We will remember them

Cyril Cumbes

a_Web_20cyril_20cumbesSapper Cyril Cumbes, 663 Artisan Works Company, Royal Engineers

We were at Nantes aerodrome and we were told to make for St Nazaire. We waited there for two or three hours before a fishing boat took us out to the ship which lay 10 miles offshore.

We were taken aboard the Lancastria at 2 or 3 pm. The drone of a plane was heard coming out of the clouds. The first stick of bombs shook the ship and the second landed by the funnel. Blast from this split my right ear drum. There were 5 men together, 4 of them jumped from the deck with their life-jackets on. Having seen that some men who had done this appeared to be unconscious, I threw my life-jacket into the sea and jumped in after. We were covered in the black oil pouring out of the ship. The pilot who bombed us waved and then machine-gunned the swimmers. I was swimming around for bits of wreckage to cling to for about 1 ½ hours until a French fisherman picked me up. Many died being taken on board. We were then taken back to St Nazaire. The Germans were bombing us in the docks. We had to stay there for 2 1/2 days until an old cargo boat took us to land at Falmouth. This would have been about 20th June. At Falmouth I was treated for my burnt hands and had the oil taken off.

Cyril Cumbes passed away in late 2001
Published with permission of Mr Cyril Cumbes, January 2000