Troopship Lancastria

The sinking of the troopship Lancastria In memory of the estimated 4000+ souls who were lost aboard the Lancastria on 17th June 1940

This web page is dedicated to all those who perished at sea on "Lancastria" ... Andrew T. Richardson is remembered by his daughter Fiona H. T. Symon who is chairwoman of the Lancastria Association,

Andrew T. Richardson R.A.S.C army number s/90419 died in the Lancastria tragedy aged 27. His body was washed ashore down the coast from St Nazaire in the Sables d'Olonne area five weeks later. His grave is in the beautiful village cemetery at Beauvoir sur Mer. His widow had the words "Still, still with thee when purple morning breaketh" inscribed on his grave stone.

In 1941 he was reported to his wife of two years as " killed in action at sea " However, his army number had been misread as one belonging to a soldier who was alive and well and so it was not until 1943 that his widow received absolute confirmation of his death. He left a daughter, Fiona, who is the Chairman of the Lancastria Association of Scotland. In life Andrew Richardson was a talented and greatly loved man. He was a journalist with a local newspaper and was organist and choirmaster in Whtyscauseway Baptist Church where his father had been the minister in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland ... Andrew's Father, Andrew T. Richardson Snr, was the minister from 1914 - 1929. When he retired from the ministry he became the general Manager of the Fifeshire Advertiser, a local paper, which is now part of the Fife Free Press Group. My father was the organist and choir master at Whytescauseway until the outbreak of WW2 and was a journalist with the Fifeshire Advertiser. Fiona H. T. Symon [ the T stands for Turnbull as it does in my father's name]

[ Andrew T. Richardson R.A.S.C ]

His day has come, not gone, His sun has risen, not set, His life is now beyond the reach of pain and death, Not ended, but begun.

Lancastria was attacked by German bombers in 1940 ... The loss of the converted Cunard liner was Britain's worst maritime disaster and the country's biggest single loss of life in World War II.  But it was hushed up and, for half a century, relatives and survivors have felt the sacrifice was forgotten. The ship was lending support to the war effort, evacuating British Expeditionary Forces from France, when it was attacked by German bombers on 17 June, 1940.  Among more than 6,000 aboard the troop ship was Bill Walker - now 90-years-old.  "We were up on the top deck and, within a very short time, German planes came over," he recalled. "I saw the bombs leaving the plane." Mr Walker was one of the lucky ones. For the thousands on the lower decks, escape was almost impossible as the Lancastria rapidly turned over and sank. Three bombs apparently hit it. They say one of them went down the funnel  Bill Walker Lancastria survivor 

"The top deck was a mess of blood," said Mr Walker. "Three bombs apparently hit it. They say one of them went down the funnel." "Almost immediately she began to list. We jumped off, it listed away to one side. "The Germans were back - they were strafing the water. Within a comparatively short time, she was away. It was unbelievable." At least 4,000 died - 400 of them Scots. So soon after Dunkirk, then Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered the event to be hushed up to protect national morale. It remained a secret long after the war, but this led the bereaved to feel their sacrifice was ignored. Before she ever knew him, Fiona Symon lost her father in the chaos and carnage of the evacuation of St Nazaire. Now chairwoman of the Lancastria Association, she said the event had a shattering impact on her mother. "Mother mourned my father for the rest of her life," she explained ...

The sinking of the Lancastria was hushed up for years after the war, "Really, right up until she died in 1992, she was still very sad and very bitter that, come November when it's Armistice time, and the words 'lest we forget' are in every paper, mother used to say, 'yes and rightly so, but they've forgotten about the Lancastria.'"

But, finally, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond will give the bereaved families official recognition.

"It's bad enough to be connected with a disaster on this scale without harbouring a grievance that somehow the loss hasn't been recognised in the same way that other losses have been recognised," he said. "To be able to do something about it is a rare privilege." It is a move which has attracted cross-party support. Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles - a major who served in the Army for 15 years, said: "It's right and proper that it is recognised and that we've got this commemoration medal. "I think the first ever occasion that the Scottish Government has done this. Its quite remarkable."  The medal states its recognition of the ultimate sacrifice of the 4,000 victims and the endurance of the survivors. Inscribed are the words - "we will remember them."

The sheer size of the Lancastria disaster and the fact that the troopship sank in the estuary of the River Loire, trapping many people inside the hull, means that a great many of the bodies were never recovered. A considerable number of those who escaped the sinking never had life jackets and could not swim. It is a fact that bodies were found weeks and, in some cases, months later, north and south of Saint-Nazaire, along the French coast; some more than one hundred miles from where the Lancastria sank. Therefore this exercise almost becomes paradoxical, as it is virtually impossible to gain knowledge of the exact numbers of personnel lost on that fateful day. To view their excellent Web Gallery ... please click here

ROLL OF HONOUR - LANCASTRIA The list of names has been compiled by author of "The Forgotten Tragedy" Brian Crabb. THE FORGOTTEN TRAGEDY The story of the loss of HMT Lancastria by Brian James Crabb This book records the tragic story of the sinking of the troopship Lancastria, which was bombed and sunk by Junkers 88 bombers in the estuary of the River Loire, on Monday, 17 June 1940. Crammed with approximately 6,000 troops, RAF personnel, civilians and crew, a third of whom did not survive, this incident remains Britainís worst-ever maritime disaster but, like many other shipping disasters of the Second World War, it remains little known today.

To read more books about the War at Sea ... click here