard (43 – mate on a steam tug), wife, Margaret (35) and children, James (17 – at work on steam tug), William (14 – errand boy), Mary (11), John (9- scholar), George (2) and Richard (1). Richard was born in Llanmadock (sic), Mary in LIan …. ?, Richard in Cheriton, William, Mary and John in ……?and the rest in Swansea.

I have been unable to find the family (with certainty) in 1851.

In 1841 James Beynon (50 – mariner) and Richard (20 – mariner) were living in the Strand, Swansea.

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