Profile

TENNENT, Bernard Charles
(Service number )

Aliases
First Rank Captain Last Rank Major

Birth

Date 28 November 1882 Place of Birth Beaconsfield, Tasmania, Australia

Enlistment Information

Date Age
Address at Enlistment
Occupation Medical Practitioner
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs H. Wilson HOGG, Martin Street, Upper Hutt
Religion
Medical Information

Military Service

Served with UK Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation Royal Army Medical Corps
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 7th Field Ambulance
Date
Transport
Embarked From Destination
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With

Military Awards

Campaigns Western European
Service Medals 1914-1915 Star; British War Medal
Military Awards Military Cross & Bar

Award Circumstances and Date

August 1917; London Gazette - “T/Capt. Bernard Charles Tennent, M.B., No. 7 Field Ambulance, R.A.M.C. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in continually exposing himself with the utmost fearlessness under heavy shell fire, in order to visit his posts in the front trenches. He dressed many men in the open, regardless of personal danger, and when his bearers became casualties he took their places and assisted to carry the wounded himself.”; January 1918

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date

Discharge

Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Wounded June 1917

Post-war Occupations

Death

Date 22 August 1918 Age 35 years
Place of Death France
Cause Died of wounds
Notices
Memorial or Cemetery Bellacourt Military Cemetery, Riviere, France
Memorial Reference III. F. 3.
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

Bernard Charles Tennent, born on 28 November 1882 at Beaconsfield, Tasmania, Australia, was the fifth son of Edward Cowper Tennent (born in Brazil) and his wife, Amy Margaret née Huxtable. His mother died in 1888 in Tasmania, Bernard being not six years old. His father, a Presbyterian minister, who served at Sawyers Bay and later Martinborough, married Edith Jessie Huxtable in 1897 in New Zealand. Edward Tennent died in November 1914 from injuries suffered in a motor accident and is buried at Martinborough. As of September 1917 Bernard’s mother (step-mother Edith) was living in Wallagong. Bernard started at Port Chalmers School in 1896, coming from Clarence College (Australia). B. Tennent was first equal in the Euclid in December 1898 at Port Chalmers District high School, at the same time he shone at the school’s annual sports – first in Hop, Step, and Jump; first in High Jump (over thirteen); first in Race (quarter mile); and his team came in second in the Relay Race. He was further educated at Otago Boys’ High School. On leaving school in 1899 he initially worked in the Bank of NZ. At the annual meeting of the Port Chalmers Football Club in April 1901, Mr B. C. Tennent was elected secretary and treasurer. In that same season he turned out for the Port Chalmers second grade team against Taieri Rovers.

Early in the 1900s, before going to England to study medicine, Bernard was an employee of Messrs John Mill and Co. in Timaru. He was a prominent player in the Timaru Football Club in 1902, and he was a newly elected member at the annual meeting held on 19 March 1902. In December 1902 Bernard shone at the annual gathering of the South Canterbury Amateur Athletic Club – in the 100 Yards Handicap he ran second in the third heat, won the second semi-final “with very little to spare”, and then the tables were turned in the final, Bernard coming second; in the High Jump, Bernard won £1.10s for a first place jump of 4ft 11in; the trophy was £1 for second place in the 100 Yards Hurdle Race Handicap, Bernard starting 2 yards behind and gaining from a heavy fall by a good runner; the 220 Yards Flat Handicap saw B. C. Tennent coming second in the third heat before finishing very strongly to win the final heat; and he competed but was not placed in the 440 Yards Handicap.

