Leslie Howard Bennett was born in London. He joined the army towards the end of the war and was fatally injured in July 1947 during a parachute jump over Wiltshire, dying in hospital the same day as the accident. His home was in Springfield Park Road, Chelmsford.
Leslie was born in 1928 in the Hackney district in London, the son of Violet M. Bennett.
He was educated at Trinity Road School, Chelmsford and he lived nearby at 78 Springfield Park Road, Chelmsford.
He joined the army towards the end of the war serving as Driver T/14828820 in the 63rd (Airborne) Composite Company Royal Army Service Corps. He was due to be demobbed in December 1947.
Aged 19, he was fataly injured on 31st July 1947 at Netheravon in Wiltshire during a display by the 6th Airborne Division when his parachute collapsed during a jump from a Halifax aircraft. He died the same evening in hospital.
He was buried three days later at Tidworth Military Cemetery in Hampshire (Grave: 78 in Section F).
On 19th August 1947 an inquest into his death was held. A Chelmsford newspaper reported:
"Struggle for life in mid-air: Misadventure verdict
A mid-air accident at Netheravon, Wiltshire, on the afternoon of July 31st, which resulted the death of Driver Leslie Howard Bennett, aged 21, of Springfield Park Road, Chelmsford, at Tidworth Military Hospital the same evening, was investigated by Col. J. T. P. Clarke, the North Hampshire County Coroner, at Tidworth on Tuesday afternoon.
He returned verdict of Death misadventure, and added that if there was any further action to be taken, it would be taken as a result of the R.A.F. enquiry.
Bennett was serving with the - Parachute Coy., R.A.S.C., Tidworth, and according to the evidence, was taking part in exercise called "Rabbit 31." Five aircraft were engaged, and he was in the last one, from which there were to be dropped at Nctheiavon five other men and himself, plus thirteen containers, twelve carrying sand, and one ammunition.
At the briefing Brize Norton from which the aircraft took off, the instructions were that a period of four seconds was to elapse between the dropping of the last man and the containers. What actually happened was described by Capt. Glyn William Hopkyn-Rees, second-in-command the 63rd Coy.
He said that soon after 2 p.m. he was at Netheravon, and he saw Nos. 1, 2 and 3 of the stick of six men in the fifth aircraft drop normally. He went on: "Just as Number 4 came out. I noticed that the containers in the belly bomb bay were away, followed by those in the wing bomb bays. I saw No. (Bennett) and No. 6 (Sgt. Street) coming out the middle of the stream of containers."
Hit by Container
"No. 5 was almost immediately hit by a container before either his parachute or the container's parachute had opened. His parachute then developed fully, followed by No. 6's. No. 5 appeared to make a normal descent. I don't know very much about No. 6 except that he got away with it. I went to No. 5. He was conscious, but he had badly broken arm, which was nearly off."
Leslie Howard BENNETT, Driver, 63rd (Airborne) Composite Company, Royal Army Service Corps
Fatally injured in Wiltshire when his parachute collapsed. Aged 19
Bennett was taken to hospital, where he died the same evening. A post-mortem examination revealed that his lungs were badly bruised and two ribs were fractured. The cause of death, according to medical evidence, was these internal injuries.
Evidence for the R.A.F. was given by S/Ldr. Harry Clarke, who said that the technical enquiry had revealed that there was nothing mechanically wrong with (he aircraft. He agreed with the Coroner that it was the human element at fault, and not mechanical. He stated that the bomb-aimer would have pressed the bomb switch to release the containers.
When asked where the bombaimer was and what had happened to him, he said: It is nothing to do with the bomb aimer; it was a premature release other than the bomb-aimer."
In recording his verdict, the Coroner said that Bennett died from the injuries he received when he was struck by a container filled with sand, prematurely released from the aircraft from which he jumped."
Struggling for life
Sgt. Street was present, but did not give evidence. He disclosed afterwards that he, too, was hit a container, which injured his leg and caused his parachute to collapse. He saved his life by grabbing on to the parachute of the container, climbing up the shrouds, and descending on this 'chute.
The Coroner: '* A man struggling for his life in mid-air would not see much."
At the time of his death Leslie's mother was married to Frederick Colton of 78 Springfield Park Road, Chelmsford.