Lancastria Casualties

Discussion in 'War Cemeteries & War Memorial Research' started by Rich Payne, Jul 29, 2008.

  1. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I've just returned from a family holiday in western France and spotted the familiar green CWGC plate on the local cemetery whilst on the way to the bakers. This is an example of the type of thing that I mentioned on this thread.

    This part of the coast south of St Nazaire was formerly Brittany but became 'Loire Inferieure' under changes made by the Vichy regime in 1944 along with Nantes. It is now 'Loire Atlantique' but many of the locals are still not happy.

    - Despite searching 'Pornic' (where I thought I was staying due to a terminological inexactitude in the brochure) and this cemetery being part of the same administrative area, it hadn't appeared in my searches.

    CWGC :: Cemetery Details

    I now see that there are two areas of Lancastria graves, which I hadn't expected, and I only looked for and found one set.

    The girls walked down with me and of course insisted on appearing as soon as the camera came out.


    It seemed particularly poignant because this is some way down the coast from St Nazaire and the beaches are quite small sandy coves so it takes little imagination to realize that the bodies must have been washed ashore there.

    Pornic itself has a CWGC cemetery but with no reference to the other casualties just down the road and presumably all along the coast. I had a little more preparation for this one and did manage to photograph four of Spidge's Australians.

    CWGC :: Cemetery Details

    The unit insignia from the Lancastria graves make it quite clear just how many of these men were not first line troops. Many were in their forties and were from Pay Corps, Pioneers etc.


    I have had to re-caption my photos for ImageShack because 'Pornic' upset its censors !

  2. spidge


    Hi Rich,

    Thanks for taking the photos. Seems to have been lovely weather.

    Good to see your girls are like mine. Get their looks from their mother:rolleyes:


  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Good on yer Rich for getting to see them.
    Our early shift manager had a Great-Uncle on the Lancastria, forget the chaps name now, but was RASC.
    Had a look on Geoff's Search Engine but no luck.
    EDIT: I had found him, I'd just forgotten his name so didn't realise who I was looking at.
    Geoff's Search Engine had come up trumps again!!!
    Sorry Geoff.
    It was Sgt Albert Garrett of Wilcot , Wilts.
    CWGC :: Casualty Details

    Did find this other cemetery , did you manage to get there?
    CWGC :: Cemetery Details

    Another plot of 9 casualties here.
    CWGC :: Cemetery Details

    Was just looking at the cemetery reports from Pornic and this chap died in the first month of the war.
    CWGC :: Casualty Details
  4. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Rich, thanks for an interesting post.

    There are a number of civilian cemeteries south of the Loire and St Nazaire which are the resting places of the Lancastria victims.One such place is the Ile de Noirmoutier which is just across the Baie de Bourgneuf, SW, from Pornic and has at least three cemeteries which contain graves from the Lancastria.In many cases the casualties are unknown but their tombstones carry the date "17 June 1940" and can be related to the Lancastria,

    I suppose the location of the casualties depended on the the influence of the Loire currents discharging into the Bay of Biscay.I noticed that one of the casuaties lost on the Operation Frankton at the mouth of the Gironde was washed up on the southern coast of the Vendee,almost 70 miles away and north from where their canoe was lost in the heavy tidal currents flowing at the time.

    The Lancastria, indeed, did have a wide range of units embarked (there were a number of infantry battalions, HQ staff of British Air Forces France, No 73 and No 98 Squadrons.Town staffs of Dieppe and Nantes.The list of units involved is so vast ) and it has been said that it will never be established what the full passenger list was.

    One interesting casualty in Pornic Cemetery was a WO and his tombstone indicates that he held the MM. He was a member of the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps.I thought that he had the experience of another war.

    It was known that 38 civilians were on board from the Church Army,Salvation Army Y.M.C.A including about 18 employees of Fairey Avaition Co branch in Belgium.

    Incidentally those dead from the Lancastria who have no known grave are remembered on the Dunkirk Memorial.

    Pornic is one of those cemeteries which have been used after the war to concentrate casualties,some lost their lives hundreds of miles away to the east.There are two casualties buried side by side who were involved in SOE activities in the Sologne.There is a RAF crew who were on an operation to the Dijon area in the summer of 1944 and crashed in the Morvan.I found their "tombstones" in a Maquis forest cemetery and thought it was strange that the RAF would leave them there. However I traced them to their final resting place at Pornic where they had been transferred in 1961.The Maquis forest cemetery in the Morvan still retains the grave tombstones with no one interred there.I know for a fact that these remote graves deceived a leading travel writer who related their existence in an article on the Morvan.
  5. chrisharley9

    chrisharley9 Senior Member


    dont forget that RAF unknowns will be on the Runnymede memorial

  6. chrisharley9

    chrisharley9 Senior Member

  7. chrisharley9

    chrisharley9 Senior Member

    Odd that I cant find any civilians that died on the Lancastria
  8. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    List of Lancastria casualties here.
    Victim List

    Some civilians amongst them.


