While I was taking these photos yesterday, in Hexham, Northumberland, a local told me that the local council want to relocate the statue and to move the gates back so as to improve the traffic flow. I suppose if that happens the statue will go inside the park.
TO THE MEMORY OF A GALLANT SOLDIER
GEORGE ELLIOTT BENSON
IN THE ROYAL REGIMENT OF ARTILLERY
WHO WAS BORN AT ALLERWASH MAY 24TH 1861
ENTERED THE ARMY MAY 19TH 1880
AND AFTER SERVING WITH DISTINCTION
IN THE SOUDAN CAMPAIGNS OF 1885, 1896, 1898,
IN THE ASHANTI EXPEDITION 1895
AND IN THE SOUTH AFRICAN WAR 1899-1901
FELL WHILE COMMANDING HIS COLUMN
AT THE BATTLE OF BRAKENLAAGTE OCT. 30TH 1901.
HE IS BURIED WITH THOSE WHO FOUGHT
AND DIED WITH HIM
"THE UNRETURNING BRAVE"
ERECTED BY PUBLIC SUBSCRIPTION
"A dramatically posed commemorative statue. The uniformed figure of Benson is depicted wearing riding breeches and spurs striding forward, right hand holding binoculars, left hand on waist, his 'attitude...one of eager watchfulness'. The stone pedestal has a gently curved dado and simple entablature.
Almost as soon as news arrived in Hexham of Benson's death, a memorial committee and public subscription were established. The site was selected in March 1902 and the distinguished London sculptor, John Tweed was chosen in August 1902. Originally it was planned that the monument should face north towards Market Place, but in March 1903 Tweed persuaded the committee that it would be more satisfactory facing south towards the sun. On 11th March 1904 the monument was unveiled by Benson's old commander, General Lord Methuen, with a large crowd watching. According to the sculptor's biographer, the committee considered themselves very lucky to have got the work, which was greatly admired, for £840 instead of the £2,000 quoted, and passed a resolution conveying to the sculptor their gratitude, noting that not only had he entered into the work 'heart and soul' but also, interestingly, that he had been advised and assisted by his old mentor, the great French sculptor, Rodin. By 1973, the disadvantages of the monument's hemmed-in, traffic-bound site and, in particular, the south orientation had become all too evident and plans were drawn up to re-erect it in nearby Abbey Gardens. These though came to nothing.
Colonel Benson (1861-1901) was the youngest son of William Benson of a local landed gentry family. As the inscription states, he saw action in various imperial campaigns before distinguishing himself as a clever and bold commander in South Africa. In the action at Bakenlaagte (this is the usual spelling) in the Eastern Transvaal where he met his death, his column was out-manoeuvred by a numerically superior Boer force. More than a quarter of his men were killed and over a third wounded. It has been claimed that Benson himself fell victim to a sniper's bullet when the sun glinted on his binoculars, which, if true, would lend a certain irony to the way the figure in Tweed's statue is presented holding a pair of binoculars. The official history of the South African War, however, is emphatic that the column fought an heroic rear-guard action and Benson himself was especially brave, 'crawling from point to point in the firing line encouraging all around him with a splendid example of coolness and courage', although badly wounded in the knee. 'When the whole tendency of British military policy was to sacrifice enterprise to organisation, he showed an example of fearless initiative. He sought risks with an ardour and obstinacy which were at once his best safeguard and his final justification."
- the link no longer works.
THE BENSON MEMORIAL.
LORD METHUEN'S TRIBUTE.
The inhabitants of Hexham yesterday united to do honour to the memory of Col. G. Elliott Benson, R.A., who died in action at Brakenlaagte, South Africa, in October, 1901. Shops were closed, and an immense concourse assembled round the fine statue which has been erected by public subscription. Lieut.-General Lord Methuen, who performed the unveiling ceremony, was escorted to the statue by a guard of the Northumberland Fusiliers (Volunteers) and the Imperial Yeomanry.
Col. Coulson welcomed the General, and in paying tribute to the dead colonel, said that while Lord Methuen would speak of him from the General's point of view, they might like to hear an extract from a drummer boy's letter. It read - "Colonel Benson was a proper fighting man. He was very good to his troops, and has done splendid work in this war." "Yes," added Col. Coulson, "he was not only brave, but was noble-minded and considerate."
Lord Methuen, after unveiling the statue, remarked that he knew no one in So. Africa who showed greater courage or possessed a gentler heart. He also paid a tribute to the work of the Yeomen and Volunteers of Northumberland, and made a special reference to the men of the Northumberland Fusiliers.
Col. Benson, who took part in the 1885 Soudan campaign, the Ashanti expedition, and Kitchener's Dongola foray, is represented by the monument as standing in an attitude of watchfulness with a pair of field glasses in his hand. The statue is the work of Mr John Tweed, of Chelsea.
The Shields Daily Gazette, Thursday 10th March 1904
I was pushed for time so this is the only photo of the park's interior I took, showing Hexham's Great War memorial (with WW2 names added later).
The following user(s) said Thank You: djb, Brett Hendey, LinneyI
I admire Benson's work in South Africa very much. On our last visit my brother and I visited Baakenlaagte to see where the engagement took place. We also paid our respects at his second and final place of rest.
The announcement of the death of Col. Benson came as a painful surprise to the people of this district on Saturday morning last. The regret felt was all the more poignant that such a distinguished career should be brought to so premature a close. Colonel Benson was noted for his daring resourcefulness. One day when on the staff of Lord Methuen he went out reconnoitring with only a signaller and an orderly. Some two or three miles from his main force between four and five hundred Boers appeared suddenly on the line of advance, making their way up a kopje. Instantly Col. Benson and his two men made a dash and managed to reach the top of the eminence while the enemy was still patiently climbing the side. The Boers had got to 300 yards from the top when Colonel Benson suddenly appeared with the signaller energetically flashing messages on every hand, while the orderly soon emptied his bandolier, firing in every direction. the Colonel shouted loudly, "Come on, men. Give them cold steel." The result of the daring device was instantaneously successful. The Boers were seized with a panic and fled from the phantom army. Colonel Benson was asked by Lord Methuen on returning to camp whatever he was signalling for, as no one could understand him.