Commemorative Ceremony of the Lancastria tragedy. St.Nazaire  June 17th 2008

See "Loss of HMT Lancastria at St Nazaire on the 17th. of June 1940. One of Britain's worst Maritime Disasters"


A deep emotion was felt on that day of June 17th 2008 in Saint-Nazaire (Brittany) for the commemoration of the 68th anniversary of the Lancastria tragedy. Survivors and members of the families of the ship-wrecked persons had come over from Scotland and England for the event, as well as an important British group. A representative from New Zealand was here also.

The Breton Tri-Yann offered their gwerz (a Breton ballad) about Lancastria and it was particularly moving. The people there, looking over that sunny roadstead where lies the memory of the four to six thousand victims of the Cunard ship, could not but translate into tragic images the words of the Nantes music group.

British veterans expressed their pleasure on seeing the Gwenn ha Du (the Breton flag) side by side with theirs when paying homage to the victims of Lancastria. In addition, there was a Central Brittany Branch Union Jack Royal British Legion Standard held by a British man in a uniform. (1)

The Nazairian association CREDIB Sant-Nazer – Centre de Recherche et de Diffusion de l'Identité Bretonne – was at the start of that introduction of Breton and Celtic representations.

The British authorities recalled the strong links between Saint-Nazaire and Great-Britain and paid homage to the Nazairian efforts to keep up the memory of this black chapter of the second world war. The Town hall then offered a Vin d'Honneur to all who had taken part and attended in the ceremony.

The Story of William and Steven Taws
Both men were deeply moved by the commemorative ceremony of the Lancastria tragedy. After the ceremony, they told members of the CREDIB how deeply they were concerned. The two British men had come on their own for the commemoration. The father, William, had lost his elder brother Stanley in the Lancastria tragedy. But it was only in I997, after long inquiries, that the family finally got the information that this Royal Air Force man had been lost in 1940 in the shipwreck of Lancastria.(« lost in the accomplishment of his duty » was the only information received by the family later during the war). William was only five years old in 1940. He had sworn to himself that he would come to Brittany where his brother lies.

The ceremony touched him so that he went to sit on the small wall and fixed his looks on that roadstead of Saint-Nazaire where his brother lived his last moments.

William's son, Steven – who accompanied and guided him through this journey – came over to the Bretons' group to tell them about his father, who then started to speak : « My father died without ever knowing what his elder son, Stanley, had become » and he went on : « In April 1941 I had been sent away from town for safety, and my mother, my sister and my baby brother were killed in the air raids ».

The dignity and courage of this man were such that the Bretons invited him to join them on their way to the Town hall for the Vin d'Honneur.

After the speech of Catherine Tesseyre – the Deputy Mayor in charge of Ceremonies – William Taws could tell her, aside, with great dignity and simplicity, his tragic history. A Breton lady translated. It was not he wanted to tell his life story, he was invited to by his new Breton friends. Mrs Tesseyre listened with attention, her emotion was visible. She thanked William, telling he was a strong man, and that he had been right to come to her and tell his family tragedy. He answered « You are a lovely lady », still moved.

Steven and Williams were particularly touched by the Nazairians marks of friendliness. Steven stood proudly for photos, near the monument to the Lancastria victims, with members of the CREDIB, between Gwenn ha Du and Scottish flag. Steven lives in Aberdeen, where he works in the shipyards. He was born in South Shields, a coastal town in the north east of England, in the county of Durham. His father still lives there. Steven gave us the link [Voir le site] where his father tells his life story.

After the Vin d'Honneur in the Town hall, veterans and survivors were invited to get on board for a trip to the very place of the wreck and homage to the victims. William and Steven were of course invited to join them.
Captain Yves Beaujuge deserves our gratitude and salutations for all his work and efforts, through his Internet site, to keep up the memory of that disastrous June 17th 1940 – a day that grieved Nazairians hearts for ever.

Hubert Chemereau 17 juin 2008 Sant Nazer/ Saint Nazaire – Brittany

(1) Central Brittany Branch : the veteran in a uniform holding a Union Jack   Royal British Legion Standard “Central Brittany Branch” is a British man who lives in Plumelec (Morbihan). With other veterans, they have created a Breton association taking part in the ceremonies dedicated to their country fellows fallen in Brittany – hence their coming to Saint-Nazaire for the event :

David and Anna Ball
Ville Jacob 56 420 Plumelec
“The Royal British Legion in Brittany”.

The Royal British Legion in Brittany”.Secretary : Valerie Davenport
Ty Planche,
56310 Bubry
e-mail : SecretaryRBLBrittany@wanadoo.fr

See also [ABP 11114].
Traduction Yvette Daniel du CREDIB.


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