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Lost seafarers last resting place recognised 76 years later

Lifeboats News Release

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

Representatives from RNLI, CWGC, TDC and Margate cemetery at the ceremony (RNLI Margate)

RNLI Margate

Representatives from RNLI, CWGC, TDC and Margate cemetery at the ceremony (RNLI Margate)

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'.


RNLI Media contacts

  • Peter Barker, RNLI Margate Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer 07974 064304

  • Tim Ash, RNLI Public Relations Manager (London/East/South East) 0207 6207426, 07785 296252

  • For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789

Headstones now mark the grave of the Lascar seafarers (RNLI Margate)

RNLI Margate

Headstones now mark the grave of the Lascar seafarers (RNLI Margate)

Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen, Carrybridge and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

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