0 comments on “Stott and the Evacuation of France, June 1940”

Stott and the Evacuation of France, June 1940

What is often not realised about the evacuation of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) from France in June 1940 is that not everyone left from Dunkirk. Several thousand men came out from St Nazaire on the edge of western France, and amongst these was Arthur Owen Stott, later to be the Commanding Officer of the Army Graves Service in Western Europe.

Stott and his unit was evacuated only a day and a half before the sinking of the Lancastria outside St Nazaire, a horrific tragedy in which some 3,000 troops, RAF men, and civilians lost their lives. In February 1945, when CO of the 21 Army Group Graves Service, Stott would investigate a fraudulent claim for compensation concerning the Lancastria.

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Robert Whitley, RCAF, Viroflay Cemetery, France

Robert Whitley was an Air gunner from Canada, flying with a Wellington crew of 419 Squadron. He and his crew were lost when their aircraft crashed at Argenteuil in France on 30 May 1942.¬†They were buried as ‘unknowns’.

When the MRES sought to establish who the men were in the graves, they had only a few clues to go on. In what was a highly unusual move for the time, the Air Ministry Casualty Branch gave the London Press information about these clues. The London Press, including the Daily Mirror, duly ran the story on 18 September 1945. What happened next was extraordinary…