TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

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BENIDORM
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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby BENIDORM » Wed Dec 24, 2008 7:06 pm

Peachy,
Thanks so much for the info. , I am really grateful..
At present I'm in 'transit' and having probs with my laptop, so sorry I haven't reponded sooner....

May I take this opportunity to Thank everyone on the A.com forum for being so helpful, and responding to all of my posts over the past year.

We hope that you all have a really Good and Safe Christmas,
Best wishes to everyone,
Gordon and Pauline.

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princess peach
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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby princess peach » Fri Dec 26, 2008 7:02 pm

Hi again Beni,Christmas greetings to you first of all.xx

I have been to the cemetry today to see if i could find the graves,the cemetry man was nowhere in sight and beings tho there was four of us,i thought i would stand a really good chance of finding the graves for you.So armed witha camera and sheets of paper and a pen,we set to go thru the gates.
WOW!
What a size this graveyard is!!.Gib being so small i didnt think the graveyard would be as huge as it was.We had a quick look but the graves were as far as the eye could see length and width.
Anyway,the graveyard opens at 8am and shuts at 7pm.So to catch the man with the keys opening up..we are getting up early sunday morning,getting over to Gib for 7.30am,and waiting for him to arrive.I dont think there will be any chance i will catch him via telephone,and i want to sort this out for you.
I will be in touch again as soon as i have spoken to the keyholder,as he should have info and directions to the stone(s)where these brave guys will be.
Lots of hugs to you and your wife Beni.I really want to help you with this,so you can visit this graveyard and pay your respects when you are ready to.
Angie.x

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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby princess peach » Mon Dec 29, 2008 2:52 pm

Just an update.
Contacted the cemetry,I have to telephone again on the 5th Jan as the person i need to speak with is on holiday.Will update when i speak with him.xxx

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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby princess peach » Tue Jan 06, 2009 10:13 am

:cry: Oh i have been phoning for you Beni,but keep getting the answer machine.I dont think they will phone me back on a spanish telephone number,so i will keep trying.

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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby princess peach » Tue Jan 06, 2009 5:46 pm

Have left a message on the answer phone with the info i want and left them hubbys Gib mobile.If they havent rang in a week,i will either call again or go in. :D

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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby BENIDORM » Thu Feb 26, 2009 1:34 pm

First of all I must apologise for not posting for a couple of months, I was 'ex-communicated' from the Forum , just couldn't get back on.
Anway I'm so grateful for all of the help given by numerous people regarding my Lakonia quest, particularly Princess Peach, who went to a lot of trouble , on my behalf.

I am now planning a visit to Gib. to lay a wreath...

Thanks again everyone,
Regards,
Gordon.

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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby princess peach » Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:45 pm

Beni,they never got back to me :(
I have tried a few times since, to get a reply but no one ever answers the phone.I can give you the telephone number if you want to try yourself.Its a shame really as i felt i was really getting somewhere for you.
sorry. :(

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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby Bronte » Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:36 am

Dear Benidorm
Forgive me for intruding. I stumbled across your posts, and thought I might add the little I know. Many of the dead were taken to Gibraltar. I believe some were then sent back to the UK and indeed to Ireland, as a few of the passengers were Irish. I think that those who could not be positively identified, as the bodies were badly decomposed, many have been buried in Gibraltar. They were buried by religiuous affiliation as much as possible ie Anglicans in the Anglican section of the garveyard etc. To my knowledge, there is no mass grave.

The reason I know this is that my father was the ship's doctor, James Riordan. It was his first voyage on a cruise ship. His body was never positively ID'd. I actually live in Australia, but about 8 years ago we'd returned to the UK and tacked on a week's holiday in southern Spain. I wanted to go to Gibraltar to find my father's grave, whick I knew would be optimistic as I had no idea where to start, and it is unmarked. I went to Tourist Information, and they told me there were 2 graveyards, one of which was military. We thus went to the other, and arrived at about 5.30pm, just as they were closing. I explained to this charming man, that I was hoping to find my father's unmarked grave. He told me that there are 60,000 bodies in that cemetry. Realising my task was huge, I mentioned that he'd been the doctor on a ship which sank in December 1963. I cannot express the shock I felt when this man replied "That would be the Lakonia". He took into the office, and looked up my surname on the computer. He told me my father had the title of commander, which I didn't know. He then took me to 4 graves (same religion as my dad), and told me that my father's was one of them. If we'd had more time, he would have been able to pinpoint which one. From the start of my search to 'finding' the grave took 30 mins! Very emotional as you can imagine, but such a huge life lesson in never being daunted by the seeming impossibility of a goal!

This was 8 years ago. I have no idea if this man still works there, but if he does, I have no doubt he would be able to shed some light on your quest for a plague. I don't know of one, but I wasn't looking.

Wishing you all the best!

Kind regards

Barbara

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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby BENIDORM » Tue Mar 10, 2009 11:13 am

Barbara,
Thank you so much for your information.
And I am sorry to hear that your Father was one of the victims of this dreadful incident.
I hope that I haven't upset you with my rather graphic account of the incident, I hadn't intended to give so many details.
I can tell you that all of the crewmen of the 'Centaur' carried out their duties of recovering the victims with great care and compassion, and it was the most awful Christmas that I have lived through.
When I go to the graveyard to lay my wreath, I will try to seek out your Fathers grave and leave some flowers on your behalf...I will say a prayer for him and the other victims.

