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D.C.M. Mystery - Lieut. James Benson, 32 Battalion A.I.F.


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James Benson was my great grandfather who was killed at Fromelles on 19 July, 1916. His body was identified in 2016 and reinterred in the Fromelles Pheasant Wood Cemetery. Prior to that, as he was considered missing, his name appeared on one of the panels at V.C. Corner Cemetery. That panel was inscribed "Lieutenant J. Benson D.C.M." The C.W.G.C. register book also had the same entry with the D.C.M. post nominal, and on checking their website earlier today - still does. He supposedly won the D.C.M. whilst serving in the Boer War as Trooper Jens Benson No.148, 3rd Queensland Mounted Infantry. His birth name was Jens Bengtsson - he had Scandanavian parents, but by the time of his enlistment in the A.I.F. he had completely anglicised his name to James Benson.

His new headstone in Pheasant Wood Cemetery however does not include the D.C.M. I have made numerous enquiries to the Australian Army, Australian War Memorial, C.W.G.C., Boer War websites and others and have never had a satisfactory answer to its non inclusion other than "can't find any record". I've been told that some U.K. records were lost during the bombing of WW2. Seems strange to me that D.C.M. appeared on the panel at V.C. Corner Cemetery for 100 years and yet now, it has been omitted from his new headstone.

Could it be that the then Imperial War Graves Commission got it wrong when the V.C. Corner Cemetery was constructed in 1920/21? A mix up of records? Wrong person? I would appreciate it if any members here could help solve this mystery as I am keen to have the D.C.M. post nominal added to his headstone if he had in fact been awarded with it.

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Chesterboy

It is a mystery, his enlistment paper does not show DCM, you would think that he would have mentioned at that time. 
 

in the war diary for the battalion, in the list of officers missing it does not show DCM behind his name
 

VC Corner was erected in 1920/21, so where did the DCM in the CWGC records come from, as the first mention of the DCM in his service records was from 1927 from his son 

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Thanks for your help Chesterboy - I've been down every rabbit hole imaginable trying to get to the bottom of this. There appears to be no record anywhere, so my gut feeling is the D.C.M. inscription on the wall at V.C. Corner Cemetery was probably a mistake. What confuses me though is the family's correspondence with the Army, wife in 1918, son in 1927 where they specifically mention a D.C.M. - so it seems they were aware of it. All very confusing.

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George Rayner

Having just read through his service record it is amazing that there does appear to be a family belief in the DCM and personally presented by Earl Roberts too which is a bit of specific detail from them.

 

Still ferreting about in the sources

 

George

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I would think that the CWGC got the DCM information from the AWM Roll of Honour circular that was completed by his wife in the 1920's

James Benson | Australian War Memorial (awm.gov.au)

Perhaps just taking her word for it...

Whether he actually received it or not (?), or perhaps was recommended, but overlooked (?) - they would probably want to see the actual citation these days!

 

 

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Thank you George, any help is much appreciated. I don't think they would have been the sort of people to make this up, so that's why there is an element of doubt in my mind. Lt. Benson's son (my great uncle) who wrote to the Australian Army in 1927 about the D.C.M. was a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Australian Navy during WW2. He had a distinguished naval career and was captain of H.M.A.S. Kiama.

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9 minutes ago, frev said:

I would think that the CWGC got the DCM information from the AWM Roll of Honour circular that was completed by his wife in the 1920's

James Benson | Australian War Memorial (awm.gov.au)

Perhaps just taking her word for it...

Whether he actually received it or not (?), or perhaps was recommended, but overlooked (?) - they would probably want to see the actual citation these days!

 

 

Thanks frev that's a good point you make about taking the wife's word for it - things were much simpler in those days. You're right, the authorities have told me that they won't add the D.C.M. to his headstone until they see definite proof. I don't think that's ever likely.

Hello Graeme - thanks for chasing that up and passing it on.

Regards,

Bruce

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Ivor Anderson

Have you been able to check this book? (I don't have a copy). Note: The 2nd edition has c.120 pages, the 1st only c.80.