B. C. Tennent was successful in the Medical Preliminary examination at Dunedin in January 1905. Soon after Bernard Tennent, a student born in Tasmania, departed from New Zealand on the “Ionic”, arriving at London, England, on 22 March 1905. Bernard Charles Tennent commenced his studies at Edinburgh University on 2 May 1905 and his name was recorded on the UK Medical Students Register on 8 May. By November 1905 Bernard was playing in the three-quarter line for an Edinburgh University football team, with fellow Otago University men. And he was there to welcome the New Zealand team to Edinburgh in January 1906. At Edinburgh Bernard met with success – second class honours in 1907-08 and again in 1909. In early 1909 he passed Second Professional “under old regulations”. He qualified M.B., Bac. Surg. in 1910, and M.D. in 1913. The New Zealand Shipping Company’s overseas Liner Orari arrived at Port Chalmers from London on 7 June 1913. She carried cargo for Dunedin, Lyttelton and Timaru. On board as medical officer was Dr B. C. Tennent who had just completed his medical studies. After visiting his father and step-mother at Martinborough, he acted as locum tenens at for Dr Hogg, his brother-in-law, who was visiting England. Bernard Charles Tennent gave notice in August 1913 that he intended applying on 13 September to have his name placed on the Medical Register for the Dominion of New Zealand. His registration was duly gazetted.

When war was declared Major Bernard Charles Tennent, a medical practitioner and a lieutenant in the New Zealand Territorial Force (1912/3?), was in New Zealand – resident at 319 Willis Street, Wellington, and he at once went to England to offer his services. He had departed New Zealand before 20 October 1914, as notified to the Director of Medical Services. A medical practitioner, he had been residing in Wellington and departed New Zealand before 20 October 1914, as notified to the Director of Medical Services. After a brief hospital experience abroad in a civilian capacity he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps soon after the war began and obtained a commission in January 1915.

The engagement of Captain B. C. Tennent, M.D., R.A.M.C., and Miss Daisy Skarratt, of 3 Hans Crescent, London, was announced in the Times (London, England) of 17 April 1917 and the Evening Post (NZ) of 1 June 1917. Bernard married 40 year old Australian-born Daisy Skarratt on 25 June 1917 at Holy Trinity Church, Brompton, London. At the time Bernard was a Captain in H M Expeditionary Army (R.A.M.C.). All too soon after this happy event, Captain Tennent was wounded (in June).

Shortly after this casualty and for bravery shown prior to his marriage, Captain Bernard Charles Tennent , R.A.M.C., of Wellington and formerly of Timaru and Port Chalmers, was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in action, in August 1917. At that time the address of his next of kin was not known by the Defence Department in Wellington.

“On the nights of 24th and 25th April he volunteered to go into Monchy to look for wounded. The village was being heavily shelled, but in spite of this, and at great personal danger, he made a careful search of cellars and other shelters, and found a number of wounded men who had been imprisoned for at least two days. He attended to their wounds, provided them with water, returned to his bearer-post, and guided stretcher squads into the village, where he supervised systematic clearance. This work took over 48 hours to complete, being carried out under intense shell-fire. His personal bravery and cool example were directly responsible for the safe removal of all the wounded confined in Monchy. Again, during the evening's counter-attacks in the fighting for Infantry Hill in June, he placed his men with great skill and foresight, constantly exposing himself to heavy shell-fire and gas in order to visit his posts in front and encourage the men. He dressed many wounds in the open in a heavy barrage, and when his squads were depleted through casualties, helped to carry in the wounded himself. The rapid and successful clearing of the wounded from all parts of the battlefield was completed through his leadership and courage.” (Evening Post. 9 October 1917). The decoration was bestowed by the King at Buckingham Palace in the last week of October 1917.

The Minister of Defence wrote to Mrs Wilson Hogg in September 1917 – ‘Dear Madam, Re Captain Bernard Charles Tennent, R.A.M.C. I have much pleasure in informing you that the Officer above-mentioned, of whom you are the nominated next-of-kin, has been awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in the field of action. Please accept my hearty congratulations on his having gained such a coveted distinction.’ Prior to this the address of his next-of-kin was sought, Colonel Hogg replying that B. C. Tennent’s next-of-kin was indeed his wife, at Martin Street, Upper Hutt. In the Medical Register at the Public Health Department, Dr Tennent’s contact was Care of Dr Hogg, Willis Street.

