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Thread: HMT Lancastria

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    Default HMT Lancastria

    Dear All,
    HMT Lancastria was sunk off St Nazaire on 17 Jun 1940. 17 Jun 2010 will be the 70th anniversary of the sinking. There were a large number of casualties (some estimates are of 5000+). Churchill made the decision (a) to put a D-Notice on the occurrence, and (b) ordered that the Files on the Lancastria should remain closed for 100 years. One can understand (a) as a good PR spin ploy, but the reason for (b) is difficult to follow especially in the light of today’s FOI legislation. One can only assume that the Govt, having encouraged/allowed the Lancastria to become seriously overloaded thought it might be subjected to claims for compensation either from the immediate relatives of the casualties, or from their descendants. This deals (possibly!) with the political strategy.
    Now, to come to the tactics. One of our Met Men (753581 Cpl N J Clifford, RAFVR(Met)) was a casualty from the Lancastria. As a Met Cpl he would have been either a Shift Leader (in a big Met Office), or i/c all the Met Assts (in a smaller office). One way or another, he would not have been the only Met Man on the Lancastria. Who, we need to know, were the others?
    From one of the Lancastria websites it seems that RAF personnel on the Lancastria came from (at least):-
    HQ BEF
    67 Wing
    70 Wing
    73 Sqn
    98 Sqn
    No 2 Air Mission
    ‘D’ Sqn.
    The top 5 should be easy to sort out (except that if they hadn’t destroyed their docs before embarking then they have long since rotted in the remains of Lancastria off St Nazaire!).
    Questions:
    1 What was No 2 Air Mission?
    2 Who, or what, was this mysterious ‘D’ Sqn.
    Some of the aspects of the Lancastria disaster have – in the words of the late, great, Chapman Pincher – remained “Too Secret, Too Long”.
    What is the current situation?, and is it not time that some light was shone into the darkness?
    Rgd
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Default HMT Lancastria

    Peter,

    There were two British Air Missions in France at the outbreak of hostilities. No.1 Air Mission was based at General Vuillemin's HQ at St-Jean-des-Deux-Jumeaux and responsible for high level discussions with the French Command and co-ordination of air operations - apart from those by Bomber Command (and thus the AASF). No.2 Air Mission was based at General Mouchard's HQ under Air Commodore Don for detailed co-ordination of all bombing operations. Soon afterwards, detachments of No.2 Air Mission were also set up at General d'Astier de La Vigerie's HQ at Chauny (ZOAN) under G/C Strafford, and at General Pennes HQ at Nancy (ZOAE).

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    Peter,
    Tks v much for that detailed info
    Rgds
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Peter,

    The document you need to see at Kew is AIR 35/190 which lists RAF survivors of the SS Lancastria. By chance I was looking at this document last week. I was looking for pre-war RAFVR conscripts service numbers 701000-702935. I found ten of them listed plus some of your MET men listed. Some of the documents are hard to read and contain many minor spelling errors. But I did record :-

    HQ BAFF

    MET 753635 or 753685 LAC A.G RATHBONE
    MET 753420 LAC J.A MORTIMER
    MET 753600 LAC K. H HUMPRIES

    Well worth a look, some men even have details of their next posting !

    Mark

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    Mark

    I found 10 Metmen listed as being on the Lancastria:

    Accounted for in the initial roll call in the UK

    Cpl Butcher 558028
    LAC Gosling 753595
    LAC Hindley 753601
    LAC K H Humphries 753600
    LAC J A Mortimer 753620
    LAC A G Rathbone 753686
    LAC Warn 753662

    Unaccounted at initial roll call, but turned up later

    LAC B J Mason 753708
    LAC J N Gouling 753593
    Cpl C V Bolton 510655

    Body recovered and buried at NOIRMOUTIER-EN-L'ILE COMMUNAL CEMETERY

    Cpl N J Clifford 753581

    We appear to differ with Mortimer's and Rathbone's serial numbers. I'm reasonably confident about Mortimer as I've not found any wartime met OR casualties with lower numbers than 753561. (The 753XXX series were all summer 1939 RAFVR Met Branch hostilities only men.) Mortimer and Rathbone were both picked up by the SS John Holt, no info about the others.

    Did you find W/C D Macfadyen's (I/c 220 officers and men) account of their experiences - he was not impressed by the Army (or Navy come to that)! Should anyone be interested I'd be happy to forward a copy.

    Brian
    Last edited by Lyffe; 21st September 2009 at 06:33. Reason: More info

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    Default HMT Lancastria

    Until his death last year, I knew someone who had survived the Lancastria sinking. He never talked about it, until a few months before he died.

    He knew he was very lucky to survive the sinking and the strafing of survivors in the water afterwards. He was picked up by local French fishermen, but many of his men died on the ship that day.

    Lincoln Imp

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