George Burleigh BENNEY

BENNEY, George Burleigh

Service Number: 523
Enlisted: 11 December 1915
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 15th Infantry Battalion
Born: Paddington, New South Wales, Australia, 20 July 1885
Home Town: Paddington, Woollahra, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Groom, cook, labourer
Died: Tuberculosis, Randwick Military Hospital, Randwick, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 3 December 1933, aged 48 years
Cemetery: Rookwood Cemetery & Crematorium
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World War 1 Service

11 Dec 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 523, 42nd Infantry Battalion
5 Jun 1916: Involvement Private, 523, 42nd Infantry Battalion
5 Jun 1916: Embarked Private, 523, 42nd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Borda, Sydney
25 Nov 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 523, 42nd Infantry Battalion
28 Aug 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 523, 42nd Infantry Battalion
20 Nov 1919: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 523, 15th Infantry Battalion, Returned to Australia on Marathon Arrived 1 Jan 1920
8 Apr 1920: Discharged AIF WW1, Private, 523, 15th Infantry Battalion

Help us honour George Burleigh Benney's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Jonathan Benney

George Benney was born in Sydney in 1885, the first of ten children. His father Benjamin was a former naval rating who migrated to Australia in 1882, and his mother Isabella was a member of the once prosperous Saywell family.

He grew up in Paddington and Waverley, near Moore Park and Randwick Racecourse, and became fascinated with cricket and horses. From his teens onwards he worked as a groom, spending some years at Booval in Queensland. He was working at "Buttonsville", the property of the successful horse owner Edward John Easton, just before he enlisted.

His war service was characterised by illness, injury, absence, and misadventure. The letters to the Queensland Times which he sent while away concentrate largely on his trips around England to see racing meetings, cricket games, and holiday sights, reflected in his frequent punishments for being absent without leave. At the same time, probably while in camp at Longbridge Deverill in Wiltshire, he met May Moonie, a widow from Northern Ireland. They married in 1918, a few months before the war ended, and their first daughter was born in London in 1919.

With his wife, daughter, and stepson, he arrived back in Sydney on New Year's Day 1920. In a few weeks he had returned to Queensland to visit his horseracing friends, but he settled into family life, mostly living in Westmead, then an outer suburb of Sydney. In Australia he and May had two sons (one died in infancy) and three more daughters. His family was poor and his work history patchy. Before he died, he was working as a labourer on the railways, and spent his weekends umpiring cricket games.

Unfortunately, the health effects of fighting in France took their toll. Mustard gas had a bad effect on his lungs, and he died, aged 48, in 1933. Only one of his children, his youngest daughter, spent most of her life in Sydney; his son ultimately settled in Victoria, and two of his daughters and his wife returned to England. One daughter married an American soldier who was killed in combat on the day their son was born. She migrated to America and lived most of her life in Chicago.