1914-2014, Douglas Benham

Douglas Kirkpatrick Benham, buried in St Mary’s Orcheston

On 16the November the congregation and members of the British Legion gathered with the Rector, the Revd Eleanor Rance, and our area bishop, Bishop Edward Condry, for a brief commemoration of Douglas Kirkpatrick Benham, who lies is buried in the churchyard at St Mary’s, Orcheston under a most distinctive headstone. His name also appears on the Old Manorians’ memorial, in Clapham south London.

He was the son of John, 1830-1899, and Mary Sophia Benham, 1838-1906, being born 14 August 1880 at Clapham.

He may have attended University College School in Hastings as a boarder, as his two brothers did. He certainly attended the University of London and its War List shows him as having matriculated but it is not known what subject he took. Apparently he left before taking his exams

Douglas arrived in Canada on 4 May 1912 on the ship Laurentic and later resided in Vancouver, British Columbia.

He enlisted as a private in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 23 September 23, 1914, at Valcartier, Québec, in either the Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment), 16th Battalion, or the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada (it is variously stated). His service number was 28958 and he his attestation papers give his trade as ‘gentleman’ and his next of kin as ‘L A Benham.’ He was described as being 6ft tall, chest 38in, with a dark complexion, hazel eyes, and dark hair, and of the Church of England.

He died of heart failure at West Down South Camp, on Salisbury Plain on either 15 or 16 November 1914 (again, it is variously given), aged 34. His father had predeceased him.

In his will he left £4750 0s 2d (£470,000 in 2013 terms) to Stanley John Benham, gentleman, his brother.

Anne Gretton, Douglas Kirkpatrick Benham’s great-niece, wrote: ‘Douglas Kirkpatrick Benham was born in 1880, sixth and youngest child of John Benham, manufacturing ironmonger of Benham & Sons, Wigmore Street, London W1, and Mary Sophia nee Davis. The family lived at Lymington House, Loats Road, Clapham. They were a non-conformist family who were very involved with the Baptist Chapel in Bloomsbury but later worshipped in the Congregational Church in Clapham.

He was still living at home in the 1901 Census, described as an articled account clerk. We heard stories of him throwing all his letters overboard while crossing the Atlantic! In the 1911 Census, I have found him in Vancouver lodging with a family. He must have joined the Canadian Army shortly after that.

I was told that he was the black sheep of the family as he appears to have drifted and not matched up to his clever, cultured and high-achieving siblings. I have one photo of him in a family group photo in 1890 on the steps of Lymington House, probably his parents’ silver wedding. He looked rather a sweet little boy of 10.’

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