Henson, Richard Liddon (1923-1944)
Sherborne School, UK, Book of Remembrance for former pupils who died in the Second World War, 1939-1945.
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Credit: Sherborne School Archives, Abbey Road, Sherborne, Dorset, UK, DT9 3AP.
Details: Richard Liddon Henson (1923-1944), born in Bristol on 10 May 1923, son of George Ernest Henson, MRCVS, and Hilda H. Liddon Henson, of 19 Richmond Hill, Clifton, Bristol.
Attended Mount Roland School, East Preston, Sussex.
Attended Sherborne School (Harper House) September 1936-July 1941; 6th form; House Prefect; Corporal in JTC; member of Duffers.
History Exhibitioner, Keble College, Oxford.
WW2, Lieutenant, Royal Berkshire Regiment, attached to the 5th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment). Killed in action at Taverna, Italy, on 15 September 1944, aged 21.
Gradara War Cemetery, Italy, I, D, 66. Inscription on his headstone: ‘SOFTLY, THOU WINDS, O’ER HIS DEAR YOUNG HEAD, WHISPER A BENEDICTION FOR THE DEAD’ www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2077763/henson,-richa...
Sherborne School: War Memorial Staircase; Book of Remembrance; Harper House roll of honour.
Obituary in 'The Shirburnian', December 1944: 'R.L. Henson was killed in action in Italy in August 1944. He had been with his regiment only three weeks after transferring from the R.A.C., but he had already won the good opinion of officers and men. At Sherborne he was quiet and of frail physique, but there burned in him a fire of determination that made him count among his fellows and won him an Exhibition at Keble College. He had chosen ordination as his eventual aim and his simplicity and goodness he would have made a splendid parson.'
Transcript of essay by R.L. Henson about the bombing of Sherborne on 30 September 1940:
‘Impressions of Sept. 30 1940. Before August 1939 the very thought of war, with, as I believed, the accompanying horrors of attack from the air, were sufficient to make me tremble and bemoan the day that ever war should be declared. I felt almost sure that the moment hostilities began the whole German air force would take off from its various bases and systematically bomb the civilian population into submission. But war came and I neither saw nor heard a hostile plane for months: my nerves were therefore, considerably quietened and I realised that I had completely overemphasised the terrors of aerial bombardment as I had formerly supposed them. Even when the early summer air alarms betrayed the presence of German aircraft my fears were lulled even more than before.
Thus when on that fateful September 30 the air raid sirens once again wailed, I expected no systematic battering of the town, but felt almost certain that I should neither hear nor see any aerial activity. Even when the distant drone of ‘planes grew plainer my fears were not entirely raised since ‘planes were in all probability British in pursuit of distant German bombers.
Presently, however, the first bombs began to fall in the distance, and the uncomfortable shaking of the thin panelling, against which my back was resting, was sufficiently unpleasant to disquieten me and all my pre-war qualms were speedily provoked. Soon they fell nearer and I realised at last that Sherborne was being deliberately bombed: yet my alarm did not increase proportionately to the realization and I felt surprised that I didn’t. The desk, under which I was now sheltering, gave me a sense of safety, and I felt the thickness of the wood of the desk as if to reassure myself that it was stout enough to resist the inevitable fall of the classroom masonry on top of it. It did indeed seem more than adequately strong to resist the whole of the building crashing on top of it, although as I now know it would have been almost certain death if the building had been blasted down.
As the bombs whistled nearer and nearer I felt that sooner or later one would be bound to fall on top of the classroom where I was, but far from feeling any fright, I resigned myself to my fate and saw that, as one day I must die, I might as well die now. But gradually the crashes and thumps of falling bombs receded into the distance and my equilibrium was restored. The thought that was uppermost in my mind now was how soon I should be allowed to give up my uncomfortable posture under the desk and get up and see what had happened. The schoolboy’s desire for excitement had indeed been fulfilled and for several weeks there was no other topic to be discussed, and it is more than certain that the story lost nothing in the telling.’