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The greatest maritime disaster of World War 2

Private Reginald Isger who was in the Royal Army Service Corps died aboard the SS Lancastria which was sunk off the coast of St. Nazaire, France on June 17 1940. This ship was a Cunard owned ocean liner which had been converted to a troopship. The evacuation of British troops from France in 1940 did not end with Dunkirk. British forces were still being rescued two weeks later when Britain's worst maritime disaster of World War II took place.The SS Lancastria was moored 10 miles offshore and was completing its evacuation task when it was hit by 4 bombs from German aircraft and sunk. It is estimated there were between 6000 and 9000 troops and a few civilians on board of whom only 2500 survived.

Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister decided the news of the disaster should be withheld so it became an official secret and full details were not released until 50 years after the end of the war. Initially, parents were told their sons were 'missing in action' and sometime later were informed they were 'killed in action' but no further details were released at that time.

Yvonne Hewitt and her husband have traced the grave of Reginald Isger to a small village on the coast of France where it is in a small group of 6 and is immaculately kept. It seems that as bodies were washed ashore, French locals, at great risk to themselves, buried them without the knowledge of the local German occupational forces.

She writes - ' Beauvoir-sur-mer is a small town 60 kilometres south west of Nantes, and 16 kilometres north west of the small town of Challans. The grave of Reginald Isger is located at Beauvoir-sur-mer Communal Cemetery in the Vendee region of France. It is Row 12, Grave 9 but unlike the huge war cemeteries in Northern France there are just 6 War Graves (3 have no names ) and it is the ordinary town cemetery - no rows or numbers to be seen.

They shall not grow old,

As those that are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them,

Nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun,

And in the morning,

We will remember them.

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