Service to remember Lancastria dead
A service is planned today to mark 75 years since thousands lost their lives in Britain's worst maritime disaster.
More than 6,000 servicemen and civilians - some believe as many as 9,000 - were on board the Lancastria when it was bombed and sank off the coast of France during the Second World War.
Only about 2,500 people survived, representing a greater loss of life than the Titanic and Lusitania disasters combined.
Members of the Lancastria Association will gather in Clydebank in Scotland today to remember those who died.
A service will be held at the Lancastria Memorial in the grounds of the Golden Jubilee Hospital, which sits on the site of the former Beardmore and Son's shipyard where it was built.
Association chairwoman Fiona Symon said: "Seventy five years on from this terrible event, this service will be the last official gathering to pay tribute to the brave individuals that lost their lives on that fateful day.
"We are very proud that there is a permanent, memorial located at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital.
"Although this will be our last formal memorial event, the Lancastria Association of Scotland will continue to offer support and comfort to the survivors, families and loved ones whose lives are affected by these events to this day."
Launched as the cruise ship Tyrrhenia, the Lancastria was taken over as a troop ship in 1939.
After evacuating troops from Norway, the Lancastria headed for France to rescue many of the 150,000 troops left behind after Dunkirk.
The ship was sunk by a German bomber off the French coast at St Nazaire on June 17 1940.
Four bombs were dropped at 3.50pm, sinking her within 20 minutes.
Winston Churchill banned all news coverage of the disaster, fearing the scale of the tragedy would affect public morale, and the G overnment has been urged in recent years to do more to recognise the lives lost.
Campaigners including General Lord Dannatt, a former head of the Army, and actress Joanna Lumley last month wrote to Veterans Minister Mark Lancaster asking him what could be done to ''ease the suffering'' of victims' relatives.
A letter published in the Times read: ''The sinking may have happened 75 years ago, but to those who still grieve it is not a dim and distant memory. The sadness of children orphaned that day who are still alive remains."