THE last known survivor of a ship that was notoriously sunk by a German U-Boat in the Second World War as it was taking British children to the safety of Canada has died.

Elizabeth Williams - known as Beth - was just 14 when the ship, the SS City of Benares, was torpedoed 600 miles into the Atlantic four days after sailing from Liverpool in September 1940.

Beth and a friend clung to an overturned lifeboat for more than 16 hours until they were rescued by another British ship which had answered the City of Benares' 'mayday' distress call. Only 13 children of the 90 on board survived the sinking.

Beth was born in Scotland as Elizabeth May Cummings in June 1926 but moved to Liverpool at a young age.

In an interview after the event she recalled: "I had never swum in my life before but I swum that night. I do not know how I did it but I got to an upturned boat and climbed on to it. After some hours when I was able to see I found there were Bessie Walden and the seaman and myself clinging on the keel. The seaman was on the point of collapse when a warship came in sight."

She married Glyn Williams in Liverpool in 1963, where she worked as a welfare officer. She and her husband, who did not have any children, decided to retire to Bentham in 1986 because they loved the area after spending many holidays there.

Beth was happy to speak about her experiences on the City of Benares and gave many talks on the subject to schools and organisations, becoming well-known throughout the area.

Her god-daughter Jackie Bailey said: "Perhaps surprisingly, she absolutely loved cruising, especially the Norwegian fjords and in Scottish waters. And she never learned to swim! She was a lovely woman who will be greatly missed."

The funeral is today (Thursday) at St John the Baptist Church, Low Bentham.