1934 Bihar earthquake
Sarah’s blog of 29 April, relating to the recent Nepal earthquakes and how she discovered that her great grandfather had lived through the 1934 Bihar quake in that region, reminded me that my mother Yvonne Benwell [née Sidwell] wrote about her experiences of the same earthquake in Monghyr.
She was about nine when it happened and when she was older wrote an account of it for her work magazine. She described it as follows: “I heard a rumbling like thunder in the distance and at the same time the house began to shake; the whole room was moving – cracks appeared in the walls and the overhead light was swinging like a pendulum, things were falling off the dressing table.
“I ran for the door and with great difficulty managed to open it and rush outside, dodging the masonry that was falling all around me. It was well-nigh impossible to keep upright because the earth was going up and down in waves like the sea and I had to cling to a fence to keep from falling. It only lasted a minute but felt like a lifetime!
“When everything had settled down again we went back indoors to survey the damage and found that the fireplace in the sitting room was now in the middle of the room, so we were very fortunate that the fire was not lit.”
Her father, William Sidwell, who worked for Tobacco Manufacturers (India) Ltd, helped organise the rescue efforts and was awarded the MBE for his services. It was presented to him at the Mysore Residency, Bangalore, in December 1935. The citation reads: “He continued to work daily with the greatest energy and cheerfulness, often in very trying conditions and he and the other officers of the Tobacco Factory set a most inspiring example to all who were employed in the work of relief.”
The photograph I have included [see above] I believe shows William on the right with his back to the camera. Hilary Elliott [née Benwell], by email Editor replies: Thank you for sending this in Hilary. It has renewed my enthusiasm to find out more about my great grandfather’s experience in the earthquake. I think I need to make some more enquiries among family members to see if there are any written accounts.
(right) helping in the aftermath of the