World War 2 pictures, the loss of the Lancastria


(Jane Williamson) #1

I have noticed that you have lots of people with photos related to the 1st and 2nd World Wars.
My father was in the BEF and was one of the first into France because he operated the barrage balloons on the airfields on the Franco-German border for all the reconnaissance planes.
When the order come to evacuate, they were so far forward that they could not make it to Dunkirk and had to travel across France (walking most of the way) to St Nazaire, where they the ships stood off at least 8 miles because of the submarine pens,which were protected by huge batteries. My dad was with with his two school mates from Lancaster Royal Grammar School, and they had all signd up at the beginning of the war although they were well above the age being called for at the time. Their boat made its way out to Lancastria, and they said she has come to take us home, but were turned away as she was dangerously overloaded and they came home on a much smaller ship, the name of which I do not know.
At school many of my fellow pupils had fathers who had been evacuated at Dunkirk, and, in fact, my mother's boat was one of the small ships, but no one at school knew about St Nazaire, except me. This is because Churchill ordered the biggest loss of men at sea to stay a secret and it was only this year that the Lancastria survivors were allowed to take part in the march past the Cenotaph! My pictures are all in my head, especially as we went to St Nazaire when we had a holiday in the Western Loire and I was able to lay flowers on the remembrance stone.


My father died when I was thirteen, so I never had the time to discover his full story.


(Catharine Higginson) #2

What a shame you didn’t ever get to find out more. It sounds like he was very lucky to get back.