Mrs H. Wilson Hogg received a further communication dated 6 November 1917 – ‘Dear Madam, Re Capt. Bernard Chas. Tennent, R.A.M.C. I have pleasure in forwarding you the following copy of the report from the London Gazette, in connection with the award of the Military Cross to the above-named officer. “T/Capt. Bernard Charles Tennent, M.B., No. 7 Field Ambulance, R.A.M.C. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in continually exposing himself with the utmost fearlessness under heavy shell fire, in order to visit his posts in the front trenches. He dressed many men in the open, regardless of personal danger, and when his bearers became casualties he took their places and assisted to carry the wounded himself.”’ Amy Isabel Hogg promptly expressed her thanks for the kindness shown in forwarding the notification of the award to her brother.

Captain Bernard Tennent was subsequently recommended for a bar to the Military Cross for a fine performance in June 1917. “These decorations were given for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in rescuing and attending to the wounded under a heavy fire of high explosive shells and gas shells. The actions in which Captain Tennent distinguished himself took place in April and June respectively.” (Evening Star. 10 November 1917). The Prime Minister’s Office received a cablegram dated 3 January 1918 – “New Year honours conferred on New Zealanders. Bar Military Cross Captains . . . . . Bernard Charles Tennet [sic] Royal Medical Corps. . . . . .” He received the decoration of Military Cross and Bar in early February 1918 at Buckingham Palace.

Mrs Bernard Scannell donated a gift for the Red Cross Pearl Necklace project for the sick and wounded in May 1918. The pearls gifted as a tribute to dead and wounded soldiers, to raise funds, were to be exhibited at The Grafton Galleries in June. Captain Tennent of the Army Medical Service was gazetted to be acting Major as of May 14, 1918.

Bernard’s next-of-kin, his only sister, Mrs Wilson Hogg (née Amy Isabel Tennent), received the standard telegram from the Minister of Defence, advising that Major B. C. Tennent had died of wounds on 23 August 1918. “Please accept my sincerest sympathy in the loss which you and New Zealand have sustained.” A message had first gone to Colonel Hogg, ADC, Defence, Christchurch, to find the next-of-kin, and asking if he knew anything of Major B. C. Tennent and if he had relatives in New Zealand. It appears that Major Bernard Charles Tennent died on 22 August 1918, on the Western Front, France or Belgium, of wounds (although some records state “killed in action”), aged 35. He was buried in Bellacourt Military Cemetery, Riviere, France. The lasting inscription on his stone is “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you. Philippians 1, Verse 3.”

“In Honour’s Cause. Casualties to Ex-New Zealanders” was the headline in the Evening Post of 16 October 1918. A correspondent wrote to The Times: “Everyone who had to do with Major Tennent bore tribute to the charm of his personality, for with every manly and athletic quality he combined an endearing gentleness and grace of spirit, and his colonel has written in heartfelt terms for the loss which his death involves. For himself, however, apart from his great joy in his too-brief married happiness, he would have asked to tread no other path than that already trodden by his life-long friend, Captain Douglas Reid, M.C., Blenheim, and by the many other members of his noble profession who have made the supreme sacrifice in the service of their comrades in arms.”

“One of the sons of New Zealand of whom the Empire is justly proud, and who has made the supreme sacrifice, is Major Bernard Charles Tennent, M.C., R.A.M.C., a distinguished physician and a gallant soldier.” (Otago Daily Times. 18 January 1919). Major Tennent had been on duty in France from early in the war and had served almost continuously on different fronts. He had been awarded the Military Cross and one bar, and was recommended for the D.S.O.

His last address was 3 Hans Crescent, Middlesex. He left £1073.6s.3d. to his widow, Daisy. The 1918 electoral register for Chelsea and 1919 for Lewisham, London, listed Bernard and Daisy at 3 Hans Crescent. Daisy lived on in London through to the late 1930s. She died on 30 April 1942 at Haywards Heath, following an operation, and was buried at Swyncombe, Oxfordshire. Mrs D. Tennent, of 3 Hans Crescent, applied on 15 January 1919 for the medals of her late husband, Major Bernard Charles Tennent, 7th Field Ambulance. He was awarded the 1914-1915 Star and the British War Medal. In October 1919 His Majesty the King approved the issue of a clasp to those who had been awarded the 1914 Star and had actually “served under the fire of the enemy in France and Belgium between the 5th August 1914 and midnight 23nd-23rd November 1914.” The clasp was to be in bronze, would bear the inscription “5th August-22nd November, 1914” and, when ribands were worn, would be denoted by a small silver rose in the centre of riband. Quite a number of New Zealanders were entitled to wear the clasp, among them Capt. B. C. Tennent, M.C., R.A.M.C.

