Lancastria Association of Scotland is tracing ex-servicemen and/or their families, who were on board HMT Lancastria when she sank in St Nazaire, France, during WW2
Dear Mr Gregory,
I am writing on behalf of the Lancastria Association of Scotland and I wondered if you could perhaps, through your website, help our Association trace ex-servicemen and/or their families, who were on board HMT Lancastria when she sank in St Nazaire, France, during WW2.
On Monday the 17th of June, 1940 at 3.48pm the requisitioned Cunard cruise liner, Lancastria came under attack from enemy aircraft. She received three direct hits from a German Junker 88 bomber and within 20 minutes, the 16,243-ton luxury liner sank, taking with her an estimated 4,000 victims. The sinking is the worst single disaster in British maritime history, and claimed more victims than the sinking of the Titanic and Lusitania combined. It is also the largest single loss of life for British forces in the whole of World War 2. It is a disaster which has remained largely forgotten and that in part has led to a silence which continues to this day, a silence our Association aims to remedy.
The exact death toll may never be fully known and estimates range from as low as 2,500 to over 6,000 lives lost. The Lancastria's acting Adjutant had desperately attempted to compile a list of those boarding from the small fleet of vessels ferrying men and refugees out to Lancastria and initially put the figure at almost 9,000 embarked, a figure backed up by a number of survivors. That figure may be exaggerated and it is certainly disputed by the British Government. Recently authors, such as Brian Crabb, have managed to pull together a full list of those known to have perished aboard Lancastria but there is evidence to suggest that many more individuals boarded the Lancastria than official records indicate.
However the scale of the disaster is only one small part of the story and does not reveal the true extent of the horror that day. The events of that afternoon have become obscured, not least because they also coincided with another 'larger' news story, the formal announcement that France had capitulated to Hitler's Germany. Churchill, on hearing news of the Lancastria disaster, immediately placed a D-notice on it forbidding any knowledge of the sinking reaching an already demoralised public.
Our Association has helped many families find out what happened to their loved ones. Many only received a telegram in 1940 telling them their relative, or spouse, was ‘missing - presumed dead/drowned’ and to this day they did not know where their bodies lay – most families presuming they were never recovered. We have on many occasions managed to provide information about the location of graves and the families have since made the journey to see the resting place of their relative for the first time, some 68 years after the disaster. We have quite an extensive library of information we can use to help them trace the last moves of their family member and many photos, maps and documents helping us to locate the graves of those servicemen who’s bodies were in fact recovered.
On the 5th of December 2007 during a parliamentary debate dedicated entirely to the Lancastria, the Scottish Government announced that it would commission a commemorative Lancastria medal. The first of these medals were presented to survivors, the families of survivors and the families of victims on 12th June 2008 by Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, in a very moving ceremony at the Scottish Parliament. It was a truly wonderful occasion where those, who have been forgotten in the history books and now in their late 80’s and 90’s, finally received the recognition they so truly deserved.
The Lancastria, formerly a Cunard cruise ship, was built in Scotland, in Clydebank, Glasgow at the Dalmuir shipyard of William Beardmore & Son in the early 1920’s. Our Association is at present fund raising to build a fitting memorial on the exact site where the drawing office and slipway once stood, now part of the gardens of the Golden Jubilee Hospital. If we manage to raise the cost in time, we would hope to unveil this memorial on 17th June 2010 – the 70th anniversary of the sinking.
As Membership Secretary of the Association, it is my very pleasurable job to welcome new members and to help them in any way I can. I lived in Australia for a short time and attended Anzac parades and Memorial Services while I was there. I know that you truly honour your War Veterans, which is why I thought I would write to you and ask you for your help. We have several Australian members (two of them are survivors in their 90’s) and I wondered if you could help us to appeal for anyone to contact us if they had any kind of connection to the Lancastria disaster. They can make contact by writing to me, Linda Clark, 6 Sumburgh Street, Glasgow, G33 3DB. SCOTLAND, or by email email@example.com . Should they wish to join our Association, our membership fee is £5.00 per year, which covers postage and the cost of producing our Newsletter. You can join through our website www.lancastria.org.uk and fees can be paid by Paypal. Survivors of the Lancastria are automatically enrolled as life members and do not pay fees.
We, the Committee of the Lancastria Association of Scotland, are passionate about helping those who lost their loved ones and also those who witnessed this terrible disaster on the day Lancastria sank - the effects of which still haunt them to this day.
I look forward to hearing from you and if you require any further information, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I shall do my best to help you.
We will be pleased to add your letter to AHOY, and trust it may help to find some who were aboard Lancastria on that fateful day of June 14, 1940, or their family members.
Thank you so much for your help in our search for survivors and victims families. It is greatly appreciated by the Committee of the Lancastria Association of Scotland. Even if I only ever hear from one person – then that is one person more than yesterday! If I hear from hundreds of people, then I may be looking for a secretary to help me cope with being the membership secretary!