Medical Officers of the Malta Garrison Benson Horace Claude
Colonel Horace Claude Benson
MB ChB (Ed 1928) 11 May 1902 [Ashover Derbyshire] – 13 Mar 1986 [Green Hammerton, nr York]
Colonel Horace Claude Benson was educated at Sedburgh and Edinburgh University where he served in the University of Edinburgh Officers Training Corps. He graduated MB ChB in 1928. After completing house appointments and locums as a general practitioner he was commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps in January 1929. He was a keen horseman, was a member of the York and Ainstey North Hunt and played polo during his service in Egypt, Malta and the Sudan.
He was serving in India on the outbreak of the Second World War from where he was sent to Malaya with 27 Indian Field Ambulance, which he had raised and was commanding. On 15 February 1942, he was captured by the Japanese on the fall of Singapore and imprisoned at Changi POW Camp Singapore. From 27 March 1944 to 23 March 1945, he was at No 2 Coolie (Labourer) Hospital (Dai Ni) at Kanchanaburi, (Kanburi) Thailand. The camp held from 1500 to 3000 civilian forced labourers who had been working on the Burma–Siam Railway. The coolies were brutally treated by the Japanese orderlies of 19th Ambulance Corps commanded by Major Kudo Hikosaku and known as the Kudo Unit. This unit was organised in March 1943 originally to transport patients from the railway construction zones to the Field Hospitals but its role expanded to take over the medical care of the Asian civilian labourers. Its man power was augmented by doctors and medical orderlies from the POW Camps.
Lt Col H C Benson was placed in medical charge of L Force POW Medical Party of 19th Ambulance Corps. He witnessed the brutality with which the labourers had been treated and after the war testified at the Allied War Crimes Prosecutions of Major Kudo Hikosaku and eleven co-accused of 19th Ambulance Corps.
Colonel Horace Claude Benson died suddenly on 13 March 1986 at his home in Green Hammerton, near York, where he was born and where his father had been the village general practitioner. He was 83 years. He was an efficient officer, popular with all ranks, and the welfare of his men and the well being of his corps always remained his first consideration.1 He was an Officer (Brother) of the Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem (OSt J 1957), and had been awarded the 1939–1945 Star, Pacific Star, Defence Medal, War Medal, and QE II Coronation Medal 1953.
Service Record — Horace Claude Benson
30 Jan 1929 Appointed Lieutenants on probation; was seconded under the provisions
of Article 205, Royal Warrant for Pay and Promotion 1926. He was confirmed in rank in September 1930.
1931–1936 Served in Egypt.
30 July 1932 Promoted Captain RAMC.
30 Jan 1939 Promoted Major RAMC.
1939–1941 Served in India.
1 Feb 1941 Granted rank of Acting Lieutenant Colonel RAMC.
1 May 1941 Granted rank of Temporary Lieutenant Colonel RAMC.
1941–1942 Commanding Officer 27 Indian Field Ambulance. Served in Malaya.
15 Feb 1942 Made a Prisoner of War (POW) on the fall of Singapore to Japan.
Aug 1943 Transferred from Changi POW Camp Singapore to Thailand, Was placed at several different POW camps.
27 Mar 1944–23 Mar 1945 Prisoner of War Camp No 2 Coolie (Labourer) Hospital (Dai Ni), Kanchanabri (Kanburi Thailand). In charge of L Force POW Medical Party of 19th Ambulance Corps. The other POW Medical Party was known as K Force. It was commanded by Major Robert Crawford, formerly medical officer of the Johore Volunteer Engineers who had also been captured by the Japanese on the fall of Singapore.
20 June 1946 Promoted Lieutenant Colonel RAMC. Commanding Officer 109 Military Convalescent Depôt Horton Manor Barracks Taunton.
1947–1950 Chief Instructor Training Wing Depôt and Training Establishment RAMC.
Played Polo for the RAMC team which won the Keyes Cup and for the GOC's team in the final of the Du Cane Cup. (Sir John Philip Du Cane had served as Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Malta from 1927 to 1931).
15 Aug 1952 Temporary Colonel L/RAMC. Commanding Officer Military Hospital York.
1 Jan 1953 Promoted Colonel L/RAMC.
1953–1954 Assistant Director of Medical Services HQ North West District.
July 1957 Appointed Officer (Brother) to the Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem.
22 Apr 1954–16 Feb 1958 Commandant Depôt and Training Establishment RAMC.
1958–1959 President Standing Medical Board Northern Command.
29 July 1959 Retired to retired pay with Reserve Liability. Retained on the Active List, Supernumerary to Establishment.
June 1960 Colonel H C Benson. having attained the age limit of liability to recall, ceased to belong to the Regular Army Reserve of Officers, but retained the rank of Colonel.
13 Mar 1986 Died suddenly at his home in Green Hammerton near York, aged 83 years.
Entry No: 1457. Drew R. 1968. Commissioned Offices in the Medical Services of the British Army 1690–1960. Vol. II. Roll of Officers in the Royal Army Medical Corps 1898–1960, London: Wellcome Historical Medical Library.
Succession Books Vol XXVII, Returns of statement of service of RAMC Officers.
1Obituary Br Med J (1986); 292: 1086 (Published 19 April 1986).
Totani Y., Justice in Asia and the Pacific Region 1945–1952, Allied War Crimes Prosecutions. Cambridge University Press 2015.