Honour for Ernest
SECOND WORLD WAR VETERAN PRESENTED WITH MEDAL
A SECOND World War veteran, who is among the last remaining survivors of the HMT Lancastria disaster, has been presented with a Lancastria medal by the former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond to commemorate the sinking of the vessel.
The medal was presented to Ernest Beesly at Bupa’s Clare House Care Home, in Uxbridge, as part of a documentary being made by Mr Salmond about the ill-fated troop ship.
On June 17 1940, two weeks after the mission to rescue tens of thousands of soldiers at Dunkirk, HMT Lancastria was being used to evacuate civilians and troops from St Nazaire in France as German forces approached.
The ship was only fitted to carry 2,200 passengers but it is believed there were thousands more on board when it was attacked by a German bomber. The Lancastria sank within minutes and an estimated 4,000 people died, creating Britain’s worst maritime disaster.
A commemorative medal was designed by Mark Hirst, associate producer of the documentary whose grandfather was also a survivor. Staff at Clare House, and Mr Beesly’s family, managed to keep the presentation a surprise.
Mr Beesly said: “I was very surprised and never thought I would receive a medal 78 years after the sinking of the Lancastria.”
His family was grateful that Mr Beesly, who has only recently celebrated his 101st birthday, has been able to have the opportunity to tell his story.
Jeanette Gittens, home manager at Clare House, said: “We were so grateful to Alex Salmond and the film crew, who gave Ernest a fabulous day.
“The hard work of the care home staff also needs to be highlighted as they made it all possible.”
Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, bottom left, presents the Lancastria commemorative medal to 101-year-old Ernest Beesly, surrounded by Mr Beesly’s family at Bupa’s Clare House Care Home in Uxbridge