We will remember them

Dennis Bamforth

Dennis_BamforthPublished Date:
18 September 2008
By Jonathan Dodds

A WORLD War Two hero who survived the worst single loss of life in British maritime history has been honoured with a commemorative medal.

Around 4,000 people perished when the HMT Lancastria was sunk off the French port of St Nazaire on June 17, 1940.

The former cruise liner turned troopship was helping with the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force just weeks after the Dunkirk evacuation when it was bombed by the German Luftwaffe.

Within 20 minutes, the ship had sunk, claiming more lives than the combined losses on the Titanic and Lusitania.

Among the survivors was Dennis Bamforth, from New Mills, who was a member of the Glossop Territorials of the Royal Corps Signals.

“I had only just boarded the boat and I was getting two bottles of beer when the bombs hit. The boat turned upside down almost immediately,” said Dennis.

The Hadfield-born 88-year-old was in the water for three to four hours before being rescued by French fishermen.

Now, nearly 70 years after the tragedy, Dennis has been honoured with a medal from the Scottish Government.

Accompanying the medal was a letter from Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, which read: “This commemorative medal is in acknowledgement of the unique scale of the tragedy that befell so many servicemen and civilian refugees.”

The Scottish Government instituted the medal after the Minsitry of Defence refused to do so.