 

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Edited by Ivor Anderson
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53 minutes ago, George Rayner said:

Thanks George,

Regards,

Bruce

33 minutes ago, GraemeClarke said:

Hi

 

He is NOT mentioned here

 

https://www.angloboerwar.com/medals-and-awards/british/241-dcm

 

Regards,

 

Graeme

Thanks Graeme - I've checked that site myself previously.

Regards,

Bruce

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9 minutes ago, frev said:

Thanks frev - I've checked that site myself some time ago. You'd think if the D.C.M. had been awarded it would have appeared there. I'm thinking the original inscription of the D.C.M. post nominal beside his name on the wall at V.C. Corner Cemetery was a mistake.

Regards,

Bruce

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1 hour ago, Ivor Anderson said:

Have you been able to check this book? (I don't have a copy). Note: The 2nd edition has c.120 pages, the 1st only c.80.

 

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Thanks Ivor - I'd say that this would be a definitive source of information which would prove it one way or the other. I'm in Australia, and don't have a copy either. I'll see if I can track down a copy on inter library loan. Very interesting that Volume 2 has an additional 40 pages than Volume 1. Must have been a lot of omissions in the first publication. Gives me some hope that records may have been a bit dodgy.

Regards,

Bruce

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12 minutes ago, Ivor Anderson said:

I cannot find him listed in the London Gazette for 1901-02, although others are under 'Colonial Forces' listings as 'Queensland Contingent' (e.g.):

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/27359/page/6329

The LG of 31 Oct 1902 (p.6909) has some 'Queensland Contingents' listed for DCMs too.

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Thanks again Ivor, I've had no luck with the London Gazette either. Just had another thought about the book on D.C.M. recipients - the Australian War Memorial will have a copy, so I'll email them and ask them to check it. They are very helpful to deal with and offer a great service.

Regards,

Bruce

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Ivor Anderson

Or a kind ebay seller might look it up for you! I've just sent a request to 2 of them - here's hoping! :)

26/39 extra pages in the 2nd edition seem to relate to SA 1899-1902.

 

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2 minutes ago, Ivor Anderson said:

Or a kind ebay seller might look it up for you! :) 26/39 extra pages in the 2nd edition seem to relate to SA 1899-1902.

 

An eBay seller - that's thinking outside the box Ivor! Interesting to see that the 2nd edition extra pages relate to the South African War. The Australian War Memorial will check it for me. I got them to investigate this about 10 years ago and they came up with nothing then. Maybe the additional pages in the new edition may have something. Regards, Bruce

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Ivor Anderson

This page from ebay shows the sort of detail included in the book. There is a Davidson from a Queensland unit on the left page:

s-l1600-16 copy.jpg

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Ivor Anderson

One kind 2nd Edition ebay seller replied to my Q:

Does this book include a Trooper Jens Benson No.148, 3rd Queensland Mounted Infantry under the South Africa/ Boer War?
with 'no, sorry'.

 

However, it is strange that his DCM was included on the memorial panel and in the CWGC register post WW1. 

Questions:

If his wife and son corresponded about the DCM in 1918 & 1927 they obviously believed he got a DCM. Jens/James must have been the source of that information - is there any indication that they ever actually sighted the medal?

Such an award may have been reported in a local newspaper. Why was his named photo in the The Queenslander, 3 March 1900, p. 407?

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:StateLibQld_2_118692_Jens_Benson,_member_of_the_third_Queensland_Contingent_to_the_Boer_War.jpg

Could it be that he received a different medal, or (as prev. stated) was he recommended for one? 

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Edited by Ivor Anderson
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travers61

The photo on wikimedia  from the Queenslander of 3 March 1900 is part of a much larger article about the 3rd Queensland Contingent going overseas & has photos of many of the contingent. Jens is listed as 148 in the rank and file as single & address care of Mrs A Benson, Curtis Street, Bundaberg.

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/2518780

 

Jens Benson's photo(no 148)  is here:

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/2518779

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Ivor Anderson

Great links. They certainly did their leaving soldiers proud in 1900!

 

Another reply from an ebay seller of the pre-WW1 DCM book that I contacted:

"No-one of that name & regiment is included. There is a JT Benson of the East Yorks."

Edited by Ivor Anderson
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