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Last Updated: Monday, 24 July 2006, 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK
Archive to remember sea disaster
The Lancastria
The Lancastria was a former passenger liner
A relative of a survivor of Britain's worst maritime disaster has launched what is thought to be the largest online archive of the event.

The Clyde-built former Cunard liner, Lancastria, was lending support to the war effort when it was attacked by German bombers on 17 June 1940.

Mark Hirst, from Perthshire, has spent five years collecting archive material.

The ship had been evacuating British Expeditionary Forces from France. About 4,000 people died, including 400 Scots.

Mr Hirst, whose grandfather Walter survived the sinking, created a website as a tribute to those who died and to raise greater public awareness of the disaster.

'International interest'

The 36-year-old from Abernethy said he was still being contacted by people wanting information about the event.

"I started work on the website material about five years ago and have slowly built up a very large archive," said Mr Hirst.

I think we can still make a difference for people even after all this time
Mark Hirst

"Many relatives of victims who contact me still know very little about the events which led up to the sinking and so for them it is a great source of information."

Mr Hirst, who is also a member of the Lancastria Association of Scotland, said he had been contacted by relatives of victims from as far away as Canada and New Zealand.

He said: "One woman from Canada contacted me as she saw her father's name on the website on the list of known victims.

"Alongside it was a picture I had taken while in France of his headstone.

"It was the first time she had ever seen it as she was only a baby when her mother emigrated to Canada so she had never had the chance to visit the grave.

Troop ship Lancastria
About 4,000 people died in the attack

"Now in her late 60s she had told me it had brought some closure for her and she was very grateful, so I think we can still make a difference for people even after all this time."

The Lancastria, which was carrying about 9,000 troops when it was sunk, now lies about five miles from the French coastal town of St Nazaire in about 20 metres of water.

Because the event was kept quiet at the time, very few people knew about it.

The French Government recently decided to give the wreck special protected status, preventing any diving within 200 metres.


SEE ALSO
Scots remember Lancastria tragedy
17 Jun 06 |  Scotland
Lancastria disaster memorial call
03 Jan 06 |  Scotland
'Secret' disaster remembered
11 Jun 00 |  UK News
Lancastria in pictures
01 Jun 00 |  UK News

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