Recognition for 4000 BEF Lancastria victims

On the 17th of June 1940 the troopship Lancastria was sunk by German bombers off the French coastal town of St. Nazaire and sank in just 20 minutes. 4000 troops of the British Expeditionary Force lost their lives. Its the worst single loss of life in British maritime history and the worst single loss of life for British forces in the whole of World War 2.

The MoD are refusing to designate Lancastria an official maritime war grave even though internal emails from MoD legal officials show the wreck could be designated an official maritime war grave under the Protection of Military Remains Act (1986). Survivors, veterans and relatives are now campaigning to force the MoD into recognising this loss and have started a petition which has attracted signatures from across the world. They will submit the petition to Downing Street early next year.

You can electronically sign the petition by visiting and then clicking on the petition link.

There are many penpushers in Whitehall who would prefer to forget the sacrifice made by these men, but I hope you will not.

Jesus Christ what a loss!

Petition signed with humility.

RIP guys.
One of my Grandfather's was a Sgt in the in the RASC during this time, he missed the boat due to staying too long at a French lady friends house where his mobile workshopped was parked up....

For missing the boat he was demoted to Cpl and posted to Hackney hospital to spend the rest of the war head butting hienkel and Dornier droppings

Demoted for not being dead
I may be being very dim, but I thought that as a troopship it automatically was covered? There was an item in the news recently about two sisters who had campaigned to have the merchant ship their (navy) father died in made into a war grave, and the problem being that it had been a merchant and not RN ship. If the Lancastria was requisitioned, surely it should automatically be a maritime war grave?
Thanks Exmoorgirl,

Yes Lancastria was requistioned, BUT the MoD's public line has been that "because she does not lie in British waters she cannot be covered by the Act" and therefore she is not covered. Until July there were only 17 wrecks designated INCLUDING a German U Boat. The wreck you mention was the Storaa which was a merchant vessel sunk off the South Coast. The relatives had to take legal action and recently won that at the High Court, despite the MoD trying to appeal the decision... The relatives of Storaa are now in contact with us and regretably we may also have to take legal action. We managed to get an email from MoD legal officials under Freedom of Information which said after quoting parts of the Protection of Military Remains Act and despite the public statements to the contrary, that "It seems, oddly, that Lancastria could be designated under the Act".

We think they are worried about the costs of monitoring the wreck and the additional responsibility. The Commissioner for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has backed our call and many of the survivors feel, as I do, that we shouldn't have to fight for this at all - that the wreck site and remains should have automatically been covered by the Act and proper recognition afforded.

The designation as a War Grave must come from the Secretary of State and at present there is nothing automatic about that, sadly. We hope the petition will rectify that.

Lancastria doesn't fit with the propoganda of the period, one reason Churchill banned all news coverage of it and why most people know nothing of it. It takes the tinge off the miracle of Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain as it landed right in the middle of these two events and no amount of spinning can portray it as a victory or win - but the sacrifice made by those men was as ultimate as any other. Last year when we were out for the pilgrimage the French had a full guard of honour, a military band, colour party, French naval vessel all the local French dignatories and veterans and no one official from the British side despite being specifically invited. The MoD said they only commemorate 25th, 50th and 60th anniversaries... ! Hopeless.

Hope you can sign the petition.
Just randomly came across this story elsewhere while researching St Nazaire. Glad it is already being addressed on ARRSE, and quite rightly so as this is a huge loss that is still almost unknown in the UK. A third of all BEF casualties, effectively best part of 6 battalions lost, more casualties than titanic and lusitania combined, four times more deaths than British focres lost on D-Day (thankfull obviously they were lighter), and yet no recognition from our government.

I cant comprehend how we can spend billions on hosting a two week sporting event, millions widening a road, millions on immigrants, and yet zero on remembering this tragedy where 4000 of our sevicemen lost their lives.

67 signed so far. Sure we can do more to raise the profile on this and get some action for our fallen forefathers. This should be bumped and kept alive, and hopefully their memory will be finally recognised with dignity as an official wargrave site.
Would have signed, with utmost respect for those on the ship, and contempt for those that refuse to recognise it.....But it appears to have closed now.....

I'm obviously being useless, but I can't find the petition link on your website and I've searched the 10 downing street petitions without sucess.
Thanks Crabby, I was obviously being a mong.......
I would have thought Lancastria being a Troopship would automatically have enjoyed war grave status?

The Protection of Military Remains Act 1986

This Act makes it an offence to interfere with the wreckage of any crashed, sunken or stranded military aircraft or designated vessel without a licence. This is irrespective of loss of life or whether the loss occurred during peacetime or wartime. All crashed military aircraft receive automatic protection, but vessels must be individually designated. Currently, there are 21 vessels protected under this Act, both in UK waters and abroad, and it is likely that the Ministry of Defence will designate more vessels in the future.

There are two levels of protection offered by this Act, designation as a Protected Place or as a Controlled Site.

Protected Places include the remains of any aircraft which crashed while in military service or any vessel designated (by name, not location) which sank or stranded in military service after 4th August 1914.

Although crashed military aircraft receive automatic status as a Protected Place, vessels need to be specifically designated by name. The location of the vessel does not need to be known for it to be designated as a Protected Place.

Diving is not prohibited on an aircraft or vessel designated as a Protected Place. However, it is an offence to conduct unlicensed diving or salvage operations to tamper with, damage, remove or unearth any remains or enter any hatch or other opening. Essentially, diving is permitted on a ‘look but don’t touch’ basis only.

Controlled Sites are specifically designated areas which encompass the remains of a military aircraft or a vessel sunk or stranded in military service within the last two hundred years. Within the controlled site it is an offence to tamper with, damage, move or unearth any remains, enter any hatch or opening or conduct diving, salvage or excavation operations for the purposes of investigating or recording the remains, unless authorised by licence. The effectively makes diving operations prohibited on these sites without a specific licence.

For further information on this Act and its administration, contact the Ministry of Defence (see useful addresses section).

Has an application ever been made to protect Lancastria in this fashion?

There is also the UNESCO charter for protection of Maritime sites.
Despite being somewhat of a WW2 geek I was totally unaware of this until last night so still playing catchup on whats happened. But as far as I am aware this is being persued as you suggest, as it was a designated troopship. From reading the campaigns website seems they are making progress, so all the more season to try to raise the profile I think and push the lethargic penpushers over the edge to do earn their money doing something positive.

I suppose part of the problem is that because of the whitewash on reporting the disaster at the time, it has never sunk into the national memory afterwards. All the more reason to put it on the map. There are just so many countless yardsticks to measure the sheer scale of this incident against, and they all fall short of the mark. Yet few people know.
If 4000 British servicemen or civilians died now in one disaster we'd never forget it for the rest of time. Yet somehow this has slipped off the national collective memory. Very strange.


I recently read a very good book from my local library on this story. It was tragic and wasteful. As usual 20 20 hindsight shows it was also unneccessary. I have signed. This was I believe the first loss of Canadian troops in WW2. Perhaps someone should post this out to canadian gun nuts unless I get there first!

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