Robert Bentley was born in Poplar, London in 1873. At the age of 18, he joined the Royal Dragoon Guards. He served for several years and then left to join the City of London Police. Upon the outbreak of the Boer War, he rejoined the army reserves on active service. He served at Spion Kop and on the Tugela River and was present at the relief of Ladysmith.
Upon Bentley’s discharge from the Army, he rejoined the City of London Police where he became one of the youngest officers ever promoted to the rank of Police Sergeant.
Robert married Louisa Jane Goddard on 16th December 1901. They had one child, Kathleen Ellen, born c 1904, and by December 1910, his wife was heavily pregnant with their second.
On 16th of that month, his 9th wedding anniversary, PS Bentley was shot at Houndsditch in the City of London during a burglary gone-wrong, and died from his injuries the following evening at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. He was one of three City of London Police officers murdered during the incident. Two other City officers were severely wounded by gunfire.
Louisa gave birth to a boy a few days after his father’s death. Christened Robert Eric Alfred Bentley, he died aged only 3 from diphtheria.
Bentley was posthumously awarded the King’s Police Medal for Gallantry.
The following article was carried in a Folkestone newspaper on 24thDecember 1910:
‘The shock of horror throughout the land by the murder of the three police officers in Houndsditch was accentuated in Folkestone when it was announced that Sergeant Bentley was one of the victims. The deceased was well known locally, particularly in Foord.
Sergeant Bentley was at one time in the 1st Dragoons, being with that regiment when it was stationed at Shorncliffe seven or eight years ago. He formed one of the escort that attended the German Emperor (Hon. Colonel of the 1st Royals) on the occasion of His Majesty’s visit of inspection at Shorncliffe in 1902.
The Sergeant married Miss Louisa Goddard, the second daughter of Mrs (Charlotte) Goddard, of Foord road, at St John’s Church, on 16th December 1901.
On receipt of the telegram, on Saturday last, Mrs Goddard at once proceeded to her grief stricken daughter in London, and still remains there.
By tragic coincidence Serg. Bentley was murdered on the anniversary of his wedding day. More pathetic still is the fact that his bereaved wife gave birth to a baby boy on Wednesday last. We are pleased to state that both mother and son are doing well.
Whenever he was granted a few days leave the late sergeant would run down to visit his wife’s relatives in their little cottage at Foord, and many there are in this quarter who will miss a presence that was always welcome. It goes without saying that the heart of the whole town goes out in sympathy to Mrs Bentley in the cruel bereavement which has suddenly fallen upon her family.
Serg. Bentley with Serg. Tucker and Constable Choate was buried with highest honours at Ilford Cemetery on Thursday. First a service was held at St Paul’s Cathedral, this being the first time in history that that sacred edifice has been used for a public service of mourning for the loss of public servants holding merely the rank of the civil Police. A representative of the King occupied His Majesty’s stall in the choir, and many dignitaries were present.
Mrs Bentley and family wish to convey to all friends in Folkestone and district who sent flowers in memory of the late Sergeant Bentley heartfelt thanks. They feel it impossible to separately acknowledge the many tokens of respect, but trust the senders will accept this acknowledgement’.