The children who died on Liverpool's Benares ship trying to flee the blitz during World War 2

  • ITV Granada Reports correspondent Paul Crone delved into the history of Liverpool's SS City of Benares.

The SS City of Benares which sailed to Canada during the Second World War with the aim to save children from the blitz, ended in the tragic death of 77 children.

On 17 September 1940, while travelling across the Atlantic from Liverpool, the Benares was struck by a torpedo released by German U-boat 48.

The ship was sponsored as part of an initiative by the British government called the Children's Overseas Reception Board Scheme.

It was created with the aim to evacuate children away from the blitz to safety in commonwealth countries.

200 people and 90 children were on board, the torpedo killed 77 children and sunk the ship within 30 minutes.

Jak Collis, Tour Guide at Western Approaches in Liverpool, says the dangers of sailing across the Atlantic during World War II was accepted.

200 passengers and crew lost their lives, 77 children also died. Credit: British Pathe

He said: "It was known that it was dangerous but at the same time it was much better than leaving them in Liverpool to get bombed. So we knew the risks and we just chose to accept them.

"As the famous saying goes, if we forget the mistakes of the past we are doomed to repeat them. This is kind of a figure point of all that, if we forget the mistakes that led up to 77 children dying then it would be very easy for those mistakes to be made again in today's world, particularly with the current climate.

Deborah Heiligman, author of the book 'Torpedoed', travelled to Liverpool from America to research the story further.

She said: "Everywhere we went, I said 'well I am here because of a World War II story' and everything would stop. Every single person who asked me the question no matter the age, could of been someone my age, it could of been a teenager or a young person would just be astounded at the story and want to hear more about it.

As the Benares was sinking lifeboats were launched, it took more than a week for lifeboat 12 which held 46 people including six children to be rescued.

Deborah said: "They had to know that rescue was just not going to come, they all thought they were going to die. There's a section in my book where unbelievably they saw a ship coming towards them and they all thought 'we're saved, we're saved'. They got ready to be rescued and then the ship turned the other way and nobody ever figured out why that happened, can you imagine that?"

After the disaster of the Benares, the relocation of British children overseas was scrapped.

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