I'm feeling rather emotional now after reading your letter, so will have to end this short note..

Best Wishes to You,
Gordon..

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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby Bronte » Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:57 pm

Hi Gordon
I have been reading all the posts, and far from upsetting me, I found them quite comforting. It is very evident, that this was a harrowing experience for all but especially for the men on the Centaur. I hadn't even considered this operation in my understanding of events. I can't imagine what it was like for you. Thank your care and compassion. Thank you also for the offer of visiting my father's grave when you go next, that is very kind. My visit was emotional, but almost uplifting, if that doesn't sound odd. I had my young son with me, and baby daughter (8 weeks!), and I felt a sense that at last my father wasn't alone, and very much living with all of us.

There has been a good deal of information I hadn't known, and much validates what my mother told me. I recall that there was a lot of coverage in the Irish press, so I'm going to have a search and see if I can find anything. My father was Irish, and I know many of the passengers were, although I couldn't find this in most of the sites. There were eye witness accounts that my father left the boat, albeit somewhat late in the piece. He subsequently drowned. A friend of the family went to the Greek Embassy in London every day for 3-4 days awaiting news, so there was a huge dgeree of confusion, I believe. My father's death was not confirmed until after Christmas.

The other thing you have started me thinking about is the plague. If there isn't one, there should be. I think I will write to the Greek Government. I understand that the captain actually received a sentence for gross neglience, so there is a degree of culpability.

One last thing, and I hope this doesn't upset you, and in honesty, I have no idea now if it is true. I grew up in a town outside London called Bromley. On several occassions during my childhood, my mother pointed out a man who she said was the pursar on the Lakonia. During my recent searches, I would gather he is Italian (Italian name), so I am not sure if this is correct. Anyway, this man and my mother would acknowledge each other, never smiling or saying hello. Even as a child, I was aware he had experienced something horrific....it was etched on his face.

I sincerely hope this hasn't upset you....far from my intention. I found the information through these threads has helped my understanding of what happened, so I suppose, I am hoping this might bring some solace to you.

If I find anything out, I'll contact you if I may.

Kind regards

Barbara

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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby princess peach » Wed Mar 11, 2009 7:25 am

I have been reading the last few posts and thinking not only how very sad its all been but also very wonderful.Not only have we all been told a little bit of some very interesting history,but also two very special people who have been affected from the same disaster have found each other and are able to share even more information.

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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby avellana » Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:50 am

Princess Peach
You've written exactly what I was thinking.
Best wishes to both Gordon and Barbara.

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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby Chrissie » Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:59 am

This has been a deeply moving thread. It's extraordinary that Gordon and Barbara have managed to make contact through the forum - I wish you both peace and happiness. xx
The past cannot be changed, but the present can be spoilt by worrying about the future

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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby IreneD » Wed Mar 11, 2009 2:49 pm

I agree, it's amazing and really moving.

I worry about the internet, my grandchildren on Facebook and who they're talking to etc, but this thead shows the 'good' that come come from exchange of information and linking up with people.

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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby BENIDORM » Wed Mar 11, 2009 4:22 pm

First I have to say Thank You for all the kind comments made by 'A' com members.

Since reading Barbara's first posting I've given a lot of thought to this tragic event of many years ago, and I have to say that it was quite a shock to suddenly find that I am in contact with such a close family member of one of the victims.

Barbara,
I am pleased and somewhat relieved to hear that you have found reading this topic to be of comfort to you.
I'm still not sure if I am doing the right thing by giving more details of what I saw on that fateful day, but please accept my sincere apologies if I do go to far with any information that I write.

When I read that your Father held the rank of Commander I realised at once that the very first victim that I saw in the water was very likely your Father.
He was in Merchant Navy uniform , showing the three bands on his sleeve representing his rank as a Commander , I had always assumed that he was one of the Greek Crew.
At the point of spotting him ,the Centaur had slowed down speed considerably , and I had him in view for what was probably only three minutes, but it seemed like hours.
He didn't appear to have a life-jacket on, and was laying on his back, he looked so peaceful, and I couldn't believe that he was dead.
It is the recurring vision of him that motivated me to try to find out what had happened to him and the other victims, after we brought them to Gibraltar.
To be honest, now that I know more about at least one of the victims, I feel much more at peace with the whole matter.
I do hope that a Memorial Plaque can be placed in Gibraltar, and I would be so grateful if you could keep me informed about it.
I will send you a private message with my e-mail address etc., and will try to take some photographs at the graveyard, when I am able to arrange a visit there.
Thank you again for all of your information , you don't know how much it has helped me.
Best Wishes,
Gordon..

