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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Today marks 82 years since the sinking of the Ellerman City & Hall Line-owned British ocean liner SS City of Benares. She carried 100 non-fee-paying passengers - 90 children and 10 escorts (7 women, 3 men) traveling under the Children's Overseas Reception Board (CORB), 91 fare-paying passengers - 10 children, 44 women, and 37 men; 209 crew members (of whom five were women; at least 17 of the 166 Indian crew members were children), and 6 convoy representatives.

The Benares set sail on Friday the 13, September 1940. Four days later, on Tuesday the 17 of September, after orders to wear warm clothing while sleeping were relaxed, she was spotted by submarine Unterseeboot 48, or U-48 for short, and torpedoed at 10:03 PM in a Force 10 gale.

The torpedo exploded directly beneath the CORB children's quarters at the stern, obliterating the bathrooms and extinguishing lights at that end of the ship. One child (a boy) was killed. Three crew members and a young CORB girl were missing (the girl was eventually found alive, but the other three were never found, presumably killed in the explosion) and several others were seriously hurt (one, Ailsa Murphy, would die of her injuries on deck).

The captain, Landles Nicoll, ordered an inspection by Chief Officer Joseph "Joe" Hetherington. Hetherington returned minutes later, reporting the engine room was flooding rapidly. Nicoll ordered his officers to give frequent weather updates, and Hetherington was sent to help children escape their crumbling cabins.

The lifeboats began to be launched into the tempestuous seas. The gale had decreased to Force 8 now, but the 20-30 foot waves could reach the boats as they came down. In the end, 7 of 12 boats ended up heavily waterlogged, 3 capsized, and only 2 upright and unflooded.

While the children and some 30 fare-paying passengers were boarding boats, roughly 55 passengers were still waiting at their muster station in the lounge. After about 20 minutes, the purser found an officer, asking if he was ready to take on more passengers on deck ("My God! Are they still in the lounge?!). Needless to say, without most of the crew being aware of those passenger still lingering in the lounge, nearly all boats had been put to sea.

By the time the lounge stragglers reached the deck, all but four boats had been launched, and the storm was back at Force 10. Sadly, the wait proved fatal, and only 18 of those who had made the decision to stay in the lounge survived.

31 minutes after she had been struck by the torpedo, the Benares' bow reared up, standing perpendicular to the sea. She sank slowly into the water, with loud explosions, a large bang, then a long, drawn out groan as she disappeared, every light still blazing with dazzling brilliance. Survivor Bess Walder, a fifteen-year-old CORB child who clung to an overturned lifeboat for 19 hours before being rescued, said it sounded like an animal dying a terrible death.

354 passengers and crew survived the sinking. Sadly, rescue took 16 hours to arrive, and by dawn of the 354, a further 155 had died. Another 34, including 19 children died after dawn, but before rescue. The last lifeboat rescued of the 18th was No. 2, with only 8 of 38 aboard surviving (of the 30 who died, 16 were women and children). The HMS Hurricane had rescued 120 people, but 15 of those died, including three children.

Unbeknownst to the Hurricane, one lifeboat, No. 12, had been missed. Aboard were 46 people. One died and fell overboard during the boat's voyage of 8 days. On the 25th HMS Anthony rescued the 45 survivors, two of which died afterwards in the hospital.

In the end, 258 out of 406 on board died: 98 children (81 were passengers), 35 women, and 125 men. 148 were saved: 19 children, 21 women, and 108 men.

The following are figures of passenger and crew survival:
43 European crew (5 women and 38 men): 20 lost (16 men and 4 women), 23 saved (22 men and 1 woman)

166 Indian and Goan crew: 101 lost (17 children and 84 men), 65 men saved

6 convoy staff (all men): 3 lost, 3 saved

90 CORB children (44 girls, 46 boys): 77 lost (41 girls, 36 boys), 13 saved (10 boys, 3 girls)

10 escorts (7 women, 3 men): 6 lost (4 women, 2 men), 4 save (3 women, 1 man)

91 fare-paying passengers (10 children, 44 women, 37 men) 51 lost (4 children, 27 women, and 20 men), 40 saved (6 children, 17 women, 17 men)


Never have so many children perished on one British vessel alone (98 children died on the Benares), and to this day, it remains the deadliest disaster involving British children.

I will add more posts to this thread in the coming week about the sinking and the aftermath. If you have something to add please do.

"Lest we forget"

William
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Sorry for the late post, as I have been busy, but today is when the Hurricane survivors arrived in Greenock, Scotland. There were 105 of them: 13 children (7 CORB, 6 fare-paying, 7 boys, 6 girls), 21 women (2 escorts, 17 fare-paying, and 1 stewardess), and 71 men (18 European male crew, 17 fare-paying, 36 Lascars).

