Published: Wednesday, June 10th, 2015
75th Anniversary of Britain's worst maritime disaster
To commemorate the 75th Anniversary of Britain’s worst maritime disaster, members of the Lancastria Association of Scotland will gather on Saturday 13 June to remember those who lost their lives when the Clyde-built troop ship was bombed off the coast of St Nazaire in France in 1940.
The service will be held at the Lancastria Memorial in the grounds of the Golden Jubilee National Hospital, which is built on the site of the former Beardmore and Son’s Shipbuilding Yard, where the HMT Lancastria was built.
Originally launched as the cruise ship Tyrrhenia, the HMT Lancastria was taken over as a troop ship in 1939 during World War Two. After successfully evacuating troops from Norway, the Lancastria was one of the ships selected for Operation Ariel, to rescue large numbers of the 150,000 British troops left behind in France following the Dunkirk evacuation.
Two weeks after Dunkirk, on 17 June 1940, the Lancastria was struck four times by a German bomber off the French coast of St Nazaire. The ship was sunk in less than 20 minutes, with fewer than 2,500 of the estimated 9,000 people on board surviving.
This was the largest loss of life from a single engagement in World War Two and is also the largest loss of life in British maritime history: greater than the Titanic and Lusitania combined. To put this into modern context: this is twice the number of individuals who lost their lives in the Twin Towers attack.
Fiona Symon, Chair of the Lancastria Association of Scotland, said: “75 years on from this terrible event, this service will be the last official gathering to pay tribute to the brave individuals that lost their lives on that fateful day.
“We are very proud that there is a permanent, memorial located at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital. Although this will be our last formal memorial event, the Lancastria Association of Scotland will continue to offer support and comfort to the survivors, families and loved ones whose lives are affected by these events to this day.”
Jill Young, Chief Executive of the Golden Jubilee National Hospital, commented on the event saying: “It has been an absolute privilege to host the Lancastria Association’s events for all these years and to be a part of the 75th anniversary. We are honoured to be the site of the official Lancastria Memorial, ensuring that people can continue to pay their respects to the individuals, families, friends and loved ones.”