The Wartime Memories Project - City of Benares



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World War 2 Two II WW2 WWII

Information.

The City of Benares was a passenger ship, the largest of Ellerman's City built in 1936 for service between England and India. On Friday, September 13, 1940, she sailed from Liverpool in a convoy of nineteen ships bound for Canada. She carried 406 crew and passengers including 101 adults and 90 children being evacuated to Canada by the Children's Overseas Reception Board.

Four days, 600 miles out to sea, the destroyer HMS Winchelsea and two sloops, who had been escorting the convoy, departed to meet eastbound Convoy HX71. Despite a standing order to disperse the convoy and let all ships proceed on their own, Rear Admiral Mackinnon delayed the order. Shortly after 10pm the City of Benares was torpedoed by Uboat, U-48. The order to abandon City of Benares was given but due to rough conditions and Force 5 winds, lowering the boats was difficult and several capsized. Two hundred and fouty five lives were lost either from drowning or exposure. Rescue did not arrive until 14:15 the following afternoon when HMS Hurricane arrived on the scene and rescued 105 survivors.

Only 13 of the children survived, 6 of whom spent seven days in a live boat before being rescued by HMS Anthony. The Evacuation Overseas scheme was eventually abandoned, one positive result of the tragedy was the decision to have all convoys accompanied by rescue escorts

The Children's Overseas Reception Board had safely evacuated 2 664 children, 1 532 to Canada, 576 to Australia, 353 to South Africa and 203 to New Zealand and it is believed that another 11,000 children went by private arrangement, over 6 000 to Canada and the remainder to the United States.

The Wartime Memories Project would like to hear from anyone who has any connections with the City of Benares.

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Helen Miller Robertson (nee Salton) Campbell is my great-grandmother, and was on the City of Benares when she was torpedoed in 1940.

Ian Miller



I was a boy in England during the War, living in Southall, Middlesex, a suburb of London and often close to bomb damage. My parents seriously considered sending me to Canada to live with an Uncle and Aunt in Toronto. After initial investigation into evacuation proceedures, they changed their minds and I remained in Southall. Twin boys from the next street were evacuated in what was to have been the same group I would have joined. They never returned and we were told that they were lost in the sinking of the City Of Benares. I do remember the shock and the somewhat hushed discussions between my family and their friends over the incident although I was only six years old at the time. My older sister has told me that the story is fact and she always reminded me of my good fortune in my parents decision.

Terry Lawrence



My Grandmother Maud Gorringe Deane was lost on the City of Benares and I would like to share her story.

In 1935 my grandmother was widowed, she was left with only one child Heather, my mother, still at home. They lived in Barbados and in 1938 she thought it was time my mother went to England. Of course war broke out soon after and my mothers siblings thought it would be better for her to return to Barbados for her own safety. There was some family disagreement over the opinion that she was putting her life in danger for Heather. She secured passage on the City of Benares, to help with the children evacuees, through a doctor friend of her late husbands, who was also a doctor.

While she was in Liverpool awaiting departure my mother had a premonition and wired her mother not to leave. On receiving the telegram my grandmother telephoned my mother Heather and it was decided she would indeed leave for Canada and then return to Barbados. My mother was later devastated to learn that the ship had sailed on Friday the 13th.

My mother died last year and the last year of her life was plagued with thoughts of her mother and an overwhelming feeling of guilt. Her relationship with her siblings was forever changed by this tragic event. She was 19 years old, left in a strange country at war.

Sarah Jane Card



My Mother was lost in the sinking of the City of Benares, Her maiden name was Maud Gladys Crichton, but may have been travelling with her then husbands name Hillman or Ihelman ( he was a danish born, and a Lt. in the RNVR, contraband control ?}

Any help you can give me in regard to my Mum, or other places to search would be appreciated. My Mum was coming on to BC. to see me at the time. Mum was in the Land Army and I would be interested in any information any one can provide about her experiences.



