James Bennett was born on the 3rd July 1886 in Dunfermline, Fife, eldest son of four brothers to David Bennett, Master Grocer and Spirit Merchant, and Margaret Bennett (née Houston). The family were living in Saline, Fife, in the early 1900s.
After leaving school, James trained with a local Architect, John Houston of Dunfermline, from 1903 to 1907. He then studied at the Glasgow School of Architecture from session 1907/08 to 1910/11, attending classes at both the School of Art and the Technical College.
The Technical College student registers reveal that James took a combination of day and evening classes during his five years there. These included Descriptive Geometry, Mechanics Lectures, Stereotomy, Builders' Quantities, Mechanics of Structures, Chemistry, Geology and Physics, as well as various classes in Architecture. During his studies he also worked as an assistant in the firm of Miller & Black in Renfield Street, Glasgow, for a year. He achieved first-class certificates of merit for most of his subjects, and in his final year was a senior medallist in Design.
James qualified for the Senior Certificate of the Glasgow School of Architecture in May 1911, and became assistant to William Cowie, architect in Ayr. That same year, he was awarded the triennial Alexander Thomson Travelling Studentship, which had been set up by the Glasgow Institute of Architects following the death of famed Glasgow architect Alexander "Greek" Thomson. Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a previous recipient of this studentship, in 1890.
On his return from travelling in Italy and France, James joined the firm of John Burnet and Son as an architectural draughtsman. Sir John James Burnet was responsible for designing several buildings at the University of Glasgow, including the Memorial Chapel and the James Watt Building. James passed the examination for admission as an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects (ARIBA) in late 1915, following sponsorship by John Burnet and two fellow architects, Alexander Nisbet Paterson and John Watson. However, war service then brought his promising career to a halt.
James joined the Officers Training Corps at the University of Glasgow in session 1915-1916. He enlisted in the Queen's Own Rifles, Glasgow Yeomanry, before receiving a temporary commission with the 129th Field Company Royal Engineers in October 1916.
2nd Lieutenant James Bennett was killed in action in France on the 28th November 1916, aged 30. He is buried in the Maroc British Cemetery in Grenay, north of Arras. He was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.
As well as appearing on the Glasgow School of Art Roll of Honour, James is commemorated on the University of Glasgow memorial, the RIBA war memorial and on the Roll of Honour of the Royal Technical College. He is also named on the Saline war memorial in Fife, and on his parents' headstone in Saline cemetery. The house in Saline where James grew up, originally called 'Hillview,' was renamed 'Maroc' after the cemetery where he is buried, in remembrance of him. Also appears on the Glasgow Institute of Architects Roll of Honour (Student).
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Sources: Dictionary of Scottish Architects http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk; The Glasgow Institute of Architects gia.org.uk/about; The University of Glasgow Story universitystory.gla.ac.uk/; The Scottish War Memorials Project warmemscot.s4.bizhat.com/warmemscot.html; The Scottish War Graves Project scottishwargraves.phpbbweb.com/scottishwargraves.html; Saline, Steelend & Communities http://www.salinesteelend.org/; Commonwealth War Graves Commission - Debt of Honour Register http://www.cwgc.org/; RIBA Information Centre