William Gordon Benn, RN

Born  31 Jan 1889
Died  23 Feb 1962(73)


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Ranks

30 Jun 1905 Mid.
30 Aug 1908 S.Lt.
28 Feb 1910 Lt.
28 Feb 1918 Lt.Cdr.
30 Jun 1923 Cdr.
30 Jun 1931 Capt.
8 Jul 1941 Rear-Admiral

Retired: 5 Mar 1946


Decorations

17 May 1918 Mentioned in Despatches (MID)

Warship Commands listed for William Gordon Benn, RN


ShipRankTypeFromTo
HMS Royal Oak (08)Capt.Battleship7 Jul 193914 Oct 1939
HMS Fiji (58)Capt.Light cruiser28 Dec 19397 Oct 1940

Career information

We currently have no career / biographical information on this officer.

Events related to this officer

Battleship HMS Royal Oak (08)


4 Sep 1939
The battleships HMS Royal Oak (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) and HMS Royal Sovereign (Capt. L.V. Morgan, CBE, MVO, DSC, RN) both departed Scapa Flow to patrol to the east of the Fair Isle Channel. They were escorted by the destroyers HMS Broke (Capt. R. Kerr, RN), HMS Wanderer (Cdr. R.F. Morice, RN) and HMS Whitehall (Lt.Cdr. A.B. Russell, RN). They were joined at sea early in the afternoon of the 6th by three more destroyers; HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN) and HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN).

4 Sep 1939 (position 0.00, 0.00)
For the daily positions of HMS Royal Oak during the period of 4 September 1939 to 6 September 1939 see the map below.

(1)

6 Sep 1939
Late in the afternoon the battleships HMS Royal Oak (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) and HMS Royal Sovereign (Capt. L.V. Morgan, CBE, MVO, DSC, RN) and their escorting destroyers; HMS Broke (Capt. R. Kerr, RN), HMS Wanderer (Cdr. R.F. Morice, RN) and HMS Whitehall (Lt.Cdr. A.B. Russell, RN), HMS Foresight (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Lambert, RN), HMS Forester (Lt.Cdr. E.B. Tancock, RN) and HMS Fury (Cdr. G.F. Burghard, RN) returned to Scapa Flow from their patrol to the east of the Fair Isle Channel.

11 Sep 1939 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Royal Oak (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) conducted gunnery exercises at Scapa Flow. (1)

15 Sep 1939 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Royal Oak (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) conducted gunnery exercises at Scapa Flow. (1)

20 Sep 1939 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Royal Oak (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) conducted gunnery exercises at Scapa Flow. (1)

9 Oct 1939
HMS Royal Oak (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.E.C. Blagrove, RN) departed Scapa Flow to patrol to the west of the Fair Isle Channel. She was escorted by the destroyers HMS Matabele (Cdr. G.K. Whitmy-Smith, RN) and HMS Sturdy (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Cooper, RN).

10 Oct 1939
In very heavy seas, HMS Royal Oak (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.E.C. Blagrove, RN), had lost touch with her escorting destroyers HMS Matabele (Cdr. G.K. Whitmy-Smith, RN) and HMS Sturdy (Lt.Cdr. G.T. Cooper, RN). Course was therefore set to return to Scapa Flow.

11 Oct 1939
HMS Royal Oak (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.E.C. Blagrove, RN) arrived back at Scapa Flow. Anchor was dropped in the north-east corner of the Flow close to the seaplane tender HMS Pegasus (Cdr.(Retd.) H.E. Seaman, RN).

14 Oct 1939
At 0116 hours on 14 October 1939 the German submarine U-47 fired a spread of three torpedoes at HMS Royal Oak (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H.E.C. Blagrove, RN) and the British seaplane tender HMS Pegasus (Cdr.(Retd.) H.E. Seaman, RN) lying at anchor in the harbour of Scapa Flow, then turned around and fired a stern torpedo at 0121 hours. Prien claimed a hit on the seaplane tender, misidentified as HMS Repulse, but one of the torpedoes apparently hit the starboard anchor chain of HMS Royal Oak and both targets were undamaged.

