Sir John Sterndale Bennett KCMG, MC
(1895 - 1969)

John Cecil Sterndale Bennett was born in Sheffield on 25th April 1895, the son of Cornelius Bennett of 85 Brunswick Street, Sheffield.

He attended the Pomona Street Council School and King Edward VII School in Sheffield from where he gained a Scholarship to St Catherine’s College Cambridge.  However his studies were interrupted by military service in the First World War after which he returned to complete an Honours Degree in Modern History.

His war service saw him in action in Egypt and later with the Royal Naval Divisions in the Dardanelles campaign where he won the Military Cross for bravery in the field.  This was followed by action on the Somme in 1917 where he was badly wounded.

In 1920 he entered the Diplomatic Service of the Foreign Office serving in Chile, Sweden, Peking, Turkey, Egypt, Singapore and Cyprus latterly as an Ambassador.  After a year on the staff of the Imperial Defence College he was appointed Deputy Commissioner General for South East Asia and in 1950 he transferred to the Middle East Office in Cairo.

He was appointed C.M.G in 1926 and was knighted  K.C.M.G. in 1950.

In 1926 at the Brompton Oratory he married Dorothy Mary, the elder daughter of Cyril Payne.  They had met when both were on the staff of Sir Austen Chamberlain involved in Post War Reparations in Geneva and Locarno. 

Sir John died in May 1969 at the age of 74 and his wife died in 1991.  They had no children.

It remains unclear whether or not he was actually related to the Victorian composer Sir William Sterndale Bennett (1816-75).  However he served in the RND with Commander Walter Sterndale Bennett DSO*, a grandson of the composer, and both are mentioned in the official history of the RND by Douglas Jerrold (Hutchinsons 1923). 

Both families certainly knew each other. In 1997 his niece in Switzerland gave Sir John’s knighthood insignia, medals, photographs and other papers to a descendant of the composer.

After his retirement from the Foreign Office, Sir John and Lady Dorothy lived at The Old Rectory, Netherfield, Nr Battle in Sussex, and after his death she lived with her sister Esther Baker at a nearby bungalow.  Both died within days of each other in 1991.

Barry Sterndale Bennett
c/o The Bodleian Library (Music section)
June 2008