I made my way somehow up to the boat deck to my boat station, and with an engineer tried to get one of the boats away. My father, Harold John Morgan, celebrates his 105 birthday today, he must be the last survivor of the sinking of the Lancastria. After entering the water a seemingly crazed man tried to remove my lifejacket, but I managed to fight him off. While none of this forgives the blackout on news of the Lancastria, it does explain why Churchill may have genuinely forgotten to lift the ban. He was reported MIA By telegram . those of the BBC. I swam until I reached a dinghy but couldn’t get up the ropes because of oil. “She was going down fast. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites He ended 75VE in plain clothes with a Hurricane Squadron keeping a look out for the Russians. There was a panic one day when the officers disappeared, rumours spread like wildfire and the word Dunkirk was being used. He was a non-swimmer but managed to hold on to wreckage, sick with fuel oil ingestion, until many hours later he was picked up by a French fishing vessel, landed at St Nazaire and taken to a local hospital staffed by a religious order where they cared for him with great consideration – God Bless Them. After the war the Lancastria Survivors Association was founded by Major Peter Petit, but this lapsed on his death in 1969. I joined them as more people tried to get aboard. She’d spent hours on the Clyde where she was supposed to be refitted, and then been moved to Liverpool for a routine re-fit and to have 1,407 tons of surplus fuel oil removed from her tanks. In addition, many made for the smaller ports, where they left in a variety of boats. The decks were full of bullet holes.” – F. S. Hodder, RPC. The decks and holds were completely crowded and by noon they knew there were over 5,000 people on board, and they were still taking more on board. In addition the rescue craft were being machine gunned as well, and flares from the lifeboats, designed to go off when they hit sea water, were setting light to the fuel oil and causing fires and thick smoke. We couldn’t escape it. I took the megaphone, hearing my voice booming out strangely over the dying ship ‘Clear away the boats now… Your attention please… Clear away the boats now.’ The Lancastria quaked under my feet, a last gesture of farewell.” In his report to the Admiralty, Captain Sharp of the Lancastria writes: ‘The Oronsay was lying four cables from us at anchor. There was panic and chaos. After the Battle of Britain he was posted to North Africa and awarded a silver clasp having been shelled and almost captured by Rommel. Finally we made it to Saint Nazair, a huge expanse of concrete greeted us and it was there where we slept for the night. I regret to say that on two occasions when groups tried to grab me I dived under to avoid their clutches. Government Licence v3.0, except where otherwise stated. Select an option to receive our free podcast series, using either RSS or iTunes. She sank with all on board in less than twenty minutes. It was the 17th of June 1940. When they got to Cherbourg, Churchill expected them to join other units and form a second BEF [British Expeditionary Force]. However, the loss of life on the Lancastria was more than all of these three ships put together. google_ad_client = "ca-pub-6097068139040027"; By 14 June, the situation in France was getting much, much worse. They pulled me aboard and I just slumped in the bottom of the boat with the other survivors resting their feet on my back. I moved a little distance from the ship and looked back to see a man drop from the position I had. I put my hand to my head; most of my hair had been blown off. We were tipped back into the oily sea. Unfortunately for many of the men evacuated from Le Havre, their evacuation was no further than Cherbourg. France would be surrendering, and the BEF were now out on their own. Her bunker oil was released and spreading all over the water. It was hell. The danger to personnel in the docks was much greater, owing to the laws of gravity, and I personally received a portion of the French defences on my steel helmet.’. In the event, over 338,000 were rescued between 27 May and 4 June, in what Winston Churchill described as ‘a miracle of deliverance’. Estimates range from a conservative 2,500 to 6,000, but from the documents that I’ve been studying within the National Archives, I believe the figure is more around the 4,000 mark, which is still extraordinarily high. Instead of recounting bits… I can’t remember whether an order to abandon ship was given but it was immediately obvious that we would have to get away as quickly as possible.” – Major John Adams, RASC, “I was on G Deck, in the hold, when the bomb struck. So we see at St Nazaire a situation of complete and utter chaos. So where was Lancastria? The 2,477 survivors, including her captain, were picked up by HMS Havelock and other ships. There were too many, all over.’. I had no clothes as I had ditched them to be able to swim and I was covered in thick black oil. I don’t profess to be an absolute expert on this; this is as new to me as it is to many of you. What I will attempt to do is explain why so many people came to be on board, why we simply don’t know who exactly was on board, why the loss of life was so high, and we’ll also look at why the Lancastria seems to have been so long forgotten. However, one of the most controversial aspects of the sinking of the Lancastria was the alleged cover up of the facts by Churchill’s Government. Here in Pornichet for example, there were two or three at each tide. Walter Hirst and Albert Nadin’s full accounts can be read, along with many others at Lancastria Archive. As I say, she was hit by all four bombs. The incident became notorious as Hartenstein had stayed at the scene to rescue survivors. We were tipped back into the oily sea. Archives, Open Ther’s much more but that’s all I can manage just now. The ship itself was being machine gunned. Cyril Cumbes, 663 Artisan Works Company, Royal Engineers, “Swimming was difficult because of so many troops already in the water – many of them fully clothed and many with packs still on their backs and grabbing at anyone who was seen to be swimming. It could have actually begun earlier, but the French harbour master forbade any earlier loading because he didn’t want lights used. Meanwhile at Plymouth, the Lancastria and the Franconia were given orders to sail for Brest. We have been led to believe he was onboard when the ship was sunk. Since I actually announced that I was doing this talk, I have received a number of telephone calls and a number of emails from relatives of those who…survived, and [those who] died on the Lancastria, and I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by their stories and their passion for taking this out into the wider world again. Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the He later wrote that: ‘When news of this came through to me in the quiet Cabinet room during the afternoon, I forbade its publication, saying that the newspapers have got quite enough disaster for today at least. Now following on so closely from the losses that they’d incurred at Dunkirk, the strain that was placed by this operation on the Navy and the Air Force to provide boats and air cover for such a huge operation over such a huge area was unimaginable. On the Record at The National Archives: Heroic deeds (a trailer), Nancy Astor: First steps towards a better balanced world, Film of the month: ‘Our Jamaican Problem’, Audacious Raids: Operations Grouse, Freshman, Swallow and Gunnerside, Friends of The National She was a big girl; she was 16,243 tons, and 578 foot long. kind regards Bev. The launches took us to both in turn.” – A. G. Bradford, Transportation Finance Unit, RE, “There were 5 of us standing together with lifebelts and the first 4 jumped from the deck in front of me wearing their belts. Earlier, I mentioned the steward who was left counting troops coming on board with his little hand counter. Two months before his birth 4 members of his family were killed in the Minnie Pit Disaster, January 12th 1918 alongside 152 others, 40 boys under age of 16 the front line of WW1 deemed too dangerous. Another member of the crew was stationed on the starboard side. There was however a body 20 feet away minus the head.” Soon all the kit bags and all the baggage we carried was left in the ditchers. So, who was on board the Lancastria?

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