It was Monday, June 17th, 1940.

Along the French coast a bewildered, battered army had crowded the beaches and filled the little ports, waiting to be picked up and taken back across the Channel.

Lying off St Nazaire was the liner Lancastria, 16,000 tons of elegance and steel, in which more than four thousand men, packed into every suitable inch of space, could be carried to safety. Between seven and eight that morning, the first boats began to ferry their human cargoes out to the liner: airmen, pioneers, infantrymen, engineers, gunners, even 38 civilians.

Around the Lancastria a group of ships was lying, all too vulnerable in those shallow waters. The Oronsay had already been hit. Then, about four o’clock in the afternoon – “At eight bells at the end of the afternoon watch” – the Lancastria was struck by bombs, and turned over and sank.

This was, it is true, a maritime disaster of the first magnitude; and yet, such was a heroism and fortitude it evoked, it will always be remembered with a sense of national pride.

Geoffrey Bond tells the whole story for the first time. He follows individuals and units across France to St Nazaire; he tells what these people were doing when the bomb struck; he follows them into the water, and for the lucky ones, to England and safety.

All records of the Lancastria Survivors’ Association had been opened to him. In addition, he has personally interviewed hundreds of men of all units who were there. His story is factual, intensely moving, gripping. As the tension mounts, page by page, here, in clear, compelling prose, is the very stuff of war. A full record of tragedy, irony, infamy and human bravery.

  • Author: Geoffrey Bond
  • Title: Lancastria
  • First Published by: Oldbourne Press
  • First Published Format: HC
  • First Published Date: 1959

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