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The Story of Wren Cecily Bruce Benjamin

The Story of Wren Cecily Bruce Benjamin

This is the story of Cecily Monica Bruce Benjamin of the Womens Royal Naval Service who lost her life on the 19th August 1941 while aboard the S.S. Aguila off the S.W. coast of Ireland.

Originally from Pinner, Middlesex, she lived at Pendyffryn, Salop Road, Overton, but during the War was based at H.M.S. President 11, a shore base for accounting purposes at Lower Regent Street, London. She was one of twenty two members of W.R.N.S. (Womens Royal Naval Service) who had volunteered for cipher and wireless duties in Gibraltar.¬†They embarked from Liverpool en route to Gibraltar on 12th August 1941 on board the S.S. “Aguila”, Commodore ship of Convoy OG-71. Also on board were many servicemen, all naval personnel, taking the “Aguila’s” complement to 161.

Consisting of 23 merchant ships and escorted by 6 Corvettes and 2 Destroyers the Convoy was attacked by German Submarines on 19th August, while off the South Western Coast of Ireland. Soon after midnight a torpedo hit the “Aguila” amidships sending her to the bottom in ninety seconds. There were only 16 survivors, leaving a death toll of 145. The dreadful truth, was that not one of the 22 Wrens survived.

Before the convoy reached its destination, 8 of its merchant ships had been sunk together with two escort vessels with a loss of nearly 400 lives.

On 28th June 1952 Edward Benjamin, father of Cecily Benjamin and co-trustee of the “Aguila Wrens Memorial Fund”, presented a Motor Lifeboat to the Royal Naval Lifeboat Institution. The lifeboat, named in their honour “Aguila Wren”, was launched at and saw service from Aberystwyth until February 1965 when she was transferred to Redcar operating from there until May 1973. During service she was launched 52 times and saved 36 lives. On 20th May 1973 she was handed over to the Sea Cadet Corps at Keadby Lock, Scunthorpe where she completed her useful life. Normally when Lifeboats reach the end of their active service they are sold without name or livery. In this case the “Aguila Wren” retained her R.N.L.I colours as well as her name in order to preserve the memorial to the Wrens who lost their lives.

Mr Benjamin also had planted in his daughter’s honour one of the four flowering cherry trees adjacent to the Overton War Memorial. This was enclosed by railings with a brass memorial plaque (both now removed). Cecily is further remembered on Plymouth Naval Memorial situated on The Hoe, which directly overlooks Plymouth Sound.

Research By Alan Jones for the Overton Oracle