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Name: BIRKBECK, Benedict DSO, MC 'Ben' (Major)

Nee: son of William John Birkbeck of Stratton Strawless Hall, Norfolk

Birth Date: 21 Mar 1886 Thorpe St Andrews, Norfolk

Death Date: 21 Apr 1934 Marylebone, London

First Date: 1920

Last Date: 1934

Profession: Farmer

Area: Rongai, Mugunga Farm, Njoro, 1922 'Larmudiac' Njoro

Married: 1. In Chelsea 1 Oct 1914 Jacqueline Harriet 'Cockie' Alexander (div. 1924) b. 16 June1892, d. 12 Dec 1988 Kingsclere, Hampshire (in 1928 married Bror Blixen 1886-1946 and later John Hoogterp 1884-1972); 2. 21 Nov 1924 Penelope Gladys 'Ginger' Mayers b. 22 Oct 1894 Cairns, d. 9 July 1992 Kenya (dau of George Russell Mayers)

Book Reference: Markham, Debrett, KAD, Red 25, Red 31, Hut, Red 22, Racing, DSO, Burke, Rift Valley

War Service: Major Coldstream Guards, European War 1914-18 (despatches, DSO)

School: Hazelwood School; Eton 1899-1904 & Magdalen College, Oxford

General Information:

Congenial ex army officer, son of a Norfolk squire. 
Markham - 'Ginger' Birkbeck was responsible for introducing Beryl (Purves) to Mansfield Markham     
KAD 1922 - Njoro .... 'On the south side of the Line is Major Birkbeck's Larmudiac Estate of 11,000 acres. This is one of the largest stock farms in the district and a certain amount of agriculture is also done. .......….'
Racing - Owner of 'Campfollower' - 1929
Racing - Owner and rider of 'Timepiece' in Brigade of Guards Cup - 1929
Racing - Owner of 'Cane Fire' - 1929
Racing - Owner of 'Sunblaze' by 'Sundial' - 'Miller's Daughter' - 1930
Rift Valley - Member of the Rift Valley Sports Club - Jan 1929 - Elected - 29 Nov 1921 - Maj. B. Birkbeck
Hazelwood School War Memorial on web Benedict Birkbeck was born at Thorpe St Andrews in Norfolk on the 21st of March 1886 the eldest son of William John Michael Birkbeck DL JP, a gentleman, and Rose Katherine (née Gurney) Birkbeck of Stratton Strawless Hall in Norfolk and of 32 Sloane Gardens in London. He was christened at All Saints Church, Norwich on the 24th of April 1886.
He was educated at Hazelwood School until July 1899 where he was a member of the Choir. On leaving the school the magazine wrote the following of him: - "Takes to Eton himself, his butterfly net and most intelligent devotion to natural history. He has also been most useful to the choir and on the stage."
He went on to Eton College where he was in H.T. Bowlby’s house from September 1899 to July 1904. He entered Magdalen College Oxford in 1905.
He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Norfolk Yeomanry on the 2nd of April 1907 and was promoted to Lieutenant on the 12th of October 1908. He passed the Competitive Examination for Officers of the Special Reserve and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards on the 20th of May 1909. In September 1910 he was stationed at the Tower of London when he was served with a bankruptcy order by a money lender. In spite of the offer of full repayment with 20% interest he was forced into bankruptcy and offered to resign his commission in a letter dated the 3rd of October 1910. This was accepted and he resigned his commission on the 12th of November 1910.
Following the outbreak of war he rejoined the Coldstream Guards, being commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Special Reserve of Officers on the 18th of November 1914 and joined the 2nd Battalion of his regiment at the front on the 9th of January 1915 where he was attached to the machine gun section. Following the formation of the Guards Division later in 1915 he was seconded to the 1st Machine Gun Company, Guards Brigade on the 5th of September 1915. He was promoted to temporary Captain on the 27th of September 1915 while he was Officer Commanding the 1st Brigade Machine Gun Company and was promoted to Lieutenant on the 3rd of October 1915, to take precedence from the 17th of July 1915.
Following a period when the Battalion was in the Ypres salient under appalling conditions Benedict Birkbeck became ill with diarrhoea and anaemia and left his unit on the 7th of May 1916 He was invalided back to England from Boulogne on the 12th of May 1916, landing at Dover later the same day. He relinquished the temporary rank of Captain on the 20th of May 1916. He was awarded the Military Cross in the King’s Birthday Honours List of the 3rd of June 1916 and was declared as being fit for general service at a Medical Board which sat at Caxton Hall in London on the 28th of December 1916.
He was promoted to temporary Captain on the 11th of February 1917 and was appointed as Commanding Officer of the 4th Guards Machine Gun Company, consisting of ten officers and one hundred and seventy seven other ranks, which left the Guards Machine Gun Training Centre at Epsom on the 17th of March 1917 and embarked at Southampton on board the SS "Duchess of Argyll" at 5pm that afternoon. They re-joined the Guards Division in France on the 27th of March in camp at Le Transloy on the Somme to complete the complement of machine gunners for the Division. He was promoted to Acting Captain while in command of the Machine Gun Company on the 24th of March 1917. He was mentioned in despatches in the London Gazette of the 11th of December 1917 and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in the King's New Year's Honours List of the 1st of January 1918.
He was taken ill on the 7th of January 1918 while serving near Arras and was taken to a Casualty Clearing Station on the 13th of January. He was evacuated to England from Boulogne on the 5th of April 1918 and landed at Folkestone later the same day. He remained in poor health for much of the remainder of the war. He served as Deputy Machine Gun Officer to the Guards Division from the 20th of June 1917 to the 22nd of May 1918, was posted to the Guards Machine Gun Regiment on the 10th of May 1918 and was promoted to Captain on the 10th of July 1918.
A Medical Board was convened at Caxton Hall on the 18th of November 1918 to report on his condition: -
"States that he had trench fever in Jan last and was in hospital in France til February and was then sent to Michelham Home, Cap Martin, South of France. Came home beginning of April and went to duty in June at Pirbright - had influenza in July rather badly - has continued to progress slowly towards recovery."
A Medical Board which sat at the Military Hospital at Inkerman Barracks on the 21st of February 1919 found him to be fully recovered.
He was promoted to Temporary Major on the 1st of October 1919 and was demobilised at the Officers Dispersal Unit in London on the 27th of March 1920.
He was married at Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street, Upper Chelsea to Jacqueline Harriet (nee Alexander) on the 1st of October 1914. They lived at 11 Stanhope Terrace, Hyde Park in London and later at Nairobi. His wife filed for divorce on the 14th of December 1923 on the ground of his "frequent" adultery, specifically with an unidentified woman at the Cranbourn Hotel, 67a Shaftesbury Avenue from the 14th to the 17th of October 1923. She was granted a decree nisi on the 7th of April 1924 and a final decree on the 27th of October 1924. He was remarried on the 21st of November 1924 to Penelope Gladys (nee Mayers).
He relinquished his commission the 27th of March 1920 and retired from the army with the rank of Major. He then went to British East Africa for several months following which he returned to London. He later went back to Kenya and lived at Mgjinga Rongai.
He died at the London Clinic and Nursing Home 20 Devonshire Place, Middlesex, after an operation.

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