Don and Dusty Bennett
Don Bennett, born in 1907, was a leading member of the Walsall Communist Party branch who, together with his brother ‘Dusty’, born Gordon but always known by his nick-name, were born and brought up in a Walsall workhouse. After being sent to a children’s home in Birmingham, they were sent to Canada to work as farm labourers.
As soon as they were old enough, they made their way to the USA, where they joined the Wobblies. In the late 1920s they sailed back to England, Don as a deck hand and Dusty a stowaway on a liner. When they came back, they immediately began to organise trade unionism in Walsall and joined the Communist Party.
In 1936, they went off together to fight for the Spanish Republic in the International Brigades. Sadly, Dusty was killed in the battle of the River Ebro as he was feeding the ammunition belt into the Russian-built Maxim gun that Don was operating. The metal plate on the gun slipped and Don couldn’t see over the sights. So Dusty stood up to replace the plate, being struck in the chest by an enemy bullet
Don returned to Walsall but was denied the chance to join the British Army in the Second World War because of his involvement in what was seen as an illegal war but became a sergeant in the Home Guard.
To his last days, he was an influential member of the local Branch of the Communist Party, together with Don Brayford (see separate entry) who lived in Walsall, but was the South Staffs Area organiser of the Party. The brothers’ grandfather, also called Don, was a member of the Communist Party, as was a large part of Bennett family.
Although a prolific trade union organizer, he turned down the TUC Golden Badge for recruitment, saying he was only doing his job and that “badges should not be awarded for doing what you should do anyway.”
Donald Stuart Bennett, pictured in Spain, died in 1977.
Source: Information from George Barnsby via Paul Bennett, son of Don Bennett, additional research by GS.