Cemeteries and graveyards, full of love, betrayal, tragic deaths, murder, and suicide. What will you find?

Friday 31 May 2013

Gladys Le Blac Smith - The Sinking of the Tanjong Penang

**Originally posted on 29th May 2012**

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 eventually 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 children, two of whom were under a year in age.  Sadly Sister Beatrice was not to make it, succumbing to her wounds on 18th February 1942

Beatrice is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial Colum 114.

Singapore Memorial

** Originally posted on Herding Cats


  1. What a terrible time she had.
    PS is the datat the tip right?

  2. The stories these stones could tell if they only had a voice, that's why they have us, thank you for researching and sharing this one.
    Find me at http://sleepinggardens.blogspot.co.uk/

  3. That is both an amazing and sad story. I love the photo of the stone.

  4. So very sad. Often the tales of heroism and self sacrice went un recorded. Thank you for posting this information.


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