British troopship bell lands in French cemetery

17th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

SAINT-NAZAIRE, France, June 17 (AFP) - The bell from a British troopship sunk in World War II with more than 5,000 people on board exactly 65 years ago has turned up in a military cemetery in France, an association of survivors and descendants from those on the vessel said.

SAINT-NAZAIRE, France, June 17 (AFP) - The bell from a British troopship sunk in World War II with more than 5,000 people on board exactly 65 years ago has turned up in a military cemetery in France, an association of survivors and descendants from those on the vessel said.   

The heavy bell of the Lancastria, a Cunard Line cruise ship converted to military transport, was discovered by 90 members of the British association in the Pornichet cemetery in western France on Thursday with an anonymous note by the person who left it there.   

In the message, the author said he had kept the bell - which is inscribed with the former name of the cruise ship, Tyrrhena - for the past 30 years after raising it from the wreck.

He said he now wanted to donate it to the Lancastria association.   

The HMT Lancastria was sunk on June 17, 1940 after taking on board between 5,000 and 9,000 British troops and civilians being evacuated from France following that country's defeat to the invading Germans.   

Luftwaffe planes caught the ship exposed off France's Atlantic coast and bombed it, causing it to roll over and sink within 20 minutes as lit fuel set the surrounding sea ablaze. There were 2,477 survivors.   

It was Britain's worst maritime disaster in history, and then British prime minister Winston Churchill ordered news of the ship's sinking be suppressed.

Official records have been sealed to 2040.   

The wreck has been designated a protected war grave.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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