1934 Bi­har earth­quake

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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.

Hi­lary’s grand­fa­ther

(right) help­ing in the af­ter­math of the

1934 earth­quake

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