Lot Archive


№ 439


5 March 1996

Hammer Price:

Three: Private M. Gowers, 1st Essex Regiment, attached Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps, killed during the withdrawal from St. Nazaire in June 1940
General Service 1918-62, 1 clasp, Palestine (6009238 Pte., Essex R.): 1939-45 Star; War Medal, nearly extremely fine (3)

Private Morris Gowers was killed in action at sea on 17 June, 1940, during enemy action against the troopship S.S. Lancastria.The loss of the Lancastria has been described as possibly the worst sea disaster of all time, for it has never been established how many people were on the vessel when it was hit by at least four bombs from an enemy aircraft, one of which set the vessel on fire, whilst the other three sank it. Trapped on board in the holds were thousands of civilians, soldiers and airmen; the Guiness Book of Records gives the figure as “about 4,000”, but various unofficial sources have quoted even higher figures.
The casualties caused by the Luftwaffe in the attack on the
Lancastria were amongst the last to be sustained by the B.E.F. in the withdrawal from France in 1940. The evacuation of the beaches was completed on the night of 17th/18th June, having rescued more than 57,000 Allied troops.
The Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps were detailed as rear-guard defence during the evacuation from Dunkirk and put up such a determined resistance to the German advance that King George VI soon after re-titled them ‘The Royal Pioneer Corps’.