My grandfather Cyril Cullern did not get out with the BEF at Dunkirk. Many British troops were trapped outside the perimeter and retreated back across France fighting all the way as they went. At the time Operation Dynamo was used as a rallying point for the British people. Many thought that the army was home. However over 100,000 Commonwealth troops were still in France fighting. When my grandmother received no news about my grandfather she feared the worse.
He was however walking across France. He said that he started at Lille and walked all the way to St Nazaire on the French Atlantic coast. During his march south he was shot at by Stukas and dived into a ditch. At this point he broke his ankle. He tightened his boot and carried on walking.
Once he got to St Naziare he boarded a ship for England. The ship in front was the Lancastria which he saw hit and sunk. No one knows for sure how many were lost on the Lancastria but estimates place it over 3000. This makes it the worst British maritime disaster of all time. At the time the Government banned the news of the sinking from the press to avoid a blow to morale.
Only recently I was chatting to a friend about Dunkirk and the Battle of France. It turns out that his grandfather was on the Lancastria and survived the experience.
My grandfather got home but his injuries meant that he took no further active military part in the war. It would be nice if there was a memorial at St Nazaire for the people who died on the Lancastria. It would also be nice if the BBC had made a programme about these forgotten heroes who fought right up to the fall of France.