"To Keep in Memory"

Arthur Benson

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13002444 PRIVATE ARTHUR BENSON
50TH Auxiliary Military Company, Pioneer Corps.

Killed in Action aboard HMT Lancastria off the coast of St Nazaire, France. 17th June 1940.
Aged 45 years.

No known grave, therefore commemorated on the Dunkirk Memorial, Nord, France.  Column 149.

Pioneer_Corps_badge.JPG
The Badge of the Pioneer Corps

Arthur Benson was born in Morley in 1894. He was the son of William Henry and Emily Benson, William was a Mechanical Fitter and turner working in the textiles industry. Arthur's birth was registered in Dewsbury and his names on the birth certificate were Reynell Arthur Benson. He had a brother, George Albert (b.1900) and a sister, Hilda Elizabeth (b. 1903). In 1911 the family lived at 14 Oddfellow Street in Morely. The three children were all baptised on the same day in August 1905 at St Paul’s Church in Morley.

Arthur Benson served during the Great War of 1914 - 1918. He served as 185332 Gunner Reynell Arthur Benson, and was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal for his service.

On 20th September 1919, Arthur Benson married Ada Eveline Thorpe, the daughter of Railway Inspector, William Thorpe, in the Church of the Holy Spirit, Beeston Hill in Leeds. At the time he was still a soldier. Arthur’s brother and sister acted as witnesses to the marriage.
Arthur Benson was a victim of the worst Maritime disaster in British History. He was killed when the ship he was embarked on, HMT Lancastria, was sunk at sea off St Nazaire, France as it participated in Operation Ariel.

Arthur Benson's name of the Dunkirk Memorial
Arthur Benson's name of the Dunkirk Memorial

Operation Ariel was the evacuation of the Western ports of France over a period of 10 days in June 1940. During Operation Ariel, which came after Operation Dynamo, the more widely known evacuations from the beaches around Dunkirk, almost 200,000 men were rescued from Western France as the German Army advanced relentlessly and Allied resistance crumbled.

The Dunkirk Memorial
The Dunkirk Memorial

HMT Lancastria was formerly RMT Lancastria of the Cunard Line and had been requisitioned by the government for war service. He was one of an estimated 2,600 members of the Pioneer Corps aboard the ship. In total the ship was loaded with possibly more than 6,000 service personnel and French civilians when it was hit by four German bombs at around 3:45 in the afternoon. The bombs penetrated deep into the hold of the ship and ruptured the fuel oil tanks before exploding. The ship sank in a little more than twenty minutes and fewer than half those on board were saved. The official story of the sinking of the Lancastria is still shrouded in secrecy as it is subject to a D Notice under the Official Secrets Act. The secrecy was enforced to prevent news of the sinking affecting morale at home. The file on the Lancastria will stay closed until 2040.
I am grateful to Paul Barton for the information relating to Arthur Benson's Great War service.

The etched glass window in the Dunkirk Memorial building.
The etched glass window in the Dunkirk Memorial building.

Remembering the Fallen of Two Villages on the Eastern Fringes of Leeds.

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