A most interesting ceremony took place at the Port Chalmers Garrison Hall in May 1919. A flag from the Military Hospital at Salonika was given to the Port Chalmers District High School by the widow of the late Major Bernard Tennent, who was a pupil of the school in his boyhood’s days. The “historic and war-scarred Red Cress Union Jack” was presented in memory of Major Bernard Charles Tennent who had sacrificed his life in the cause of freedom during the great war. Throughout the whole period of his active service he showed himself to be a gallant officer and gentleman, reported the Otago Daily Times of 28 May 1919. The description of the flag is as follows: — “This Union Jack belonged to Headquarters, A Section, Second London Field Ambulance, the 84th on active service. It was taken to France on January 9, 1915, and for two months flew over Ambulance Headquarters at Ypres. During the second battle of Ypres it flew at Poperhinghe, in Belgium, and when the battle of Loos was fought in September, it was unfurled at Bethune. A little later the flag was placed at the entrance to the communication trench at La Bassee, and there received a liberal sprinkling of shell splinters and bullets. It was then taken to Egypt and Salonika, and was continuously used until June 1, 1916, when it was replaced by a new flag at Hadji Byraniti, in Upper Macedonia.” On the cabinet enclosing this historic piece of bunting is the following inscription:— “In memory of Major Bernard Charles Tennent, M.C., R.A.M.C. (a pupil of this school 1896-99), who fell in action in France, on August 2, 1918. This flag, which flew for 18 months over his ambulance in France, Egypt, and Salonika, was presented to this school by his widow.” 314 pupils of the school had gone to the war, and of these 48 had laid down their lives for their country.

Bernard’s brother, Stuart Ralston Tennent, served at Gallipoli with the New Zealand Forces and died of wounds on 16 August 1915. An older brother, Edward Cowper Tennent, served in the South African War. Four Tennent cousins – Leonard Cowper, Harold Douglas, Hugh Cowper and Kenneth Boor – all served with the New Zealand Forces.

Sources

Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [25 May 2018]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 22525 W5573 BR.37/1383 [01 June 2018]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 7291 W5614 D.2/2035 [01 June 2018]; CWGC [May 2018]; School Admission record (Dunedin Branch NZSG) [25 May 2018]; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [25 May 2018]; UK Electoral Registers (ancestry.com.au) [25 May 2018]; UK Probate index (ancestry.com.au) [25 May 2018]; England Marriage Bonds (ancestry.com.au) [27 May 2018]; Marriage Church record (ancestry.com.au) [06 July 2018]; British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Card (ancestry.com.au) [19 June 2018]; Otago Daily Times, 15 December 1898, 31 May 1901, 23 January 1905, 14 May 1908, 2 February 1909, 11 May 1909, 7 December 1914, 3 November 1917, 18 January 1919, 28 May 1919, Evening Star, 17 December 1898, 1 April 1901, 30 November 1905, 24 July 1913, 5 September 1917, 5 & 10 November 1917, 29 August 1918, 23 May 1919, Timaru Herald, 20 March 1902, 17 December 1902, 2 August 1913, 5 & 8 September 1917, 4 September 1918, Otago Witness, 6 December 1905, 10 January 1906, Wairarapa Daily Times, 8 August 1913, Evening Post, 13 August 1913, 4 August 1917, 9 & 30 October 1917, 15 May 1918, 16 October 1918, 2 January 1920, Press, 5 September 1917, Star, 5 September 1917, Sun, 29 August 1918 (Papers Past) [21 & 28 May 2018; 01 & 19 June 2018]; The Times, London, England, 11 May 1918, 10 June 1918, 2 May 1942 (The Times Digital Archive) [06 July 2018]; UK Soldiers Died in the Great War (ancestry.com.au) [27 May 2018]; British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards (ancestry.com.au) [19 June 2018]; UK Army Register of Soldier’s Effects (ancestry.com.au)

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to

TS

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