|January 3, 1964 issue of LIFE Magazine featuring the only known color photos of the Lakonia disaster Source: © 1964 Life Magazine. All Rights Reserved|
A YOUNG SEAMAN'S MEMORIES
Fast forward nearly 40 years. In December 2008, an andalucia.com forum member, Gordon (alias Benidorm), posted a message to ask if anyone knew whether there was a memorial or plaque in Gibraltar commemorating the disaster. He was a 17-year-old crewman on the Centaur back in 1963, and was among the group which recovered 78 bodies from the ship, and from the sea, and brought them back to Gibraltar on Christmas Day 1963. The response he received over the following four years was extraordinary.
Gordon explained that this experience has continued to haunt him throughout his life, especially at Christmas time, and he would like to put the memory of the faces of the dead to rest; to pay homage to them; and to achieve closure on the terrible incident from his youth.
Various other forum members went to considerable trouble to obtain information as to the wherebouts of the victims' resting places - 52 of them were buried in Gibraltar; some were exhumed and repatriated back to Britain, while others have their own gravestones in the cemetery. Those who could not be identified were buried in unmarked graves.
THE SHIP'S DOCTOR
Through this thread on the andalucia.com forum, someone closely connected with the tragedy made contact with Gordon. Barbara is the daughter of the ship's doctor, who was a 54-year-old Irishman on his first cruise. Her father had drowned, and Barbara had managed to locate his grave in the cemetery in Gibraltar a few years previously.
Barbara revealed moving details about her father's fate on that night, long-cherished by her family in their memories of him. For example, he went back down into the ship to save a disabled priest, and he gave his life jacket to a woman in the water, because he was a reasonable swimmer. As Barbara, who lives in Australia, said "Here I am conversing with a total stranger about something so personal for both of us." In spite of this, Gordon and Barbara kept their correspondence public, on the forum rather than via personal messages, because so many members had helped Gordon in his very personal quest for information.