At 0123 hours, the U-boat fired a second spread of three torpedoes of which two hit HMS Royal Oak on the starboard side and caused a magazine to blow up. The battleship rolled over and sank in 19 minutes. 833 of the crew were killed. 386 of the 420 survivors, including the Commanding Officer, were rescued by the drifter HMS Daisy II (Skr. John Gatt) which had been alongside as tender.


Light cruiser HMS Fiji (58)


2 Apr 1940
At 0900 hours, HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN), was commissioned at Rothesay Dock, Clydebank. (2)

3 Apr 1940
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) shifted from Rothesay Dock, Clydebank to Tail of Bank. Also anchor and steering trials were carried out. (2)

11 Apr 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) carried out gunnery trials in the Clyde area during which she was escorted by HMS Walker (Lt.Cdr. A.A. Tait, RN) and HMS Wanderer (Cdr. R.F. Morice, RN). (2)

14 Apr 1940
While they were both at anchor off Tail of Bank, HMS Derbyshire (Capt.(Retd.) E.A.B. Stanley, DSO, RN) dragged her anchor and hit HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN). No serious damage was sustained by both ships.

HMS Fiji returned to her builders yard the next day. (2)

27 Apr 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) conducted gunnery trials in the Clyde area. (2)

30 Apr 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) conducted full power trials in the Clyde area. (2)

5 May 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) conducted trials in the Clyde area. (3)

17 May 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) conducted trials in the Clyde area. (3)

20 May 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) conducted trials in the Clyde area. (3)

22 May 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) conducted gunnery trials in the Clyde area. (3)

25 May 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) conducted gunnery trials in the Clyde area. (3)

27 May 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) conducted trials in the Clyde area. She also ran over the D.G. range. (3)

29 May 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) conducted gunnery trials in the Clyde area. (3)

3 Jun 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) conducted gunnery trials in the Clyde area. (4)

4 Jun 1940
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) departed the Clyde to work-up on the West Indies Station. (4)

10 Jun 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) arrived at Bermuda. (4)

11 Jun 1940
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) departed Bermuda to patrol in the Florida Straits. This patrol was due to Italy having declared war on Great Britain and the purpose of the patrol was to intercept Italian merchant vessels that were trying to leave the Caribbean. (5)

17 Jun 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) returned to Bermuda. (5)

23 Jun 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) conducted gunnery exercises off Bermuda. (4)

24 Jun 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) departed Bermuda, being ordered by the Admiralty to patrol off Martinique to watch French warships. (5)

28 Jun 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) put into Martinique. (4)

29 Jun 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) departed Martinique for St.Lucia. (4)

30 Jun 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) arrived at St.Lucia where she was oiled. After completing oiling she returned to Martinique. (4)

3 Jul 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) departed Martinique to patrol off that Island. She had to leave port as the British were about to attack the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir. (6)

7 Jul 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) arrived at St.Lucia where she was oiled by the RFA tanker Bishopdale (8406 GRT, built 1937, master G.F. Rutter). (7)

9 Jul 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) departed St.Lucia to patrol off Martinique. (7)

13 Jul 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) is ordered to proceed to Bermuda with all despatch. (6)

15 Jul 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) arrived at Bermuda. (7)

16 Jul 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
Having both completed working up on the West Indies Station, HMS Illustrious (Capt. D.W. Boyd, DSC, RN) and HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) departed Bermuda for the Clyde. (6)

22 Jul 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
Around 1700 hours HMS Illustrious (Capt. D.W. Boyd, DSC, RN) and HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) met their destroyer screen that was to escort them for the final part of the voyage to the Clyde. This destroyer screen was made up of HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, RN), HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) and HMS Watchman (Lt.Cdr. E.C.L. Day, RN).

Around 2100 hours that evening HMS Diana hit a whale and had her Asdic dome damaged and out of action. Also she was taking on water forward and had her speed reduced to 22 knots. (7)

23 Jul 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
Shortly before 2000 hours HMS Illustrious (Capt. D.W. Boyd, DSC, RN) and HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) and their destroyer screen made up of HMS Inglefield (Capt. P. Todd, RN), HMS Diana (Lt.Cdr. E.G. Le Geyt, RN) and HMS Watchman (Lt.Cdr. E.C.L. Day, RN) arrived off Greenock. (7)

24 Jul 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) shifted from Tail of Bank to Govan where she was immediately docked in No.2 dock. (7)