    Arnold Mr ( ? )
    Beufays Mr (35–45)
    Legroux Marcel (36) Foreman Tinsmith
    Thiry Mr (35–45)
    Thiry Mrs (35–45)

    Total lost: 5

    Merchant Navy personnel are on Tower Hill Memorial.
  9. chrisharley9

    chrisharley9 Senior Member


    none of the Fairey Aviation staff appear on the CWGC database & contemporary reports from the time show that a large number of women & children lost their lives

  10. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Thanks for the additional info Harry and Chris. I really should have done my research properly before I left home. There again I have not yet, and probably never shall, reach the heights achieved by Owen in involving the family with CWGC visits. I even failed to visit St. Nazaire or Saumur.

    We did go to Noirmoutier but only to visit a water-park and again, without a handy map showing all locations, large or small, it requires lots of prior planning.

    My visit to the cemeteries around Pornic were really just to pay my respects whilst I was there rather than part of any ongoing research. I walked all the rows and did see the Polish grave which I took to be from Special Operations and also the No.2 Commando casualty.

    The only 'civilian' graves that I saw were Merchant Navy, a sixty-year-old Steward from Lancastria springs to mind. There are many unknown graves and also a large proportion marked 'buried near this spot' which suggests that although details were noted from Identity discs, there was perhaps not complete marking of individual graves at the time. There are also at least two or three unknowns marked simply ' A victim of the Second World War' and dated 17th June so I assume that they could well be civilian or at least not positively identified as Service Personel.

    This causes me to wonder if civilian 'missing' are recorded anywhere ? Their bodies are certainly not always easy to identify positively.

    As an aside, on the small headland at Pornic there is a French memorial (with recent wreaths) to the 1300 or so French Naval personnel who died when the British attacked their fleet at Mers-el-Kebir. I can imagine that the 'Bretagne' was largely crewed from Western France. It was quite a busy spot and a number of French family groups who clearly knew nothing of the history were reading the inscription with increasing outrage. I felt a little uncomfortable as the only Englishman and rather copped-out and explained it to my daughters in Dutch. Sometimes it's quite handy not to be easily identifiable as what JeffSlipdigit calls 'Bloodyenglish" !;)
  11. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member


    none of the Fairey Aviation staff appear on the CWGC database & contemporary reports from the time show that a large number of women & children lost their lives


    Yes Chris,I was going to mention dependants.From what I remember,I saw a reference to civilian dependants being referred to by those who experienced the loss and survived.Another read throught the reports of survivors may give further detail of the tragedy.

    Regarding RAF remembrance of those with unknown graves at Runnymede.I wonder if those of the RAF were also on the Dunkirk Memorial.It is a pity that the casualties are not remembered on their own memorial on the seafront at St Nazaire.

    It is easy to get a picture of what the chaos was at the time of the BEF withdrawal when units were directed westwards to Cherbourg, St Malo, St Nazaire for pick ups.I think some went as far as Brest.Some went south west as far as Bordeaux for sea pick ups.Our next door neighbour arrived back in Britain long after the Dunkirk evacuation waqs completed and it was said that his group was one of the last RAF groundcrew to picked up from the Pointe de Grave at the head of the Medoc.

    Yeo -Thomas, who was serving as an adjutant on a RAF Squadron at the time is recorded as being one of the last to be evacuated from France from the Pointe de Grave.

    There are many military graves in isolated cemeteries which mark the westward routes the BEF took in their evacuation from France.
  12. chrisharley9

    chrisharley9 Senior Member


    I agree with your statement that they would be hard to identify

    The CWGC does have a duty to commemorate those civilians who died at sea in the Civilian Volumes of War Dead - those from the Merchant Navy are a separate category - I have yet to find any civilians that died on the Lancastria that are on CWGC despite the fact that there is plenty of evidence that they did - perhaps the government new black out did its job too well

  13. chrisharley9

    chrisharley9 Senior Member

    Regarding RAF remembrance of those with unknown graves at Runnymede.I wonder if those of the RAF were also on the Dunkirk Memorial.It is a pity that the casualties are not remembered on their own memorial on the seafront at St Nazaire.

    CWGC strictly segregate the missing by service so all RAF missing from the European Theatre are on the Runnymede Memorial

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