70 years ago: after Dunkirk and the Lancastria

The British Army continued fighting in France after the fall of Dunkirk. Records of Portsmouth men who were killed in the Second World War suggest that the British Army suffered very heavy losses on 17 June 1940.

After some quick research, it transpires that many of these men were killed in the sinking of the RMS Lancastria, a troopship evacuating British troops from Western France in the aftermath of Dunkirk. She was sunk of St Nazaire on 17 June 1940. 1,738 men are known to have died, with 2,777 survivors.

Sapper Reginald Cole, of 1 Supply Base Depot Royal Engineers, is buried at Rennes in France. Aged 20, his Army Service number suggests that he had originally joined the Hampshire Regiment.

Private Peter Hale, of 4 Base Ammunition Depot Royal Army Service Corps, has no known grave and is remembered on the Dunkirk Memorial. He was 20 and from Hilsea.

Sapper William Shannon, of 663 Artisan Works Company Royal Engineers, is buried at La Berniere-en-Retz in France. He was 36 and from Gosport.

Private Joseph Diviani, of 1 Base Ordnance Depot Royal Army Ordnance Corps, has no known grave and is remembered on the Dunkirk Memorial. He was 22 and from Copnor.

Private William Mcdonald, of 46 Company Auxilliary Military Pioneer Corps, has no known grave and is remembered on the Dunkirk Memorial. He was 33 and from Copnor.

Air Force men were also onboard the Lancastria. Aircraftman 2nd Class John Peters, of 98 Squadron RAF, has no known grave and is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial. He was 20 and from Southsea.

Aside from the Lancastria, the losses in France continued. Gunner Robert Brown was killed on 18 June 1940. Serving with 3 Battery of 1 Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery, he is buried in a joint grave at Dunkirk War Cemetery. He was 34 and from Southsea. His Amy Service number suggests that he had originally joined the Cameronia Rifles.

Gunner Henry Male, of 490 Independent Searchlight Battery Royal Artillery, died on 21 June 1940. He is buried in Milton Cemetery, Portsmouth. He was 23 and from Fratton.

The final British soldier from Portsmouth to die in the aftermath of Dunkirk was Sergeant Edgar Cocks, of the Royal Army Service Corps. He died on 16 July 1940, and is buried at La Berniere-en-Ritz, France. He was 49 and from Copnor.



Filed under Army, portsmouth heroes, Royal Air Force, World War Two

24 responses to “70 years ago: after Dunkirk and the Lancastria

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