James BENSON

Poppy

BENSON, James

Service Numbers: 148, 1
Enlisted: 5 July 1915, Keswick, South Australia
Last Rank: Second Lieutenant
Last Unit: 32nd Infantry Battalion
Born: Bundaberg, Queensland, 7 May 1879
Home Town: Cheltenham, Port Adelaide Enfield, South Australia
Schooling: Brisbane Grammar School
Occupation: Linesman
Died: Killed in action, Fromelles, France, 20 July 1916, aged 37 years
Cemetery: Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery
Originally having no known grave his name is memorialised on the Memorial to the Missing at VC Corner Australian Cemetery. However, in 2016 his body was identified, through DNA as having being buried in the Pheasant Wood mass grave site. His body is now interned in Pheasant Wood (Fromelles) Military Cemetery.
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, National War Memorial (South Australia)
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Boer War Service

1 Feb 1900: Involvement Australian and Colonial Military Forces (Boer War / Boxer Rebellion), Private, SN 148, 3rd Queensland Mounted Infantry

World War 1 Service

5 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 1, Keswick, South Australia
18 Nov 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Company Sergeant Major, SN 1, 32nd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Geelong, Adelaide
18 Nov 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Company Sergeant Major, SN 1, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
12 Feb 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 32nd Infantry Battalion
19 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Fromelles (Fleurbaix)
20 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Fromelles (Fleurbaix)

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Biography

Born, Jens Peter Bengtsen on the 7th of May 1879 he was the son of Neil Peter Benson of Bundaberg.

Originally hailing from Bundaberg in Queensland, James Benson saw 1 and a half years’ service in the Boer War (under the name Jens Peter Benson) with the Queensland Mounted Rifles as part of the 3rd Queensland Contingent. Although his wife, Mrs Florence Lilian Benson (nee Moor-Martin), suggests that James was awarded the DCM (Distinguished Conduct Medal) during the conflict there is no official report to support this claim.

After returning from South Africa he moved to Cheltenham in South Australia where he became a linesman. He enlisted on the 5th of July 1915 with the service number 1, suggesting that he was at the start of the line when he enlisted at Keswick Barracks. Thus, with the service number 1 he was also one of the first men to be transferred to the newly formed 32nd Battalion - a blended SA/WA Battalion. 

He embarked with the rank of Company Sergeant Major (CSM) with A Company of the 32nd Battalion from Outer Harbour on the 18th of November 1915 aboard HMAT Geelong (A2) bound for the Suez. Upon arrival in Egypt (the Gallipoli campaign all but over) the Battalion trained readying themselves for service on the Western Front. James Benson was commissioned in the field to the rank of Second Lieutenant (2nd Lt) on 12 March 1916.

The Battalion soon relocated to the Western Front in France during June 1916 and almost straight away was thrown into battle even though they were untested in Western Front conditions. The battle was at Fromelles and started before sun down on the 19th of July 1916. It ended the next day with Australian forces suffering very heavy losses. 2nd Lt Benson was originally only reported missing in action at the Battle of Fromelles on 20 July 1916, like most men who fought in the stunt. He was subsequently determined to have been killed in action during the battle. His body was never recovered (and if it was, was never identified) and thus James Benson has no known grave and is commemorated on the VC Corner Australian Cemetery Memorial, Fromelles, France. He was aged 37 years.

Although reports in 2nd Lt. James Benson's Red Cross Wounded and Missing File are mixed two theories emerge about his fate. The first suggest that as soon as he leapt up onto the parapet to begin the charge he was killed instantly by enemy rifle or machine gun fire. The second theory is that he led his platoon forward towards the 1st German Trench when he was wounded in both hands (maybe just his right hand?) After midnight he left to cross No Man's Land to get his hands dressed, however, due to the very heavy German artillery fire concentrated on No Man's Land he was killed. Out of the two main theories that come through his file the second account seems to be supported the most, however, there is no way in positively knowing.     

1914/15 Star: 25680

British War Medal: 24742

Victory Medal: 24575

Memorial Plaque: 357049

 

Nathan Rohrlach, March 2015.

 

Addendum, May 2016: Lieutenant James Benson has been identified as one of the bodies buried in a mass grave in Pheasant Wood, near Fromelles through DNA analysis undertaken in the Fromelles Project by the Unrecovered War Casualties - Army investigative unit.

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