I have been looking for info on the sinking of The City of Benares. My cousins were killed on the ship; they were Edith & Irene Smith, from Sunderland. I have wanted to know more about them; they died 4 years before I was born, but it was always a subject unspoken of in the family. I think that Billy Short of Sunderland was rescued. There were about 9 children from Sunderland on board.



My sister and I were to be evacuated on the City of Benares in September 1940 to Canada with the other 'seavacuees' but due to a severe air-raid we did not receive the telegram from Canada House, London, in time to be at the sailing from Liverpool. Sadly, she was torpedoed after 4 days at sea with a tremendous loss of life- only 8 children were saved from 90 that were onboard. One family of 5 children were lost, another with 4 children. It has been argued since that if she had been able to sail alone with her fast speed in stead of being with a slow convoy it is possible that the disaster could have been aver ted. The Captain had insisted he preffered it this way but was overruled by the convoy commodore who was also in the Benares. Besides the children there were many passengers and crew that went down on her also. There were no more 'seavacuees' sent overseas after this. I would be interested to hear from anyone who was involved in this tragedy.

Ron Elliott CD.RCN(Ret'd)



Photographs

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List of those who sailed on the City of Benares

  • Patricia Allen. age 12 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Emily Eliza Armes. age 65 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Jane Prue Armes. age 59 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • John Baker. age 7
  • Robert Baker. age 12 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Col. James Baldwin-Webb. TD. MP. age 47 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Kathleen Beatrice Barrett. age 12 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Florence Barton. age 45 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Mrs Bech
  • Barbara Bech
  • Derek Bech
  • Sonia Bech
  • Edna Doreen Beesley. age 10 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Phyllis Eileen Beesley. age 12 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Vera Ellen D. Beesley. age 13 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • George W. H. Blake. age 44 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Bohdan Nagorski
  • Michael John Brooker. age 10 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Gertrude Helen Brown. age 66 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Marion Dick Buchanan. First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. age 21 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Alice Mary Bulmer. age 44 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Enid Evelyn Butlin. age 13 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • James Reginald Came. age 12 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Lewis Victor Came. age 11 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Helen Robertson Miller Campbell. age 72 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Derek Capel. age 12 Read his Story
  • Alan Capel. age 5 (d. 18 Sep 1940)Read his Story
  • Beryl Irene Carr. age 8 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Cecil Frances Muriel Carr, age 55 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Derek Stanley Carr. age 10 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Michael John Chase. age 12 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Sheila Astrid Chase. age 14 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Frank Clifford Choat. age 52 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Gretchen Coleman. age 60 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • 4th Officer. Ronald Cooper. crew.
  • Mary Cornish. music teacher. Read her story
  • George Geoffrey Crawford. age 14 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Pauline Mary Crawley. age 11 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Sheila Anne Crawley. age 9 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Maud Gladys Crichton (d. 18 Sep 1940) Read her story
  • Florence Alexandra Croasdaile. age 38 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • John Lawrence Croasdaile. age 2 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Patricia Joan Croasdaile. age 9 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Elizabeth May Cummings. age 14
  • Vivian Cynthia Dadds. age 14 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Eric Davis
  • Miss Marjorie Elizabeth Day. Head Mistress, Wycombe Abbey School
  • Professor John Percival Day
  • Dorothy Wyatt Deane. age 61 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Maud Gorringe Deane (d. 18 Sep 1940) Read her story
  • Dr Nadirshah Jamshedji Dhondy. age 27 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Maureen Margaret Dixon. age 10 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Barbara Ruth Fairhead. age 10 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Anne Dorothea Fleetwood-Hesketh. age 63 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Jean Forster. age 11 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • John Foster. age 10 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Dorothy Galliard. age 15 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Sybil Antonia Josepha Gilliat-Smith. age 25 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Phyllis Elizabeth Glover. age 37 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • William Golightly. age 66 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Christopher Robin Goodfellow. age 8 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Derek Charles Goodfellow. age 13 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Zygmunt Gralinski. Polish diplomat
