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Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Le Blanc Smith - Sinking of The Tanjong Penang

Taphophilia is a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries. The singular term is a taphophile.

Monument to Gladys Le Blanc Smith, All Saint's Cemetery, Maidenhead, Berkshire.

"In Ever Loving Memory of


The Dearly Beloved And Most Devoted Wife Of

Fredrick Stuart Le Blanc Smith

Born January 8th 1884 - Died August 2nd 1913."

Gladys Le Blanc Smith was born Gladys Haig on 8th January 1884 at Bray Court, Windsor Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire to John Haig, a Distiller from Scotland and Jane Mary Ann Davis.

In 1910 Gladys married Frederick Stuart Le Blanc Smith, a member of The London Stock Exchange at All Saint's Church, Boyne Hill, Maidenhead.  The 1911 Census shows them living at Cairns, King's Grove, Maidenhead.  Soon their marriage was blessed by the birth of their daughter Beatrice (Betty), but tragically death was to take Gladys away from her young daughter in the August of 1913.

The outbreak of world War II saw Beatrice joining the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service, where she served in the Far East on the 'Evacuation Ships'.  Beatrice was on the SS Kuala on 12th February 1942 when it came under enemy aircraft attack, killing many of the nurses, women and children aboard.  When the SS Kuala evenutually sank off of Pom Pong Island, Beatrice was one of the few survivors.  However fate was not kind to her. 

Fellow Nurse Margot Turner recounts -

"During the night of 16-17th February, all women, children and wounded were taken off the island in rowing boats and placed on board the ‘Tanjong Penang’, a small cargo boat which was very crowed.

On the morning of the 17th February 1942. She was hit by gunfire at 9.30 p.m. on that day and sank in about 5 minutes.

I was lying next to Sister Beatrice le Blanc Smith and there were people dead and dying all round us. Beatrice got a nasty wound in the buttock… My first thought was for the women and children in the hold; but a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse) struggling up from there to the deck, her dress covered in blood, said that the hold had had the full force of one of the shells and was absolutely smashed. In any case I realised that there was nothing I could do as the ship was already at a steep angle and obviously just about to turn over. Beatrice and I just stepped into the sea and were very lucky not to be sucked down when the ship suddenly turned over and sank.

The cries and screams of the wounded, the helpless and the dying, were quite terrible."

Before the ship sunk the officers had managed to throw a few small rafts overboard and Le Blanc Smith and Turner got hold of two and tied them together.  Both Beatrice and Margot had managed to save sixteen people from the sea, including six chidren, two of whom were under a year in age.  Sadly Sister Beatrice was not to make it, sucumming to her wounds on 18th February 1942

Beatrice is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial Collum 114.

Singapore Memorial

For more Taphophile Tragic posts, please click here.

** Originally posted on Herding Cats

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