Ship models, Passenger vessels

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City of Benares (1936); Merchant vessel; Passenger/cargo liner

Ship models

Object connections:

Collection Ship models, Passenger vessels
User collections Re·Think Migration by marre986
Gallery locationNot on display
PeopleLender: Ellerman Lines Ltd
EventsWorld War II: Sinking of the City of Benares, 1940
VesselsCity of Benares (1936)

Object details:

Object ID SLR0024
Description Scale: 1:48. One of the first large passenger liners to be built with just a single screw, or propeller, the ‘City of Benares’ (1936) proved a popular ship on the route to India before the outbreak of war in 1939. But in the months leading up to its maiden voyage, it seemed that the vessel was going to be a rather less successful investment for owners, Ellerman Line, than anticipated. Bookings were slow at the company’s London office, where this model was displayed, until one of the staff realized that the public believed a ship with a single propeller to be less safe than one with two. Accordingly the case for this model was altered: the clear glass at the stern-end was replaced by frosted glass and large plaques providing details of the ship were positioned either side of the stern so that the offending propeller was hidden. Apparently the effect on bookings was remarkable, and the success of the new liner was assured. Apart from the deliberate obscuring of the propeller, the model reveals a wealth of detail, like the foremast crow’s nest, the four spotlights that are trained on the twin funnels, the swimming pool surrounded by wooden benches, and the two companion ladders that have been lowered on both sides of the ship. At the outbreak of war ‘City of Benares’ came under the control of the Ministry of War Transport. The commodore ship of a convoy of 19 vessels, it sailed from Liverpool on 3 September 1940, bound for Montreal. On board were 209 crew, 101 adult passengers, and 91 children who were being evacuated to Canada. Due to their limited range, the escorting warships had to disperse their convoy and leave the ships to proceed alone from mid-Atlantic, while they returned home for refuelling. Late on the night of 17 September, 400 miles off Iceland, ‘City of Benares’ was struck by a torpedo from the submarine ‘U-48’ and, despite the rough weather there was no alternative but to abandon ship. 145 survivors were picked up by the returning warships, including just 13 children. This tragedy effectively ended the overseas evacuation scheme.
Date made circa 1936

Artist/Maker Barclay, Curle & Co Ltd
Place made Glasgow
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials wood; cotton; brass; silver; glass; celluloid; paint; varnish
Measurements Overall model and base: 660 x 3370 x 695 mm; Original case: 1195 x 3315 x 650 mm
  • City of Benares (1936); Merchant vessel; Passenger/cargo liner (SLR0024)
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