WW2 Seamen Honoured With Margate Graves

2 December 2016, 12:08 | Updated: 2 December 2016, 12:18

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 ship Matra sank after hitting a mine off Margate in 1939 two Indian (Lascar) members of the crew were buried in unmarked graves at Margate cemetery. Following research by Margate RNLI the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has now provided headstones for their last resting place.

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'