Evacuations from Europe during and after Aerial June 1940

Discussion in '1940' started by Roy Martin, Jan 16, 2019.

  1. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    The recent thread in the General Forum, 500 British Refugees on Missing Train, draws attention to one of a number of smaller evacuations that took place during, and after, Plan Aerial. In this case through Lisbon, more on this later.

    I have written about, what I now know as, Operation Spirit; when a guesstimated 10,000 people were rescued by merchant ships from the south of France. While I have not sighted any files on this operation, there are a number of primary sources, such as W Somerset Maugham’s Strictly Personal and Marianne Adler’s account of her rescue. At Gibraltar the numbers on the ships were reduced when, mainly, women and children were transferred to ships with proper accommodation. The men, including Somerset Maugham, stayed on the cargo ships and endured considerable hardship.

    Many French troops opted to be taken to French north Africa. At least one of the ships, the Meknes, was torpedoed, with a heavy loss of life. The survivors were landed at Weymouth where they were cared for, mainly by the WI and the WVS. At the end of June the cargo ship Calumet was hastily fitted out to carry French troops to Morocco. She joined convoy OG36, with fifteen other ships carrying French troops. An account written by one of the crew of the Calumet said; ‘ During the passage to Casablanca, the British Navy sank the French warships in Oran Harbour, and somehow or other our French sailors got to hear about it, and there was a change in the attitude, as if they didn’t like us anymore.’

    He goes on to say: ‘After the fall of France ….. a great many women and children were evacuated down to French Morocco.’ As the French troops disembarked the crew cleaned ship and hastily re-embarked 605 of these Gibraltarians. Convoyweb shows that they joined HG40, which include a dozen ships with a total of 5,400 Gibraltarians. Curiously some of these ended up in Jamaica!

    In reply to the original enquiry Tricky Dicky quotes from the book ‘Lifeline across the Sea’ where three vessels were involved in transporting ‘Diplomats’. The two British passenger ships were the Monarch of Bermuda and the Orduna. They each made a voyage to Lisbon with Italian diplomats, who transhipped to the Conte Rosso; then their British opposite numbers were brought back to the UK. No rough cargo ships for diplomats!

    Evacuees from France were also reaching Lisbon and at least one packet was sent there to bring them home. On the evening of 25 June, the day the ‘Armistice’ came into force, the ‘Admiralty instructed C-in-C to sail Ulster Prince to embark 1600 British evacuees from Lisbon if she could maintain 18 knots out and home.’ Ulster Prince was a merchant packet (ferry), which normally sailed on the Irish Sea routes. According to her Movement Card the Ulster Prince arrived in Lisbon on the 28th and sailed again on the 4 July. She took her passengers to Greenock, where she berthed on the 7th.

    The writer would welcome information on any of these operations and is happy to provide more from the quoted reports.
    Rich Payne and CL1 like this.

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