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Max Bennett: From radioman to businessman
Max Bennett has worn many hats in his 97-years—son, soldier, husband, businessman, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
Bennett was born in December of 1921 to parents Charles (Chet) Bennett and Effie Bennett of Fortune. He was the second oldest of six children.
Bennett enlisted in the British Army in the summer of 1940.
“I was not 18 when the war broke out,” he explained. “I was still 17… so I had to wait until the end of December.”
Bennett, who now makes his home in Novato, California, said at the time his father supported his decision to enlist, but his mother was not happy, “because my name Max is after my uncle who got killed in World War I, her brother — they seemed to feel at that time, once you got on that boat going over to the war zone you were never going to come back…my father thought probably you should go.”
He officially received his enrollment documents in July 1940.
Bennett explained that at the time any man that was able to do so was enlisting, “I just thought it would have been something for two or three months for a bit of excitement, but it was five years later before I got back,” he said with a laugh.
Bennett recalled that before going to Europe he was stationed at Shamrock Field training camp in St. John’s.
“We didn’t have a road to St. John’s at that time,” he explained to The Southern Gazette on Thursday, Oct. 25, “so we took a boat.”
After departing from St. John’s, Bennett and the other soldiers with the Newfoundland Heavy Artillery Regiment spent much of its time on the southern shores of England, protecting the coastline, before the invasion in 1944.
“I spent a month in Normandy — just bombing — there wasn’t a brick left standing,” explained Bennett, “then we started moving all the way up through the coast.”
Bennett said he is not sure of the exact dates that he was overseas.
“It’s not like a tourist saying when you’re going, saying, ‘Well, I’ll be there till a certain date.’”
Bennett can still recall his first winter in the Netherlands.
“I was in a slit trench all through the winter of 1944-45 until the spring,” he said. “Half the army must have gone to the hospital. I had a sort of heavy flu…but I didn’t go to the hospital.”
He compared the weather to that of what you would find in Canada.
“It was a pretty severe winter.”
Bennett also recalled another soldier from the Burin Peninsula by the name of Stan St. Croix who shared the trench with him.
“He used to jump outside (the trench) and swing his arms back and forth (to warm up).”
Bennett took on various roles while in the service — he was a gunner, a radio operator, and even volunteered to be dropped into the frontlines to transmit back to base.
“So I put the application in and waited two-weeks and nobody ever came back, so I went up to the officer and said, ‘What happened?’ ‘Oh’, he said, ‘I tore it up and threw it away’, he said. ‘You stupid…you’d automatically get killed there.’”
Bennett recalls he was outside Hamburg, Germany when he got news that the war had ended. He remained there for an additional three months before making his way home to Newfoundland.
“My parents met me in Marystown,” he explained.
Bennett said his mother waited in the car, and it was his father met him when he got off the boat.
“She (my mother) turned her back because she thought I would not be there, cause I had not sent a message or anything to say I was coming home,” he said.
He added his mother was crying until she saw that he had made it back.
Following his return from the war Bennett moved to Toronto to further his education. Sometime after graduation he gained employment at AVRO aircraft where he worked on the AVRO Arrow jet fighter.
During his time with the company he spent two winters in California to help with testing of the Arrow. The project was eventually cancelled and Bennett moved to Santa Monica and started working for AMPEX Corp. in their computer products division from 1962-2016 where he advanced to vice-president and general manager.
Bennett was instrumental in developing the company’s factory in Hong Kong, noting “my expertise was forming factory’s in the far east.”