On this day in 1940, David Leslie Jones (1916-1940) died in the worst maritime disaster in British history – the sinking of the troopship Lancastria in the Second World War.
David, aged 23, a lance-bombardier in the Royal Artillery, was among at least 4,000 men, women and children who lost their lives when the ship was attacked by a German bomber on June 17, 1940 and sank in just 20 minutes.
More than 6,000 were on board the former Cunard liner as she took part in the evacuation of troops and British civilians from France – just nine days after the miraculous rescue of 338,000 soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk.
Just 2,447 – including children as young as two – survived the sinking of the Lancastria.
David’s body was among dozens washed up on the coast at Saint Nazaire in France.
He was buried at the nearby Escoublac-la-Baule Cemetery.
David served in 158 Battery of the 53rd (City of London) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment of the Royal Artillery.
The regiment, formed in August 1939, landed in Cherbourg on October 16 that year.
They joined the RAF’s advanced air striking force at Reims, with 158 Battery defending airfields around Guignecourt.
The 53rd shot down up to ten enemy aircraft as the Germans launched their attack on France on May 10, 1940.
As the country was on the verge of surrender the following month, David was among a group of men from 158 Battery evacuated in Lancastria from Saint Nazaire.
David, born in 1916 in Hackney, London, was the son of John Ernest Jones (1880-1954) and Adelaide Edith Gill (1881-1965). John was the son of William Jones (1849-) and Amelia Elston (1856-1894). Amelia was the daughter of William Elston (1813-1885) and Loveday Roberts (1819-1909). Loveday was the daughter of William Roberts (1791-1875) and Frances Hodge (1796-1873). William was the son of John Roberts (1766-1834) and Elizabeth James (1767-1861). John was the son of William Roberts (1738-), my great-great-great-great-great grandfather.
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The sinking of the Lancastria off St Nazaire in 1940. A Public Domain image taken by a Press Agency photographer (photograph HU 3323 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums). https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Sinking_of_the_Cunard_Liner_Ss_Lancastria_Off_St_Nazaire_HU3323.jpg