Lost seafarers last resting place recognised 76 years later
A ceremony has marked the last resting place of two Lascar seamen who perished during the second world war and were buried in unmarked graves in Margate, now recognised thanks to research of RNLI Margate's station archivists and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The cargo vessel Matra was almost at the end of a difficult voyage, part of a convoy, from Boston USA to London in November 1939 when it struck a mine off Margate. The town's RNLI lifeboat picked up 52 of the crew including two Indian (Lascar) seamen who had abandoned the now sinking vessel into their own lifeboats and landed them back at Margate. Sadly, the two Lascar seamen did not survive along with 14 other Lascars who went down with their ship, trapped in the stern of the vessel.
At the time, the two seamen were not considered worthy of headstones and were buried in unmarked graves at Margate cemetery. Seventy-six years later and prompted by the memory of a local photographer and ex lifeboatman who remembered the occasion, Margate lifeboat station's archivists, with the help of staff at the cemetery and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) researched the history and the commission agreed to provide suitably marked headstones.
Accompanied by representatives of: the CWGC, Margate RNLI lifeboat station, Margate cemetery and Thanet Council, Revd. Brian Sharp, honorary chaplain at Margate lifeboat station conducted the service to mark the provision of the headstones for the two seamen who had been lost to history for over 70 years and for whom in Revd. Sharp’s words now lie 'in their own quiet corner of a foreign field'.
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The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.