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Written by Derek Bech (L. 1943-46)
Wednesday, 08 September 2010
Derek Bech (L. 1943-46) signs The Old Brightonian's Visitor Book at brighton CollegeYou may be interested to know that I have done an interview for the BBC's "The One Show" and I am told it will be broadcast on September 13 on their 7.00pm show.

The broadcast is to mark the 70th anniversary of the sinking of the CITY OF BENARES on 17 September 1940. Apart from the BBC I think The Daily Telegraph and the BBC 'South Today' may have some accounts. The sinking of the CITY OF BENARES was probably the worse disaster concerning children at sea. I am very lucky to have survived. There is an excellent book about the event 'Miracles on the Water' by Tom Nagorski which is available from Amazon.com. You can read excerpts here.

Many of you will know that during the last war my mother and two sisters, Barbara and Sonia, and myself were being evacuated to Canada to escape the threatened invasion of this country by Nazi Germany. We were travelling on the ship called the City of Benares which was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-Boat in mid-Atlantic - 600 miles from land.

The tragedy of the City of Benares remains to this day the worse ever disaster involving British children. More than half those on board were lost, and out of ninety 'seavacuee' children escaping the bombing in Britain seventy-seven died. Those who survived had near-miraculous escapes clinging to rafts or water-logged lifeboats and we were all lucky to be amongst them. After this tragedy all future sailing's were cancelled.

The story of the sinking of the City of Benares is so important that everybody needs to be reminded of it from time to time. It is one of those stories that never fades in the retelling and is a stark reminder to all of us of those dark days of the second world war when terrible things happened to men, women and children. I hope you will try to watch the programme.

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