27 Jul 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) is undocked from No.2 dock at Govan and then berthed alongside Rothesay Dock, Clydebank. (7)

2 Aug 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) shifted from Clydebank to Tail of Bank where she then anchored. (8)

10 Aug 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) departed Greenock (Tail of Bank) for Scapa Flow. (8)

11 Aug 1940
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) arrived at Scapa Flow. (8)

15 Aug 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) conducted gunnery exercises at/off Scapa Flow. (8)

18 Aug 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) conducted torpedo firing and gunnery exercises at/off Scapa Flow. (8)

20 Aug 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) shifted from Scapa Flow to Rosyth. (8)

29 Aug 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) departed Rosyth for Scapa Flow. (8)

30 Aug 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) arrived at Scapa Flow from Rosyth. (8)

31 Aug 1940

Convoy MP.


Convoy MP was part of the upcoming Dakar operation. The convoy departed Scapa Flow on 31 August 1940 for Freetown.

The convoy was made up of the troopships Ettrick (11279 GRT, built 1938), Kenya (9890 GRT, built 1930) and Sobieski (11030 GRT, built 1939). Escort was provided by the light cruiser HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) and the destroyers HMS Ambuscade (Lt.Cdr. R.A. Fell, RN), HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. R.T. White, DSO, RN), HMS Volunteer (Lt.Cdr. N. Lanyon, RN) and HMS Wanderer (Cdr. J.H. Ruck-Keene, DSC, RN). The next day the convoy was joined to the north of Ireland by the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Capt. J.M. Mansfield, DSC, RN), the destroyer HMS Harvester (Lt.Cdr. M. Thornton, RN) and the Free French sloops (minesweepers) Commandant Dominé and Commandant Duboc which came from the Clyde.

At 1709/1 (zone -1), HMS Fiji was hit by a torpedo fired by the German submarine U-32 when about 40 nautical miles north-northeast of Rockall in position 58°10’N, 12°55’W. She then left the convoy 10 minutes later and set course for the Clyde. She was joined by the destroyer HMS Antelope soon afterwards. The forward boiler room and five adjacent were flooded and five ratings had been killed.

Around 2030 hours HMS Fiji and HMS Antelope were joined by the destroyers HMS Ashanti (Cdr. W.G. Davis, RN), HMS Bedouin (Cdr. J.A. McCoy, DSO, RN) and HMS Volunteer. Fiji and her escort arrived at the Clyde around 1700/3. After inspection it was estimated repairs would take three to four months.

Meanwhile on 31 August 1940 the convoy escort had been joined by the destroyers HMS Punjabi (Cdr. J.T. Lean, DSO, RN), HMS Tartar (Capt. C. Caslon, RN), HMS Jaguar (Lt.Cdr. J.F.W. Hine, RN) and HMS Javelin (Cdr. A.F. Pugsley, RN). All destroyers parted company with the convoy on September 1st except for HMS Harvester which parted company with the convoy on the 3rd.

The place of HMS Fiji in the upcoming Dakar operation was taken by HMAS Australia (Capt. R.R. Stewart, RN) which departed the Clyde for Freetown on 6 September.

The convoy, escorted by the two Free French sloops (minesweepers), arrived at Freetown on 14 September 1940.

1 Sep 1940 (position 58.10, -12.55)
At 1800 hours on 1 September 1940 German U-boat U-32 attacked the Dakar Task Force in position 58°10'N, 12°55'W. HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) was damaged and was put out of commission for six months.

3 Sep 1940 (position 0.00, 0.00)
The damaged HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) arrived at Greenock. (9)

9 Sep 1940
HMS Fiji (Capt. W.G. Benn, RN) proceeded from Greenock to No.3 Dry Dock at Govan for repairs (9)

Media links


U-Boat Attack Logs

Daniel Morgan and Bruce Taylor


amazon.co.uk
(£ 38.25)

Sources

  1. ADM 53/110303
  2. ADM 53/112213
  3. ADM 53/112214
  4. ADM 53/112215
  5. ADM 53/112215 + ADM 199/367
  6. ADM 53/112216 + ADM 199/367
  7. ADM 53/112216
  8. ADM 53/112217
  9. ADM 53/112218

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.


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