The Lancastria – 17th June 1940

Gunner Edward Chute - Royal ArtilleryI wonder what was going through Gunner Chute’s thoughts 72 years today when at 15:48hrs the cruise liner, Lancastria that was to be his safe passage back home came under attack from enemy aircraft.

After 3 direct hits, apparently from a German Junkers 88 bomber, the Lancastria sank, within 20 minutes, taking with her many, many victims – estimates range from 2,500 to 6,000 lives lost due to this one single incident, making it the worst single disaster in British maritime history.

Eddie Chute gave this cross to his daughter CathyCathy’s dad, Eddie Chute was one of the ‘lucky’ ones; he was rescued and brought back to the UK, although never really spoke of what happened that day.  He did give Cathy a brass cross, apparently given to him in the water by a priest as they floundered in the water waiting for the rescue boats.  Eddie couldn’t swim and was told to pray for survival … he never saw the priest again and we don’t know whether the priest survived or not.

Only 2,477 men of the possible 9,000 on board were recorded as being rescued.

The Lancastria Disaster 17th June 1940

Is the man in the centre of this photo Cathy's Dad?

Eddie was a sapper in the searchlight regiment, part of the British Expeditionary force that was being evacuated from Dunkirk.  After the rescue he was landed back in Liverpool.  He was badly burnt from the corrosive oil in the water and of course also from the burning oil on the water.  We understand that he was in hospital for 3 weeks and then in a convalescent home for between 6 to 8 weeks.

Surprisingly not a lot of people know about this event due to the D-notice that Churchill placed on it stopping any knowledge of the sinking reaching an already demoralised public, but wouldn’t you think that after all these years the full details would be made available to the families of the people involved.

Churchill later claimed, ‘I simply forgot to lift the ban’.

For more information about this horrific incident, have a look at these pages:

Lancastria Recognition Campaign

Lancastria Association Scotland

La Tragédie du LANCASTRIA

BBC News

Facebook Group

Facebook Page


 (also published on The Beach in Tenerife)

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