We will remember them

Charles Jerome McEvoy

(Courtesy of his Nephew, Tom Flint)

VERBATIM TRANSCRIPTION OF DIARY OF CPL. McEVOY CJ 748048
SERVING WITH THE ROYAL AIR FORCE IN CEYLON. FIRST ENTRY NOVEMBER 18. DATED BACK TO THE TIME WHEN I WAS POSTED ABROAD. MAY 1942.

I HAVE ALREADY SERVED ABROAD IN FRANCE FROM MARCH 1940 TO JUNE 1940. I EVACUATED FRANCEON JUNE 17 1940 ON THE S.S. LANCASTRIA. AT 0400RS THE SHIP WAS SUNK AT APPROX. 16.00 HRS THE SAME DAY.

Going back over this brings back many pitiful memories. I can still here the cries of drowning men & loudly the voice of song as the men who were left clinging to the hull of the ship were singing “Roll out the Barrel” & “They’ll always be an England” I was one of the fortunate I managed to find myself in a lifeboat which got away safely.
The lifeboat was absolutely jammed with men & we managed to row ourselves to a ship, which was a minesweeper. I volunteered to go out again in the lifeboat to help to pick the men up from the water, we brought back a boatful of men to the minesweeper, which by now was crowded with men. All this time German planes were overhead, bombing & machine gunning men in the water, at one instance a plane came low & dropped some flares, the water being covered with oil from the sinking ship, they failed to set fire to it. Many times during this episode my mind was a blank, I was only conscience of pulling men out of the water.

We left the minesweeper & picked up more men, looking round we found, the minesweeper was pulling away. With her bows well down in the water & towing a lifeboat which was practically below water level & full of men standing up in her.
By this time a ship of the Royal Navy had circled round, & we pulled across to it, I stopped on the cruiser which I found out afterwards was called the “Highlander”.
On board I did my best to a assist in every way, helping to pull up survivors on to the deck, they brought them in pretty fast with the help of a motor boat.

Three of the survivors we brought up were beyond help & the medical Naval Officer gave us order to lower them back in the sea. Everybody was treated very well, later about six thirty we were transferred to a very large luxury liner called the Oronsay, which was being used for the evacuation of France. We landed in England June 18th at Portsmouth my heart warms as I write this because I hope one day I shall be returning to England again.

We went to Yatesbury & arrived at six o’clock in the morning of June 19 1940. We were treated well.

JUNE 21st Went home on 21 days leave, Alf was home on 16 days leave, he had been in the Narvik battle. We had sixteen lovely days together. Alf went back to his ship Friday July 15th. I was called back the same day. I reported back to Yatesbury camp Monday July 18th 1940.

JULY 12th Went to Bristol weekend, bags of air raids.

JULY 19th Another weekend to Bristol.

JULY 24th Posted to Cranwell Lincs. Only 45 miles from home. I left Yatesbury early in the morning and went to London Kings Cross, there I bought the first newspaper which reported the sinking of the S.S. Lancastria, I arrived at Cranwell early the same evening & the following day I started work in the Sgts Mess, I went home from there every weekend & also in the middle of the week. Cpl McEvoy died in 1947 and his diary was passed to his nephew.