Hon­our for Ernest


Uxbridge Gazette - - Front Page -

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

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