Overseas British Evacuation of Children: City of Benares (September 1940)

Figure 1.--The 'City of Benres' tragedy cost the lives of 77 evacuee children. Here are five very lucky little boys rescued by 'HMS Anthony'. It was 8 days after the sinking when all hope of rescue had been given up. They were spotted by a patrol plane. Notice their 'Anthony' caps.

U-boats often struck at night when it was very difficult to spot them. The surprise night-time the torpedo hit surprised everyone ion board. The children were all asleep. The rapid sinking meant that there was chaos on the city of Benares and the effort to launch the life boats was not well conducted. The children that survived the explosion had for the most part to make it to the deck themselves. Many did not have their lifejackets. Many of the passengers in the life boats that were launched perished in the extreme conditions. HMS Hurricane, an H-class destroyer, searched for survivors, but found only bodies. Miracuolosly two girls somehow clung to each other on an overtuned life boat. They were found just in time--15 year old Beth Wilder, and 14 year old Beth Cummings. Search aircraft managed to find a few survivors. HMS Hurunane and HMS Anthony managed to pick up two life boat with 13 other CORB children, including Beth's little brother. Six children along with Benares Fourth Officer Ronald Cooper and Miss Mary Cornish, spent seven days in an open boat. They were found and rescued by Anthony (September 26) and landed safely in Glasgow (September 29). When the Hurricane's captain presented William to Beth, she scoled her brother. Their parents had instructed her to look after him and she had been agonizing about how she was goung to explain losing him. Trafically only a handful of the evacuee children were saved. There were 77 children lost. Hurricane would itself be heavily battered during a Luftwaffe raid on Liverpool (May 1941) and then fatally damaged by a U-boat (December 1943).


"Captain Ronald Brooke", The Telegraph (December 6, 2004).


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Created: 6:03 AM 6/23/2016
Last updated: 6:03 AM 6/23/2016