Dressed only in their nightclothes, some clutching teddy bears, others clinging to each other, the tiny occupants of Lifeboat Eight were the first to be lowered from the ship. Suddenly, a rope slipped.
For a moment, the boat dangled vertically, spilling its 30 terrified passengers in to the sea, before crashing down on top of them. In the teeth of a North Atlantic gale and in the dead of night, they all disappeared.
They included 13-year-old Gussie Grimmond, and her sisters Violet, ten, and Connie, nine. Their little brothers, Edward, eight, and Leonard, five, assigned to another lifeboat, were never seen again, either.
They were 600 miles from land and even further from the parents who packed them off in search of a safer, better life.
The Grimmond children, whose home had been bombed to pieces weeks before, were among 262 passengers and crew who would perish on that appalling night in September 1940. Even today, it is shocking to read details of the sinking of the City of Benares, an 11,000-ton British liner hit by a German torpedo while carrying evacuees to Canada.
The tragedy would be debated for years. Where was the Royal Navy? How could Germany attack a ship full of children?
Now an intriguing new dimension to the tragedy has emerged. The City of Benares, along with many other ships, may have been targeted for a reason: its secret cargo of gold bullion.