Capt. Peter Arthur and the City of Benares rescue

August 25, 2011 1:30 am

I have been clearing the effects of my family and came across a framed picture of a flying boat over the lifeboat full of survivors from the Benares. It has a label attached to the back which states it is Mr J Alcott’s conception of the incident when the Australian Sunderland Flying Boat was instrumental in rescuing 46 survivors of the “City of Benares”. This excerpt would appear to be a cutting form a calendar and the actual picture a print – approx 10x16”. My Father was an officer with Ellerman City Line and I can only assume that he was part of this disaster and I would be very interested to know more. He ended his career as Capt. Peter Arthur in approx 1961 aged about 56.
I am happy to send through photo of the picture, and even the framed picture itself if of any historical interest – the glass is broken.
Kind regards,
Ann Clark

Thank you for that. I would love a copy of this picture to add to Ahoy please. 

August 11, 2010
Subject: Re: City of Benares

Hello to you both,

I'm not sure how much information is needed or appropriate - pleased edit as you see fit.

Rather than try and load lots of information and pictures here I'll just give you the links and you can see what you need/want.

Just as some background...this is something I wrote some years ago.

Air Commodore W H Garing RAAF
Air Commodore W H Garing RAAF

My name is Phillipa Byrne from Australia. I am the daughter of Air Commodore WH 'Bull' Garing CBE, DFC.  My Dad was the Captain of the Sunderland from 10 Sqn RAAF who found the last lifeboat from the City of Benares and sent their location to the rescue vessel.

My father was not decorated for his finding of this lifeboat, however, I can assure you it was one of his proudest moments during his long RAAF career. It was much talked about within our family and friends during my Father's life.

As far as I remember all the RAAF pilots were aware of the sinking of the 'City of Benares' and my Father spent many hours 'plotting' the direction in which he thought the lifeboat would 'drift' given the weather and the current - many thought their fate had been 'long met'.

He set off from 10 Squadron on another mission, however, while returning to dock he took a longer path determined to find the lifeboat.  At a critical point (fuel wise for the Sunderland) he found the lifeboat including the last survivors of the "City of Benares"...he has told us that he circled them three (?) times to let them know that they had been found. The water was too rough to land but I believe he dropped flares with a note for them to let them off when they saw a ship approaching.

It was then that he radioed back and the second Sunderland was sent (that dropped food packages?) I believe this was the one from
the RAF. This second Sunderland stayed around the lifeboat until HMS Anthony was able to reach them. 

On the way back to Dock Dad found his flying boat in a critical fuel situation and there was much discussion within the crew of the Sunderland if they would make it back to land - they did.

Dad went on to be influential in the Pacific war against the Japanese and based in New Guinea.

I have inserted the inscription from a copy of General Kenney's book "General Kenney Reports" - it reads

"To G/C (Group Captain) Bill Garing, with sincere appreciation for his loyal co-operation, brains, courage and leadership in the Allied Air Force during the Pacific War. He made it easier for MacArthur to put 4 stars on my shoulders. George C. Kenney, Gen. USAF."

My Dad was always proud of his work in the Pacific, however, I can assure you he was very proud of being 'influential' in the finding of the life boat from the "City of Benares" and their salvation. Despite leading a long life he never met anyone from the lifeboat but I know he would have loved to.

It was generally not known that there were members of the RAAF flying Sunderland's in those early days of the war - however, if you go to this link you'll read why they were there..

This link has a photo of Dad during those early days - he is second from left on the third photo down on the left hand side...

This was a story that Allan Stephens wrote after Dad passed away and has a photo of him after he'd retired in full dress uniform and medals...

Many thanks for your interest. I have a painting here which belonged to Dad and was painted by Air Commodore Stan Nicol (he took up painting in retirement and it is quite a 'naive style) - however, was always treasured by Dad and hung with great pride in our family home. You will find a photo I took today attached. We are in the process of donating this to 10 Squadron RAAF for the Crew Room.
The current commander of 10 Squadron is Wing Commander Kevin Murray and I know that he holds the log/operations books from the early days back in 1939.

Please be assured that I am not trying to blow my own trumpet or Dad's with this information, however, I have found so many sites on the internet that attribute the discovery of the lifeboat to the RAF and not the RAAF that I am just trying to set the record straight, so to speak.

Feel free to contact me anytime.

Cheers and regards,
Pip Byrne.


At our URL:
Pictures of the SS City of Benares?

Can you please add a post Script to include Pip's story about her Father, and this photo much later than when he found the boat from City of Benares?

Air Commodore W H Garing RAAF.


Update  27 September 2010 See also "City of Benares - RAAF rescue"

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