Remember lives lost in disaster

Hastings Observer letters
Hastings Observer letters

From: Ray Walter

Eisenhower Drive
St Leonards

As we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in past wars and conflicts, not forgetting those that served and those that continue to serve today in our Armed Services, I became aware just a few weeks ago of Britain’s worst ever maritime disaster and like me, there are probably many more who are not aware of the sinking of “The Lancastria” on June 17, 1940 off St. Nazaire.

It was commissioned from Cunard by the Royal Navy when war broke out with Germany to serve as a troop ship. It was sent to St Nazaire to evacuate the rest of the BEF (British Expedition Force) plus civilians. Captain Sharp was ordered to take on board as many as he could back to England. Estimates vary, but was thought that as many as 9,000 were on board, when at 3.50pm on June 17, 1940, it was bombed by the German Air Force and sank 20 minutes later with massive loss of life, estimates range from 4,000 to 6,000 lives lost, with 2,477 who survived.

I have two sons, both now serving in the Royal Navy and my eldest son Seth, came across this naval tribute a few years ago, which fits so well to all those who served and were lost at sea: “On all the oceans, white caps flow. There are no crosses row on row. But you who sleep beneath the sea, can rest in peace – your country’s free.”

Let Kipling have the last words of “LEST WE FORGET”.