The Victoria Police Blue Ribbon Foundation dedicated a police memorial to honour Constable William George Benbow at Bendigo Health yesterday.
Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe unveiled a commemorative plaque to officially dedicate Bendigo Health’s short stay unit as a permanent police memorial in memory of Constable Benbow.
The ceremony was held in the presence of senior police, representatives from both Bendigo Health and the Blue Ribbon Foundation and members of Constable Benbow’s family.
Blue Ribbon Foundation chief executive officer Neil Soullier said Constable Benbow paid the ultimate price in dying while trying to evacuate members of the public from a dangerous situation.
“Members who have fallen in the line of duty shall forever remain on duty and now, through this emergency facility, Constable Benbow will continue to serve the people of Bendigo.
“I congratulate and thank the Bendigo community and Blue Ribbon Foundation’s Bendigo branch who have contributed so generously by donating funds for this project,” said Mr Soullier.
Bendigo Health chief executive officer John Mulder said that he is extremely grateful for the support of the Blue Ribbon Foundation.
“We have had a long and successful association with the Blue Ribbon Foundation and the opening of the short stay unit is the culmination of the redevelopment of our emergency department.
“The naming of the short stay unit after Constable William Benbow is a fitting tribute to his memory.
“I would like to thank the local members of the police force and the many other community supporters for the wonderful contribution they have made to this fantastic project. Many thousands of people will benefit from this generosity over the years to come,” said Mr Mulder
The Victoria Police Blue Ribbon Foundation is a community-based organisation that perpetuates the memory of fallen police officers through the support of worthwhile community projects within Victoria.
The Foundation’s Bendigo branch has provided $135,000 for the establishment of the short stay unit at Bendigo Health in memory of Constable Benbow.
This memorial joins 23 other hospital projects funded by the Foundation including two other emergency facilities at Bendigo, the Tynan-Eyre trauma unit and the Norm Curson intensive care room.
(Photo kindly supplied by Bendigo Health.)
William Benbow was born in Eaglehawk on 22 May, 1948. After leaving school he worked as a labourer before being accepted as a Recruit with Victoria Police. He graduated number 14 from a squad of 24 recruits with comments that he worked to his capacity throughout the entire course, had very good attitude and conduct and possessed the Elementary and Proficiency certificate, Intermediate Star and Bronze Medallion. He passed his Retention Exam on 24 September, 1969.
William Benbow completed his training at the Police Depot and was sworn in as a Constable of Police on 8 April 1969. After performing beat duties at Russell Street he was transferred to general duties at Richmond in 1970.
On the morning of Saturday 17 April, 1971 Constable Benbow and his partner, Constable Barry Prendergast, were dispatched to the intersection of Swan and Lennox Streets in Richmond.
Several weeks earlier a multi-story furniture warehouse located on the North-East side of the street had been totally gutted by fire and passers by had reported that one of the walls looked unstable. Sergeant Bill Horman from Richmond Police had initially inspected the scene and evacuated a nearby TAB before calling for additional officers to cordon off the area.
Constable Benbow and Constable Prendergast arrived at about 9.50am in a divisional van and proceeded to usher pedestrians and vehicle traffic away from the scene. At 9.51am and without warning the wall collapsed, crushing Constable Benbow and several cars. Constable Benbow was killed instantly along with three members of the public including a man and his 8-year old daughter. Constable Prendergast received minor injuries but was severely traumatised by the event and spent several months on sick leave. He later returned to active duty with Victoria Police.
Constable Benbow aged 22 and was married with a young daughter.
In a postscript to the death of Constable Benbow another semi-related tragedy occurred in October 1971.
On Saturday 9 October, 1971 Constable Robert Worland of Richmond Police was driving along Eltrick Road, Heywood when he lost control of his vehicle and crashed. Both Worland and his passengers were critically injured and all died some time later at the Portland Hospital.
The other deceased persons were Worland’s wife and Mrs Sue Benbow, the widow of Constable William Benbow.
Worland had been off duty at the time and the country trip was one of numerous welfare outings that Richmond Police had organised for Mrs Benbow after her husband’s death.
A posthumous Victoria Police Star has been awarded to Constable Benbow’s family.
Constable William Benbow had three brothers and one sister – Steven, Trevor, Sam and Judy. His daughter, Tracey-Ann, lives in New Zealand.