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Last Updated: Monday, 21 August 2006, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Lancastria 'war grave' petition
Thousands of men died when the Lancastria was attacked

A petition has been launched calling on the UK Government to recognise the site of Britain's worst maritime disaster.

The Clyde-built Lancastria was carrying about 9,000 troops when it was sunk by German bombers off the coast of France in 1940 during a mass evacuation.

About 4,000 people died. It was the single biggest loss of life for British troops in the whole of WWII.

The Lancastria Association of Scotland wants the wreck recognised as an official maritime war grave.

The only formal recognition most relatives of victims have is a telegram
Mark Hirst
Grandson of survivor

It lies about five miles from the French coastal town of St Nazaire in about 20m of water.

Campaigners have raised concerns in recent years about divers intruding on the site.

In June, the French government gave the wreck special protected status.

A memorial service for victims of the disaster was held in Edinburgh's St George's Church West in the same month.

Lost in action

Members of the Lancastria Association from Britain, France, Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand are expected to sign the petition.

Perthshire man Mark Hirst, whose grandfather Walter survived the sinking, said: "The petition calls on the UK Government to use the powers it has to legally and finally declare Lancastria an official maritime war grave.

"The only formal recognition most relatives of victims have is a telegram notifying them that their brother, son, husband or father had been lost in action aboard Lancastria and for many that news did not come until years after the event.

"Our association is committed to campaigning for the formal legal recognition that these men deserve and which should have been granted automatically decades ago."

The association aims to hand the petition over to Downing Street later in the year.


SEE ALSO
Archive to remember sea disaster
24 Jul 06 |  Tayside and Central
Scots remember Lancastria tragedy
17 Jun 06 |  Scotland
Lancastria disaster memorial call
03 Jan 06 |  Scotland

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