Benson, Eric William


He was the only son of Sir Frank Benson (A, 1871-1877) the distinguished actor and manager who lived at The Langtons, Alresford, and his wife Gertrude Constance Cockburn, only daughter of Captain Morshead Samwell, also of Alresford. He came to Winchester from Mr. W.R. Lee’s school at Forest Row, Sussex. He joined Chernocke House and was appointed a House Prefect in 1905 where his Head of House was the future politician, Stafford Cripps. He took an active role in the life of his House, playing in O.T.H. VI and Association XI. When he left Winchester he went to Magdalen College, Oxford to read Classics.

After Oxford he joined the Foreign Service and was dispatched to India. He served for a time after leaving school in the Jersey Militia, from which he was afterwards transferred with a commission to the Cheshire Regiment. With them he spent four years in India; and captained the regimental hockey team when they won the Calcutta Cup at Bombay. He retired from the army just before the war broke out, and in August 1914 applied for and was granted a commission in the Rifle Brigade.

Later he was transferred to the 9th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps and served with them to his death. He was wounded at Hooge in the Ypres Salient on 30th July 1915, when his regiment launched a counter-attack to retake some trenches lost to the Germans in the first ever flame-thrower attack. Several Wykehamists died in this action, including Lieutenant Roger Watson of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps (see individual entry). He was awarded the M.C. for his role that day and mentioned in Despatches, eventually rising to command his battalion. He had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel by the time of his death. He was killed at the head of his men by machine gun fire at Delville Wood during the attack of September 15th 1916.

He was not the only Wykehamist to die that day on the Somme: ten others were killed or mortally wounded, including Captain Arthur Innes Adam (Coll.1907-1912, 1/1st Cambridgeshire Regiment); Lieutenant Raymond Asquith (Coll.1892-1897, 3rd Grenadier Guards), the son of the Prime Minister; Major Charles Blair-Wilson (I1908-1913, 42nd Canadian Infantry); Lieutenant George Macpherson (I1909-1915, Heavy Section – Tanks – Machine Gun Corps); Lieutenant Warine Frederick Martindale (B1907-1912, 1st Scots Guards); Captain Desmond Clere Parsons (E1903-1908, 2nd Irish Guards); Lance Corporal 73832 Henry Mark Ruddock (H1908-1913, 28th Canadian Infantry); 2nd Lieutenant Evelyn Godfrey Worsley (A1898-1903, 3rd Grenadier Guards); 2nd Lieutenant Geoffrey Wilfrid Penfold Wyatt (D1909-1915, 1st East Kent Regiment); and Lieutenant Raymond Gilbert Hooker Yeatherd (F1904-1908, 2nd Dragoon Guards).

On 17th June 1916 he married Muriel Anna Taylor, daughter of Richard Taylor. Less than three months later he was dead.

War: World War 1

  • Surname: Benson
  • Forenames or initials: Eric William
  • House: A
  • Years in School: 1901-1906
  • Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
  • Regiment: King's Royal Rifle Corps
  • Date of Birth: 8th May 1887
  • Date of Death: 15th September 1916
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Outer B6
  • Decoration: MC
  • Burial Site: Unknown but commmorated on the THIEPVAL MEMORIAL: Pier and Face 13 A and 13 B