Tobruk

Heroes sunk and unsung

Eastwood archaeologist Michael Bendon is researching the vessels used to evacuate troops in World War II 
Photo Tim Clapin


By Robert Kennard - Northern District Times

Dr Michael Bendon is trying to identify two sunken British naval vessels used to evacuate 30,000 Commonwealth troops - mostly Australian and New Zealanders - from Greece in World War II.

Known only as the A6 and A20 landing craft tanks (LCT), the vessels used pioneering technology of the time, enabling 900 men to be taken off the beach and on to a vessel without the need for smaller ferries.

They began evacuating soldiers on April 24, 1941: Anzac eve.

“The connection of these vessels to Anzac history is astounding,” Dr Bendon said. “Thousands of Australian and New Zealand lives were saved because of the sheer load of men these vessels could carry.”

Twenty LCTs were commissioned by British prime minister Winston Churchill in 1940, and were hastily delivered to the North African and Mediterranean theatres of war in 1941.

Witnesses reported the vessels identified by Dr Bendon were dive-bombed by German aircraft at the end of May 1941.

Although local villagers have always known the vessels were there, Dr Bendon said the British and the Australian War Memorial had yet to identify them.

“British reports still say the vessels were lost in action somewhere in the Middle East,” he said.

“It seems no one has bothered to investigate these shipwrecks until now.”

Dr Bendon hopes to secure funding to investigate other LCT wrecks in Tobruk and off the coast of mainland Greece.