2019 marks 101 years since death of WV's Louis Bennett Jr.
By Rebecca Young
via the Weston Democrat newspaper (WV) web site
August 24 will mark the 101st anniversary of Louis Bennett Jr.’s death during WWI. Bennett, Jr. served in the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom. At the time of his death Bennett had flown 25 maneuvers against the Germans. He formed the West Virginia Flying Corps, which was commissioned by then WV Governor Cornwell on July 26, 1917. The U.S. Army, however, refused to accept the corps, which led Bennett Jr. to enter flight school with the British Royal Air Force in Canada.
On the day of Bennett, Jr.’s death, his aircraft had burst into flames after being hit by ground fire. He never received a medal for his actions in combat. His mother, Sallie Maxwell Bennett, ensured her son’s death would not be in vain, and because of her efforts, Lewis County is home to a war memorial in his honor-the Louis Bennett Library in Weston.
Maxwell Bennett had lost not only her son, but also her husband within weeks of each other. Maxwell Bennett spent the rest of her remaining years honoring her son for his service. Three different countries have memorials in honor of Bennett Jr., the United States, England, and France. Maxwell Bennett came from a wealthy family in Wheeling, and married into a wealthy family in Lewis County so money to honor her son was of no consequence.
The first memorial was erected in Wavrin, France, with Maxwell Bennett not only erecting a memorial, but rebuilding the church that was destroyed by the retreating German Army. The church was rebuilt in dedication to her Bennett Jr.’s memory on the anniversary of his death in 1919.
The rebuilt church was also served as a thank you to the village that helped smuggle her son’s remains out of France back to the U.S. for burial. This was in violation of French law. On the same day in 1919, St. Paul’s Espiscopal Church held a memorial service for Bennett Sr. and Bennett Jr.
The next memorial to be erected was in Wheeling on the campus of the Linsly School. There stands a seven and a half foot tall sculpture of her son in his flight coat with wined arms. After this, Maxwell Bennett commissioned a stained glass window for Westminster Abbey in England in 1922.
Read the entire article on the Weston Democrat web site.
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