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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby Bronte » Thu Mar 12, 2009 1:10 am

Hi Gordon
I am a little stunned, as you probably were when you read my comment about my father having the title commander. When I read you'd seen an officer before, I made no potential link to my father. As I mentioned, my father was the doctor onboard, this was his 1st cruise. I think we had always his title was 'doctor' onboard, and that he was de facto a civilian. I need to have delve into whether it is normal to give titles (and thus unifroms) to ship's doctors. One thing we know, is that my father did not have a life jacket. He apparently had one leaving the ship, and then gave it to a woman in the water, as he was a reasonable swimmer. This was eye witness account, which I assume was covered in the press at the time. Unfortunately, all the clippings my mother saved, have been lost.

Could I please ask a favour, and I can only guess at the magnitude of this, so please please feel free to say no? If you clearly saw the face of this officer, would you look at a link I will send to one of the papers, which had a photo of my dad? I deliberately haven't included it here, not to compromise you. Gordon, I really must stress that I don't want to cause you any more trauma than this event has already caused you, and I fully appreciate and respect your decision. This is all very bizzare, I must say. Here I am conversing with a total stranger about something so personal for both of us.....it goes past all protocol into very unknown territory, so I am accutely cautious of overstepping things.

Barbara

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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby BENIDORM » Thu Mar 12, 2009 11:40 pm

Hello Barbara,
Yes it is bizarre, and I wish I could provide more answers for you, but it was a long time ago, I was very young and only a very small cog in a big machine...
I do have a face in my mind, it's been there a long time, and I would be quite happy to see a photograph of your Father,but I'm not sure how accurate my memory will be however.

With regard to whether your father would have worn a Naval uniform, well I would be most surprised if he didn't, it has always been customary for all crew to wear uniform,I know that because most of my family were Merchant Navy...I was the 'black sheep', for joining the Royal Navy..!

I never really saw any newspaper reports of the 'Lakonia incident as 'Centaur' was on passage to the Far East, so we didn't get many papers from home, and to be honest hardly anyone mentioned it after we had left Gibraltar, that doesn't mean that it wasn't in our hearts and minds , though.

As far as my memories of the officer I saw in the water, I remember that he was clean shaven, and I thought he seemed young to be a Commander.
If you wish to keep any of your information private, please send me a pm..Normally I wouldn't want to discuss something of such a sensitive nature on a public forum, but I have had such a lot of interest and good help from the members, that I feel it only fair to put as much information as I can , on the forum..
Take Care,
Gordon.

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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby Bronte » Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:59 am

Hi Gordon
Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I would doubt the poor man you saw was my father, as he sounds younger. My dad was 54! From the photos my mum showed (can't find one now), his hair was quite silver. I hope this doesn't open up more horrific memories for you.

This is a photo which was in the Irish Times on Christmas Day 1963,...the smaller one in the middle of the page....not easy to see.
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/arc ... Pg001.html

Whilst stunned, I am not upset in anyway by the revelations.....it has been strangely comforting....keep looking for a different word and coming back to that one. I apologise profusely for the shock I must have given you the other day. My post was merely meant to inform you that the care the crew of the Centaur had taken with the victims, seemed to be cared through to burial, as most were identified, and buried individually, in their correct religions. I think I only mentioned the bit about finding out my father was a commander to show that there was detail in the computer! Also, that the man in the cemetry seemed to have a good deal of knowledge about the Lakonia, so may help regarding a plaque. Clearly, you must thought my father was the Greek officer you saw initially!

One thing I have appreciated more fully, is the wider impact of the disaster. As a family, it was very microscopic, but it never occured to me that its reach was so great. I am deeply sorry that you still feel it so acutely. We had our way of dealing with it and chose to celebrate my father's life, not his death. Other families will no doubt have done the same. I was always brought up with stories of my father's bravery in the event....going down into the ship to carry up a disabled priest, giving away his life jacket etc. Again, I don't know if these are true! But I don't want to find out otherwise now! Thank you to you and all your shipmates for searching for survivors, and being so respectful with the dead. Your family should be as proud of you for your role as I am of my dad.

Kindest regards
Barbara

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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby BENIDORM » Thu Mar 19, 2009 10:02 am

Hello Barbara,
Thank you for your information and thoughts.

With regard to the photograph of your Father, I have to say that I really don't know for sure, so I think that I now accept that the face in my memory represents the faces of all of the victims of that fateful day.
If any further information comes to light , I would be most grateful if you could post it on this site.

I hope that at some point a memorial can be placed in Gibraltar, and I will continue to try to achieve this.

Thank you again for everything,
Best Wishes,
Gordon..

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Re: TSMS Lakonia Disaster.1963

Postby Bronte » Thu Mar 19, 2009 11:50 pm

Hello Gordon
Thank you for getting back. I must confess I was worried that I had overstepped matters, and caused more anguish.

Your very eloquent reply was quite beautiful, and most apt. Our exchange of information has been most comforting (that word again!) to me, and it sounds like to you also. There were far more victims of that disaster than the 128 people who died. Funnily enough, it no longer seemed important if that officer was my father or not, but the connection with someone who has experience of the event, has been enormously moving.

I will endeavour to work towards getting a plaque, and will keep you informed of my progress. My attempts thus far have not been in anyway fruitful, but early days!

I will you all the very best in the future, and a very heartfelt thank you.

Barbara


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