Benjamin Norton Ager was born at Portland in December 1886. He was the eldest surviving son of William Norton Ager of Northampton, a school teacher, and Mary Ager of Uttoxeter. In 1901 the family was living in Bunwell, Norfolk, where William taught at Bunwell School, and where he later became Head Teacher. Benjamin and two of his sisters all entered into the family profession of teaching, with Benjamin working first as an assistant teacher for the Norfolk County Council at Bunwell School, under his father, in 1911. He first trained for a professional qualification at Culham College, Oxford. With the outbreak of war he and six other Culham students were transferred to Bede College at Durham as part of a concentration scheme.
On 15 January 1916 Ager enlisted as a Private with the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment in March 1916. He gave his home address on his attestation form as Station Road in Dersingham, Norfolk, and his occupation as a teacher. His father had died in November 1914, and so his mother is named as his next of kin. She, and his three sisters, were then resident in Norwich. He was mobilized on 2 March 1916.
In October 1916, he was transferred to the 22nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment which was stationed in France near Bertrancourt. On the morning of 11 January, 1917, the 22nd Battalion launched an attack to capture an enemy trench. Conditions were favourable, and the attack successful. “The assault was carried out in a thick mist, under a heavy barrage. …the attacking troops reached Munich Trench before the enemy emerged from their dug-outs. The battalion captured the enemy’s position… Three officers, 130 men, and four machine guns were captured.” War Diary of 22nd Battalion Manchester Regiment, 11 January 1917. (Ref: TNA WO/95/1669/1-5 p.201). As they worked to secure the captured trench, however, the battalion came under fire by enemy snipers located in shell-holes to the east of the trench. Despite the success of the mission, Ager was reported first as missing, and then, later the same day, as killed in action.
Benjamin Ager is buried at the Frankfurt Trench British Cemetery in Beaumont-Hamel. A pipe, a tobacco pouch, a cigarette holder, a photo wallet, a diary, a penknife, and photos and letters were later returned by the Army to his mother. He is commemorated on the Bede College 1914-1918 Cross, Plaque, and Roll of Honour, as well as the Norfolk Teachers’ War Memorial, and the Bunwell St Michael’s Memorial Plaque.