Arthur Benson

Arthur Benson

13002444 Private Arthur Benson,
50th Auxiliary Military Company, Pioneer Corps

The Dunkirk Memorial

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.

On 20th September 1919, Arthur Benson married Ada Evelyn Thorp, the daughter of Railway Inspector, William Thorp, 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.

RMT Lancastria sinking (© IWM HU 3323)

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. 

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. 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 bombed by German aircraft. 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 is due to stay closed until 2040.

I am grateful to Paul Barton for providing Arthur Benson's full name.