Several survivors were taken to the hospital immediately, due to their injuries. All three CORB girls were taken there (Bess Walder, Beth ***mings, and Eleanor Wright).

Reporters were there to pester the survivors as they walked down the gangplank. Some survivors were so traumatized, that they wouldn't open up for years.

Patricia Bulmer had been through one of the most horrific ordeals of all the survivors. She had been on board the Benares with her mother, Alice, and her best friend, Dorothy Galliard, 15. The three were among the fare-paying passengers who were the last to leave the lounge. Arriving on deck, they found the last lifeboat (ironically, Boat 1 was the last to lower) descending to the water. They made a jump from the deck, some 50 or 60 feet by now as the bow rose into the air, with Margaret Hodgson and her husband Tom. Amazingly, all five survived the plunge and reached the boat. But the huge swells brought up by the ship's final plunge, capsized the boat, and threw all five into the water. Margaret and Pat, both strong swimmers, reached a nearby lifeboat, No. 2, and were hauled in, but Dorothy Galliard, Alice Bulmer, and Tom Hodgson were never seen again.

Pat sat in the water-filled lifeboat 2, and watched as 30 people died (24 before dawn). They included 4 of the 6 children in the boat and 12 of the 15 women. Just 8 people were alive when the Hurricane found them. They were three men: Henry Digby-Morton and Professor John Percival Day (fare-paying passengers) and Angus MacDonald (a ship's carpenter); Three women: Phyllis Digby-Morton, Margaret Hodgson, and Dorothy Perkins (fare-paying passengers; and 2 children: Colin Ryder Richardson and Pat Bulmer.

Bulmer would barely talk about her experience for years, until she started writing letters to one of her rescuers, Howard Channon, from the Hurricane. Bulmer also was a bridesmade at fellow survivor Anne Ryan's (the sole surviving female crew member) wedding.

"Lest we forget"

William
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Today I would like to talk about Lifeboat No. 10, one of the most tragic of all the boats. The boat was lowered with 31 people on board, 2 female escorts (Marjorie Day and Lillian Towns), 15 CORB children (13 girls, 2 boys), 4 British crew (two stewardess/nurses and two male crew), 1 fare-paying woman, and 9 Lascars.

This boat had a capacity of 60 people, but in the end there were only 34 people on board. No. 10 was supposed to carry 15 CORB girls and their escort Mary Cornish, but only 8 of the girls boarded (the others were separated and put into other boats) and Mary Cornish went to look for more children below. 5 more girls from Maud Hillman's contingent boarded, and when the Chief Escort, Marjorie Day, 53, saw that this boat would be launched minus an escort, she entered herself and beckoned for the reserve escort, Lillian Towns to follow.

Day was just one boat astern of the first lifeboat to lower. No. 8 was just beginning its descent and Day began to watch. It was disaster from the start. Boat 8 was going down in a series of jerks, the falls coming out of alignment. Then, swinging on its davits, it fell with one more violent jerk, tipping slightly and hanging there, horribly, for several seconds. The crew on deck was trying to straighten the boat out, but the apprehensive occupants, which included 18 CORB girls, 2 escorts, and 1 fare-paying passengers, were crying out in terror.

Day noticed that the seas were very rough, and the waves were high enough to reach the boats as they came down, it would only take one of the boats to...

In a horrible instant, Marjorie watched as a mountain of a wave struck the boat, causing the falls and cables on the bow to snap, pitching the boat into a vertical position, and flinging all the occupants into the sea. None of them survived. Then the boat it self fell, a straight and violent lopsided dive to the sea.

Lifeboat 10 lowered just moments later. The boat was swinging on its davits, one moment it would be hovering over the sea, the next it was slamming against the side of the ship.

The bot tipped while lowering, though, thankfully, all the occupants held on. The boat soon leveled upon reaching the water.

No. 10 bounced on the sea, perilously near the hull. The apprehensive occupants attempted to pull away from the ship, but the waves kept pushing it back, slamming it against the Benares' side.

Eventually, they managed to push away from the ship, and came upon a child flailing franticly in the water. One of the boys, George Crawford reached over the side, pulling the boy in, but he soon lost his balance and fell into the sea. Caught in the rapids between the hull and the ship, he was swept away.

"Lifeboat ahoy! We are swamping! Will you please come over?" The voice belonged to Second Officer Hugh Asher, whose boat, No. 3, with 28 on board was heavily waterlogged. Eventually, Asher, the Chief Yeoman of Signals, named Frederick Batlett, and Fifth Engineer Donald Macrae, managed to switch over to Boat 10.

