Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers (REME) Wiltshire regiment and the Lancastria

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by s.fillis, Feb 10, 2019.

  1. s.fillis

    s.fillis Member

    Hello Everyone.
    Im trying to piece together my Grandfathers Campaign in France during WW2,

    My Grandfather was Private Walter Aaron Fillis and he was in the Wiltshire regiment as a Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineer, I know he was in France after the Dunkirk evacuation and he was (almost) evacuated from Saint-Nazaire on 17th June 1940, Sadly the ship he boarded was the Lancastria, sadly she never set sail as she was boomed whilst still at anchor and a possible 7000 soul ( personal, crew and refugees) lost there lives.
    My Grandfather survived this disaster (physically at least), but was never allowed to talk about what happened to him due to the gaging order signed by all those who returned. To be honest I don't think he would have spoken to much about it with or without the gaging order. So we don't really know much about his time in France or his journey home, over the years we have pieced thing together as towards the end of his life he opened up a little, We know he and two friends were in a cabin together (which might have played a huge part in why they were able to survive the sinking). We know that one of those pales was passed a baby who with his/her parents survived. We know that My Grandfather hated the song roll out the barrel until the day he died. But we don't really know why he ended up at Saint-Nazaire in the first place.

    So I was wondering if anyone could point us in the right direction to find out.
  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member


    There are plenty of threads on here re the Lancastria if you need more use the site search facility

    Tony56 likes this.
  3. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Hello and welcome to the forum

    If none of the family have already done so, the best start would be to apply for a copy of his service records
    See this link Request records of deceased service personnel

    Here are a few threads you might want to check out

    BBC People's war site has some accounts:

    BBC - WW2 People's War - Lancastria: At Dunkirk 1940
    BBC - WW2 People's War - Sinking of The Lancastria

    The Imperial War Museum also has some interviews with survivors & witnesses. This is a link to one but there are others you can search for:
    Nutting, Victor (Oral history)

    Do you have any photos of your grandfather in uniform, or any badges / paperwork he might have had? It'd be helpful if you could share to see which regiment / corps he was with. REME was formed in October 1942.

    Good luck with your research.
  4. harkness

    harkness Well-Known Member

    First name(s) Walter Aaron
    Last name Fillis
    Birth date 17 Feb 1908
    Baptism year 1908
    Baptism date 19 Apr 1908
    Residence 8 Hare & Honed St
    Place Devizes, St Peter
    County Wiltshire
    Father's first name(s) Aaron
    Father's last name Fillis
    Father's occupation Carter
    Mother's first name(s) Alice
  5. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    Hi s.fillis,
    About 135,000 British servicemen could not be saved at Dunkirk and made their way westwards. Of those 14,557 were saved during Operation Cycle 11-13 June - some being moved to Cherbourg. Another 10,000 were made POWs. During Operation Aerial, to 25 June, 139,812 were saved, most from the Breton peninsular - your grandfather was among this second group. There were further rescues from ports in western and southern France, mostly Poles Czechs and civilians.

    Churchill prevented the news from getting out, saying 'they have had enough bad news' and the troops were hastily moved away from the Channel ports. You will see that the arithmetic doesn't add up; this is because a second BEF, of about 30,000, was sent via St Malo and had to be rescued a week later - so in Southampton they said that BEF meant back every Friday.
    timuk and Tricky Dicky like this.
  6. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

  7. s.fillis

    s.fillis Member

    Thank you very much.
    I understand that there are a lot of discrepancies in what actually happened to the lancastria and a lot depended on who's butt was being covered at the time, I can understand to some degree why, just not sure the loss of life or lasting effects of those who returned justify the reasoning,

    I'll have to ask my dad and his siblings if they have his service records, I myself haven't applied for them as yet, but am interested in doing so.

    but thanks again for your information and advice, as you can guess, I'm a beginner.
  8. s.fillis

    s.fillis Member

    This is indeed my Grandfather, thank you.
  9. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Have you got any photos or documents about his service?
    Anything with a number on it?
  10. Mr Jinks

    Mr Jinks Bit of a Cad

    Enquiries here about the same family with Walter Arron Fillis mentioned?

    Pte. Eli Fillis

  11. s.fillis

    s.fillis Member

    I don't have any documents my self, I was told about this sight and thought it would be a good place to start a military search due to the wealth of knowledge already on here.
  12. s.fillis

    s.fillis Member

    Eil Fillis was my Grandfathers uncle, Eil's brother Aaron his father so I think that makes Eli my Great Great Uncle, I have seen this feed and it was very helpful, thank you.

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