17.06.

The Luftwaffe sank a British ship with 4,000 men – 1940.

The Luftwaffe sank a British ship with 4,000 men – 1940.

After the mass evacuation from Dunkirk, the British wanted to evacuate also civilians and the remaining military personnel from the rest of France.

On June 17, 1940, the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) sank the British ship HMT Lancastria, at a time when there were more than 4,000 people on board. It was a large passenger ship converted into a transport vessel transporting refugees from France, a country that was being conquered by German forces at the time. The HMT Lancastria was about 176 meters long and could officially carry up to 2,200 people, with a crew of 375 members. Shortly after the mass evacuation from Dunkirk, the British wanted to evacuate also civilians and the remaining military personnel from the rest of France, so they sent their transport ships there. HMT Lancastria reached the mouth of the Loire River on June 16, 1940, and then a large number of people were embarked on it, which cannot be determined exactly (its captain was ordered to embark as many refugees and allied soldiers as possible, which is why he even exceeding international legal quotas on passenger numbers is allowed).

Between 4,000 and 9,000 people were boarded, and then the captain waited for the opportunity to set sail for Great Britain. However, on June 17, the ship was attacked by German Junkers Ju 88 aircraft and hit by bombs. Three direct hits caused the ship to capsize and sink within twenty minutes. The ship ended up at the bottom of the Loire estuary, about 12 kilometers from the port of Saint Nazaire. 2,447 people were rescued, and the total number of dead remained unknown due to the transshipment of the ship and the lack of an official list of passengers. The names of 1,738 people are known, and the total number of dead could be several thousand more. Even with the mentioned 1,738 registered dead, HMT Lancastria surpasses RMS Titanic and RMS Lusitania, so it is the ship on which the most people died in the entire British history.

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