Lt.Col. Bent’s fighting qualities, his proverbial coolness under fire and his great popularity with all ranks had inspired confidence and respect in the Battalion for three years. His guiding hand and figure at their head had come to be an accepted thing, especially in action.
(Beattie, 48th Highlanders of Canada, 1932, 333)
Born in Pugwash, Nova Scotia on 2 January 1880, Charles Edward Bent was a customs collector with seventeen years’ experience in the militia. He enlisted with the 17th Battalion at the rank of captain and led a reinforcing draft to the front after the 15th Battalion was decimated at Second Ypres. He was soon appointed second-in-command.
When a German sniper killed Lieutenant Colonel W. R. Marshall on 16 May 1916, Bent assumed command of the 15th. He was recalled to England at the end of December 1916 and awarded the Distinguished Service Order. He assumed temporary command of the 3rd Infantry Brigade from General Tuxford in February 1917 and resumed his position with the 15th Battalion after the battle of Vimy Ridge.
Bent called the successful capture and defence of Hill 70 in August 1917, “The greatest day in the history of the Regiment.” He further praised his men, “The mere fact that we have done our duty is enough. Really I almost feel like a piker when I say “we” because my part was the safety first part.” Despite Bent’s modesty, his battalion headquarters had nearly been overrun by a German patrol.
Seriously wounded by a shrapnel fragment to the neck on 8 August 1918, he was invalided to England and replaced by Major John Girvan. As the official unit history noted, “News of his wound ran through the Battalion causing regret and resentment.” By the armistice, Bent had won the D.S.O. and Bar and was six-times mentioned in dispatches.
When Bent led the 15th home to Toronto in May 1919, it was the first time he had stepped foot in the home city of the battalion. He stated, “I myself am a Nova Soctian, but it has been a pleasure and a privilege to be with and work with the gallant lads from Toronto.”
Bent returned to his farm in Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia. He died on 27 October 1955.
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