Bernard Joseph Benson   

 

Servicenumber : 205968
Rank : Chaplain 4th Class
Regiment : Royal Army Chaplains' Department
Unit : HQ 1st Airlanding Brigade
Date of Death : 27-09-1944
Age : 30
Grave : Plot 4. Row B. Grave 10
The Rev. Bernard Joseph Benson was a son of Henry and Bridget Benson of Shipley, Yorkshire. He trained to become a member of the Roman Catholic Society of Jesuits, before embarking on service with the Royal Army Chaplain's Department, gaining his commission on 17 October 1941. 
Benson landed by glider with 181 Airlanding Field Ambulance on 17 september 1944 at Wolfheze. He was filmed on 18 september by cameraman Gordon Walker in a MDS at Duitsekampweg 9 with one of 181st Field Ambulance's surgical teams. The same morning the MDS was moved to the Dutch mental hospital in Wolfheze, south of the railway. Around 1700hrs it was decided that 181 Airlanding Field Ambulance had to move to Oosterbeek. 
According to the book 'Red Berets and Red Crosses' (by Niall Cherry, page 108 & 109) Benson was in the Schoonoord Hotel, where the 181 Airlanding Field Ambulance had set up a dressing station, when he was wounded. A German self-propelled gun shot four rounds into the Schoonoord. The rounds went through the upstairs walls and it was believed that there were wounded upstairs. Lieutenant-Colonel Marrable asked for them to be moved downstairs. The chief clerk of 181 Airlanding Field Ambulance, Sergeant Ron Tiltman, was asked to do this. In the book it is written what Ron Tiltman remembered of the incident: "I recall Lt-Colonel Marrable saying to me 'If there are any injured lying in any of the upstairs rooms they are to be brought down at once'. I didn't know if there were any wounded in the upstairs rooms. There was only one way to find out, go and see. It has been claimed that as i was tearing up the staircase with Padre Benson hot on my heels, the ADMS and someone else shouted that the upstairs rooms had been cleared. I can only say that in the terrific din going on, i didn't hear them. Seconds later as we reached the landing, a shell came through the window and i received minor wounds all down the right side of my body and the Padre, whom i had come to know very well, had his right arm so badly mangled that it had to be amputated at once but he died two days later. 
According to the book 'The Torn Horizon (by Chris van Roekel, page 57) Captain C.A. Simmons operated on Benson early in the afternoon of the day he was injured. "He had to amputate the right arm at the elbow as it appeared to be completely shattered. Fr. Benson, by now in shock, received a massive blood-transfusion and was later evacuated to St Elisabeth's. Fr. McGowan tells of how he met him there and that he had the feeling that Benson seemed to be losing the will to live. Benson couldn't free himself from the thought that as a disabled priest he could no longer carry out his vocation as a Catholic priest. In particular, he was convinced he could no longer properly celebrate Mass with only one arm."
After Benson died he was buried by the Reverend Daniel McGowan in the grounds of the St. Elisabeth Hospital, beside Zwarteweg at Arnhem. 
Suscipiat dominus 
sacrificium de manibus meis
Rev. Benson with the surgical team at Duitsekampweg 9 on 18 september 1944.
Field grave of Rev. Benson near the St. Elisabeth Gasthuis, at the Zwarteweg at Arnhem. (left cross, without helmet)
The grave with helmet is that of Charles Frederick Best

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