As the night wore on, children began to die, and by dawn only 2 of the fifteen children were still alive: Rosemary Spencer-Davies and Eleanor Wright. Lifeboat 10 was the third to last boat to be rescued. Out of 34 in this boat, only 6 (Stewardess Annie Ryan, Escorts Marjorie Day and Lillian Towns, two European crew: Bartlett and Robert Templeton, and only one child - Eleanor Wright) survived. 28 died. Eleanor was 13, and would speak very little of her experience. She was the only child survivor who was still alive that did not attend the reunions. Even for the survivors, the experience was devastating.

"Lest we forget"

William
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
This is the following figure of lifeboat survival on the Benares. I do not include those who died after their rescue in this figure, nor those who died in the sinking. I also do not go with the original complement of the lifeboats, for example, Lifeboat 5 had about 24 people on board before it capsized, but reportedly, only 12 clung to the keel afterwards, so only these 12 are listed on here, as the others either died in the capsizing or swam to other boats or rafts.


Lifeboats:

Lifeboat No. 1, Capsized,

Lifeboat No. 2, Heavily Waterlogged, 38 on board (17 men, 15 women, 2 boys, 4 girls) - 8 survived (3 men, 3 women, 1 boy, 1 girl)

Lifeboat No 3, Submerged, 25 on board (men, women, and children), 4 survived (all men)

Lifeboat No. 4, Upright and Unflooded, 33 on board (24 men, 8 women, 1 girl), 33 survived

Lifeboat No. 5, Capsized, 12 on board, 3 survived (1 man, 2 girls)

Lifeboat No. 6, Heavily Waterlogged, 23 on board (14 men, 4 women, 4 boys, 1 girl), 8 survived (5 men, 2 women, 1 boy)

Lifeboat No. 7, Heavily Waterlogged, 30 on board (25 men, 5 women), 16 survived (15 men, 1 woman)

Lifeboat No. 8, Capsized, 5 on board (3 men, 2 girls), 1 survived (1 man)

Lifeboat No. 9, Heavily Waterlogged, 32 on board (9 men, 2 women, 21 children), 8 survived (4 men, 4 children)

Lifeboat No. 10, Heavily Waterlogged, 34 on board (14 men, 5 women, 2 boys, 13 girls), 6 survived (2 men, 3 women, 1 girl)

Lifeboat No. 11, Heavily Waterlogged, 34 on board (21 men, 12 boys, 1 girl), 14 survived (12 men and 2 boys)

Lifeboat No. 12, Upright and Unflooded, 46 one board (39 men, 1 woman, 6 boys), 45 survived (38 men, 1 woman, 6 boys)


Rafts:

Raft - 5 on board (1 man, 2 women, 1 boy, 1 girl), 5 survived (all rescued by SS Marina Lifeboat 2)

Raft - 2 on board (both men) - 2 survived (both rescued by SS Marina Lifeboat 2)

Raft- 1 man - He survived (He was rescued by SS Marina Lifeboat 2)

Raft- 1 man - He survived

Raft- 1 man - He survived

Raft- 1 man - He survived

Raft - 1 man - He survived

Raft - 2 on board (both men) - 0 survived

Raft - 3 on board (2 men, 1 boy) - 3 survived

Raft - 3 on board (1 woman, 1 boy, 1 girl) - 0 survived *

Raft - 11 on board (5 women, 6 men) - 3 survived (2 men, 1 woman)

* This raft held escort Maud Hillman and the two Spencer siblings - James and Joan, 5 and 9. The Spencers died and were washed off. Hillman, in a confused state, reached for them, believing they were still alive. She too was washed off. Shortly, she came across Joe Hetherington and John Anderson's raft with 10 on board. She was pulled aboard but later died. I have included her on both rafts.

"Lest we forget"

William
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Yesterday marked the day that Lifeboat No. 12 was rescued. There were 46 occupants on board - 32 lascars, 4 British crew, 1 convoy staff member, 1 fare-paying passenger (male), 2 escorts (1 man, 1 woman), and 6 CORB boys. The boat was one of two (the other was No. 4) lowered perfectly. It managed to stay upright and unflooded through the night, and the winds pushed it far from the seen. Because of this, HMS Hurricane could not find Boat 12, assuming some freak force of the storm had overcame it.

For more than a week they drifted, with water enough for only eight days. Tension grew in the boat. One Indian fell overboard and died, leaving 45 still alive. On the eighth day, the last day of water, they were sighted by a Sunderland Flying Boat. The plane was low on fuel, so it informed another plane of the situation. The other plane flew to the scene, dropping food into the boat. The occupants ate as much as they could hold, licking every peach and tomato sauce can dry.

Finally, at about 4:00 PM, HMS Anthony arrived at the scene rescuing the 45 survivors. Sadly, two of the Lascars died in the hospital of exposure, reducing the number of City of Benares survivors to 148.

"Lest we Forget"

William
 
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