Jane Benham MBE (28 January 1943, Colchester, Essex – June 1992, Colchester) was instrumental in the formation and operation of the East Coast Sail Trust, a charitable institution devoted to both character building for young people through sail training, and preservation of Thames sailing barges. The Trust has been running now for over 40 years, during which time many thousands of young people from all over Britain and indeed around the world, have benefited from the unique experience that is provided. A mark of the impact she made is the institution of an annual memorial lecture in her honour, which continues today.
The Trust owned and operated two sailing barges (known in the Trust as schoolships) the 150 burthen ton Thalatta  and the 200 ton Sir Alan Herbert, both coasting spritsail barges, rigged with ketch mizzens. The latter vessel was procured through an appeal made in memory of the famous humourist, novelist, playwright and one-time MP, A.P. Herbert.
The Trust continues to operate today, based at Maldon, Essex and the sailing barge Thalatta is undergoing a major overhaul and rebuild at the barge yard at St Osyth, largely supported by lottery funding. The name Thalatta originates from the Greek word meaning the sea (see Thalatta! Thalatta!). The Sir Alan Herbert is no longer in the hands of the Trust, and has reverted to her original name, Lady Jean.
Jane Benham was a major figure in development of the Trust's work, personally carried out much of the administration and served as First Mate of the Thalatta. In this endeavour, she worked closely with John Kemp, founder of the Trust, master mariner and author; and his wife, Monica Kemp. The programme was dubbed 'A Week in Another World'. During their stay on board the schoolships, children and their accompanying teachers or youth leaders explored the east coast within the area North Foreland in the south to Orfordness in the north, living on board and working the vessels under sail.
Jane Benham was awarded the MBE for her work with the East Coast Sail Trust.
Artist and benefactor
She was also a prolific and accomplished artist, painting mainly small works in oils, acrylic and watercolour, principally of Essex coastal scenes.
She was a strong and generous supporter of several charities, as well as a number of individuals whose hardship came to her notice.
Jane Benham was the daughter of Hervey Benham, former editor of the successful Essex County Standard newspaper and prolific author of books, in particular about sailing and shipping on the east coast.
She was brought up in Fingringhoe and West Mersea, Essex; and educated at St Mary's School, Colchester and St Felix School, Southwold. When not at sea she lived during most of her life at Maldon, Essex. Jane Benham died from cancer, aged 49, in 1992.