I just finished reading Miracles on the Water' - about a passenger liner (City of Benares) that was torpedoed in 1940 while crossing the north Atlanti I just finished reading Miracles on the Water' - about a passenger liner (City of Benares) that was torpedoed in 1940 while crossing the north Atlantic. The passengers included ninety English children being evacuated to North America. Hundreds of passengers died and there were hardly any survivors.
One lifeboat lasted 8 freezing days in the big waves, and was one of the very few picked up. The young boys on that lifeboat were kept alive by a 41 year old teacher, Mary Cornish, who massaged their limbs and kept up spirits with songs and stories. One way she did the latter was inventing chapters of Bulldog Drummond action hero stories for them, making it up as she went about secret wirelesses, code breakers, captures and escapes and endless adventures. Turns out Bulldog Drummond began as a pulp novel in 1920, inspired by Sherlock Holmes and other WWI era pulp novels, and ended up inspiring the James Bond novels in 1953.
Those children never forgot Mary Cornish and the stories she told them. She was awarded the Medal of the British Empire (MBE) for 'valor at sea.' In 2011 author Julie Summers was able to fill out the rest of the Mary Cornish story in her book 'When the Children Came Home' - and how until Mary's death in 1964 Mary was remembered as a vibrant story teller and musician.