22/14 Sister Ina Leslie Bennett – New Zealand Army Nursing Service

George White Bennett was the first lighthouse keeper of the Wellington’s Pencarrow Lighthouse and drowned in June
1855 when he was thrown out of the Wellington pilot boat as it crossed Barrett’s Reef. His youngest son William Hebden Bennett was born in December 1855, six months after the death of his father.  William’s mother Mary Jane Bennett was subsequently appointed to the position of Lighthouse Keeper, the only women to hold a position as a lighthouse keeper
in New Zealand[i]. In 1865 Mary Jane and her five children moved back to England, reportedly for the education of her children. The three boys, Frank, George and William returned to New Zealand in 1870.

William a trained surveyor was involved in the laying out of Palmerston North he later, like his mother and father became
a lighthouse keeper.

William, in 1878, married Margaret Maria Hughes the couple had seven children with Ian Leslie Bennett, the fourth child, born on the 11th May 1886 when William was the lighthouse keeper at the Pencarrow Lighthouse, the same lighthouse tended by his father and mother[ii].

Ina’s older brother Leo Percy Bennett served in the 2nd Anglo-Boar War as 5767 Corporal Signaller Bennett with the 8th Contingent New Zealand Rifles (South Island Contingent)[iii].

Ina’s younger brother 10/1419 Private Hubert Warwick Bennett, Wellington Infantry was in Egypt training for the Gallipoli landings when Ina Leslie Bennett, on the 6th April 1915, enlisted in the NZ Army Nursing Service (NZANS).

22/14 Nurse Ina Leslie Bennett’s military papers list her next of kin as he
father Mr W H Bennett, Wharau, Russell, Bay of Island, that she single and
that she was employed by the Palmerston North Hospital Board.

On the 8th April 1915, 22/14 Nurse Bennett sailed with the first contingent of
Army Nurses on the  SS Rotorua.

22/14 Nurse Ina Leslie Bennett  on SS Rotorua 1915

Nurse Bennett was based in Egypt as the  NZANS provided services to the
sick and wounded from the Dardanelles and the Canal Front. Between May
and June 1915 Nurse Bennett was sent to Malta where a ‘Happy Meeting
was reported:

‘As soon as I got ashore, an untidy, bedraggled looking man in khaki rushed across the road and greeted me.
He turned out to be Dr Simpson], a Scotch boy who was at Porirua, and once came into hospital (Wellington)
with typhoid. He bought over his dilapidated pal, a bundle of cheerful rags, who turned out to be Dr Trotter,
from the South. They had returned two days ago with a hospital ship of wounded soldiers and how they had
to work! They have scarcely any garments but what they stand up in but are perfectly happy. We were more
than pleased to see them. They are both Captains but wear no badges, and look like two dirty soldiers boys
straight from the trenches. We spent a long time hearing of all our friends at the front, and of the nerve and
bravery of our dear boys. We stopped every boy we met in Malta with New Zealand on him, as all they are
permitted to draw in hospital is 2s per week. One of our nurses heard her brother was wounded before she
left New Zealand, and had not been able to hear anything of him since. The first boy I spoke to happened to
be named Bennett so I asked him if he had a sister who was a nurse, and he turned out to be the missing
brother.  You should have seen the meeting. He had no idea the New Zealand nurses were here...’[iv] 

The soldier was 10/1419 Private Hubert Bennett the Nurse his sister 22/14 Nurse Ina Leslie Bennett, New Zealand Army Nursing Service (NZANS)

 On 1st January 1916 newspapers reported the appointment of nursing staff for reformed No1 Stationary Hospital for service in France “After the nurses who were wrecked in Marquette returned to Alexandria and were refitted, a new staff was formed to go out again. All who were well at all were eager to go, but some were not considered fit, and others were drawn from the New Zealand nurses in Egypt,” Nurse Bennett was one of those drawn[v].

The No 1 Stationary Hospital moved to Amiens, France in June 1916 but Nurse Bennett went to England where she was promoted to  Sister on 30 July 1916.

She was part of “Twenty-seven sisters and staff nurses who left England on July 30th, 1916, to join the staff of the No. 1
New Zealand Stationary Hospital at Amiens, France, some fifteen miles from the front line, this hospital had been without sisters while in Salonika from the time of the Marquette disaster. After a couple of days spent in Boulogne, the party was divided, one half going to a British hospital at Abbeville, and the other half to Amiens to the No. 1 Stationary Hospital[vi].”

Sister Bennett moved to No 1 Stationary Hospital at Amiens “For nearly ten month the No 1 Stationary Hospital was used
as a casualty clearing station in conjunction with other British hospitals and when work slackened, surgical teams, consisting of a surgeon, an anaesthetist, a sister, and one, perhaps two, men, were sent up to casualty clearing stations
for the big offensive.” The Somme Battle started the 1st July 1916 with British and French force engaged and it was not
until September 1916 that firstly New Zealand artillery and then New Zealand infantry were committed to this battle of attrition.

Sister Ina Bennett was listed to be notified if her younger brother became a casualty and was informed of his death while nursing at Amiens[vii].

Sister Ina Bennett was admitted to hospital in Amiens 18 November 1916 with Chronic Pulmonary Catarrh (pneumonia) possible the result of working long hours in cold and damp conditions and the stress of war time conditions being moved to the New Zealand General Hospital, London finally being discharge on 13 January 1917.

Sister Ina Bennett’s service record does not indicate where she nursed from this date but at the end of the war, in January 1919 she was nursing returning troops on RMS Ruapahu. Initially due for demob and return to civilian life Sister Ian Bennett remained on active duty until March 1920 when she was transferred to the territorial Nurse Reserve and nurse at Hamilton Hospital[viii].

Sister Ina Bennett, in 1924, transferred to Apia, Samoa] serving as Matron and returning to New Zealand in October 1925.[ix].

In 1929 Ina Bennett is listed nursing at Nuhaka, Hawkes Bay[x] while she never married Ina Leslie Bennett whangai’d a young maori girl from the Hawkes Bay area.[xi]

Ina Leslie Bennett died on 4th September 1950.[xii]

Younger brother killed on the Somme 23338 Private Oswell Hughes Bennett – Auckland Infantry

NZ History Online
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files
Paperspast Online

1st NZANS Contingent SS Rotorua – background - Alexander Turnbull 
22/14 Sister Ina Leslie Bennett

[i][i]    Pencarrow Lighthouse Keepers: NZ History Online
[ii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 22/14  Sister Ina Leslie Bennett
[iii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 5767 Corporal Signaller Leo Percy Bennett
[iv] Happy Meeting: Evening Post 13 August 1915
[v] Kai Tiaki: The Journal of the Nurses of New Zealand, 1 January 1916
[vi]New Zealand Hospitals in England and France: Nursing in New Zealand – NZ Electronic Text Collection
[vii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 23338 Private Oswell Hughes Bennett
[viii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 22/14 Sister Ina Leslie Bennett
[ix] Kai Tiaki: The Journal of the Nurses of New Zealand, 10 October 1925.
[x] Obituary William Hebden Bennett: Evening Post 9 November 1929
[xi] Oral History Ina’s niece
[xii] NZ BDM
1st NZANS Contingent on SS Rotorua April 1915