17th June 1940 Sometimes it’s useful to be late!

October 11, 2018

in Important & Interesting!

Sandra Piggott shares:
17th June 1940 Sometimes it’s useful to be late!
On the 17th June 1940 my father, Staff Sargeant Henry Wenban – Royal Engineers, along with what remained of his demolition/saboteur unit, arrived in St Nazaire, Western France. They had been moving for days from Le Havre on foot towards the port of St Nazaire, avoid-ing the encroaching advance of the German army, and carrying with them a badly burnt comrade– caught in the detonating of oil wells at Le Havre. Stopping often to rest and to tend to the burns of their fellow soldier with cold tea—all they had left of their kit or supplies – having left everything behind in their rush to reach the coast to be rescued. RMS LANCASTRIA
But they were too late—the SS Lancastria had just left and was sailing away from harbour with up to 9000 people, including civilians, troops & children.
Then, at 15.48 the ship received 3 direct hits from German Junkers aircraft. Within 15 minutes the ship went down. The carnage was horrendous—up to 5000+ people perished.
My father and his unit could only watch as the ship they had hoped to be on went down. He never spoke about it to me, only to my mother. The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill had put a media blackout on the tragedy as he felt that, following so soon after Dunkirk, it would demoralise the nation.

I realise that I would not be here had my dad arrived in time to board the vessel or the soldier not sustained such injuries to delay them. I believe the Lord watched over my dad on that day in 1940 – and I wouldn’t be here if he had been on time!

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