Major John L Benthall, CBE, TD, Order of the Rising Sun of Japan, 3rd class

John Benthall and his family lived at Holly Bowers from 1930 to 1947. He was a military man who was also influential in the shipbuilding world. He was born in Torquay in 1868 and educated at Harrow. His father was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the 1st King’s Dragoon Guards.

John started work with Samuda Brothers, an engineering and shipbuilding firm based on the Isle of Dogs. Later there was Japanese investment into the company, and this may have resulted in his being honoured by the Emperor of Japan. He became a member of the Institution of Naval Architects in 1890. He later moved to Vickers, Sons & Co, becoming a director in Vickers Ltd before retiring in 1926.

His military career involved him joining the North Somerset Yeomanry in 1890, and becoming 2nd in command at the outbreak of the 1914-18 war. He was seconded for special service with the Admiralty throughout the war, and later served on the Shell Committee and the Naval Inter-Allied Commission of Control in Germany and Austria. He was a Major in the Territorial Army, and was awarded a Territorial Decoration for long service with the TA. He was awarded the CBE in 1919.

He was a Freeman of the Cutlers’ Company in Sheffield, a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights, and was granted the freedom of the City of London in 1924. He was a life member of the Royal Society of Arts, a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society, and a member of the Cavalry Club and the MCC.

John Benthall had married Emily Bradshaw in 1895, and they had a least one son, Robert. Emily died in 1907. After the war he married Henrietta Hall.

One other interesting anecdote about Major Benthall was that he was a drinking partner of Colonel Edlmann of Hawkswood. That house was riddled with dry rot, and Colonel Edlemann used to close down rooms as they became unuable. Major Benthall used to spend time with him, drinking whisky and shooting at pigeons on the lawn from the French Windows on the ground floor, while the house disintegrated around them. (recounted by Mr Slegg of Orpington)