  • Ruby Isobel Grierson. age 36 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Augusta E Grimmond. age 13 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Constance J Grimmond. age 9 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Edward Grimmond. age 8 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Leonard A Grimmond. age 5 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Violet C Grimmond. age 10 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Maurice Groberman. age 25 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • James Wilfred Harrington. age 7 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Patricia Doreen Harrington. age 8 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Helen Harris. age 45 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Nellie Hicks. age 56 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Maud Gladys Hillman. age 44 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Bruce John Hillyard. age 11 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Jeffrey Hillyard. age 8 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Tom Hodgson. age 35 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Terence Brian Holmes age 10 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • William Hurwitz. age 46 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Edgar Robert Hutchings. age 50 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Joan Anne Florence Irving. age 15 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Jack Keeley age 8
  • Joyce Mary Keeley. age 6 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Rev. William Henry King. age 28 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Margaret Ladyman. nurse. (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Lilian Lambert. age 66 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Derek Leigh. age 11 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Margaret Eleanor Lloyd. age 14 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Nesta Lloyd. age 12 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Peter John (Willis) LLoyd. age 12 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • William Smith Macfarquhar. age 34 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • John McGlashen
  • Audrey Mansfield. age 8 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Harry Marriott. age 63 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Robin Miller. age 8 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Philip Langford Mollard. age 6 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • William Robert "Bobby" Moon. age 10 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Aileen Sybil Moss. age 12 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Marion Audrey Moss. age 10 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Rita Ann Moss. age 8 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Audrey Muncey. age 13 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Ailsa Burgess Murphy. age 10 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Francis Money Graham Murphy. age 37 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Beryl Myatt. age 9 (d. 18 Sep 1940) Read her Story
  • Dorothy Sheila Nolan. age 12 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Patricia Nolan. age 8 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • John Pemberton. age 10 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Father Rory O'Sullivan
  • Dorothy Perkins
  • Harry Perkins
  • Diana Pine. age 6 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Eileen Emma Maud Pine. age 31 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Rodger James Poole. age 11 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Charles Horace Pugh. age 12 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Donald James Pugh. age 11 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • John Albert Pugh. age 14 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Anita Mary Rees. age 14 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • William Eric Rees. age 12 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Michael Rennie. age 23 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Colin R. Richardson
  • Colenso Mackenzie Rodda. age 6 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Layton George Ryman. age 9 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Helen Miller Robertson Salton Read her Story
  • Paul Shearing. age 11
  • Billy Short
  • Peter Short. age 5 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Dorothy Winifred Smith. age 26 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Edith Smith. age 13 (d. 18 Sep 1940) Read her story
  • Irene Smith. age 11 (d. 18 Sep 1940)Read her story
  • Henry Smoolovitch. age 10 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Ken Sparks. Read his story
  • James Thomas Spencer. age 5 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Joan Margaret Spencer. age 9 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • John Onslow Spencer-Davies. age 9 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Rosemary Winifred Spencer-Davies. age 15 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Fred Steels. age 11
  • Janet Roberts Aitcheson Stewart. age 37 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Anthony Ralph Taylor. age 6 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • June Margaret Taylor. age 9 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Marion Winifred Thorne. age 7 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Rex Thorne. age 13
  • Mrs Lilian Towns. infant teacher.
  • Betty Unwin. age 12 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Bess Walder. age 15 Read her story
  • Louis Walder. age 10
  • Gordon Walsh. age 10 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Ann Jordeson Watson. age 6 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Thomas William Watson. age 9 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Ethel Martha Wilde. age 70 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Beth Williams. Read her story
  • Bertha Sproull Wilson. age 36 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Dorothy Gertrude Wood. age 9 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Eleoner Wright. age 13
  • B. Margaret Zeal. age 30 (d. 18 Sep 1940)
  • Bertha Zoond. age 63 (d. 18 Sep 1940)

If you have any names to add to this list, or any information, recollections or photos of those listed, please get in touch.





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