Lancastria. Right: Aground on the River Mersey 1936
This photo taken on the day that at least 4000
people lost their lives during the evacuation of Allied and British
forces and many refugees when the RMS Lancastria sank after being
attacked near the French port of Saint Nazaire on 17th June 1940.
Figures for the dead are an estimate only but anything up to 9000 could
have been on a ship built to carry 2500 passengers and 500 crew.
On the 31st. of May 1920, the 16,243 ton SS
Tyrrhenia slid down the slipway at William Beardsmore Shipyard. This
Cunard Liner offered 580 luxury class cabins, and had been built to
service the Hamburg/New York, and London/New York routes. She spent some
time as a Cruise Ship in both Mediterranean and Norwegian waters. The
American public interested in cruising had some difficulty with the name
Tyrrhenia, and contrary to the superstition that sailors carry about
changing a ship's name, her owners decided to rename the ship Lancastria
in 1924. In 1940 she was requisitioned by the Admiralty as a troopship.
Lancastria was one of the ships detailed to be off St Nazaire to pick up
http://ahoy.tk-jk.net/macslog/LossofHMTLancastriaatStNa.html tells us that at 1600 off went the air raid sirens, and a German bomber appeared, her bomb bay wide open, down came four bombs, to fall onto Lancastria, the ship immediately shuddered under this impact. One bomb fell down a funnel, the others struck No 2 Hold, No 3 Hold, about 1,200 tons of fuel oil was spilled into the surrounding sea, and the 4th. bomb burst in No 4 hatch. The ship quickly listed to starboard, and started to settle by the bows, hundreds jumped into the oil soaked sea, others sought refuge on the upturned hull. The German aircraft returned to machine gun survivors, killing many of them. Lancastria now took her final plunge to the bottom. Survivors were picked up by all manner of craft, and in due course, newspapers put the total recovered at 2,823.numbers lost. The total number lost from this troopship will most likely never be known, as no final and accurate count of those who did board the ship was taken, and it might run as high as 4,000 to 5,000 lost. Also on this web site above is the crew list of those lost.
Captain's compass case from the Lancastria - Terry Phillips sent me this image