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Who could shed light on this disaster?

PUBLISHED: 10:06 18 January 2008 | UPDATED: 19:26 05 July 2010

HMS Dasher

HMS Dasher

A SECOND world war veteran is calling on former Royal Navy servicemen and women living in Lowestoft to support his quest to unravel the mystery of HMS Dasher.

A Second world war veteran is calling on former Royal Navy servicemen and women living in Lowestoft to support his quest to unravel the mystery of HMS Dasher.

J Marlet, of Kestrel Green, Oulton Broad, contacted The Journal to

tell us about his friend George Humphreys's quest to uncover the truth about one of the enduring mysteries of those grim years.

He hopes that, with Lowestoft's seafaring history, someone living in the town may have been stationed in or around the Scottish coast in 1943 and may have some information about the carrier ship.

It was on March 27 that disaster struck off the Isle of Arran, resulting in the sinking of HMS Dasher and the loss of 379 lives. Just 149 people would walk away with their lives after the ship exploded for apparently no reason.

All these years later there is still no official public explanation for the disaster, which was the largest loss of life not in the face of the enemy during the war. Mr Humphreys recalls that it was kept so quiet at the time that very few people were even aware the ship had sunk.

HMS Dasher (D37), an Avenger-class escort carrier, had been converted from a merchant vessel in the United States just a short time before the disaster, and there was concern the public could turn on our American allies.

It is thought that, as morale at the time was low, her fate was kept out of the public eye, with the local media ordered to stay quiet and the dead being buried in a mass unmarked grave.

The official probable cause was that vapour in the main fuel compartment ignited, causing the explosion in the Firth of Clyde.

However, Mr Humphreys, of Whitstable, Kent, was a witness to the disaster and has described how he saw an aircraft crashing into the ship on landing. At the time he was on board a landing craft that was slowly making its own way through the water near Arran.

“My attention was drawn to a biplane coming along the port side of our ship and turning to land on the aircraft carrier. To my dismay it crashed into the quarter deck, below the flight deck, and exploded. There was a massive fireball as the ship went up,” he said.

“There was a board of inquiry but nobody on our landing craft was approached to give evidence.”

Over the past year Mr Humphreys has been researching the ship's

fate, but he came up against a

brick wall when he tried to view

the log books from his ship.

“I contacted the national archives to get a copy of LCT523 ship's log to check the records for that day. Numbers 467 to 550, which covered the whole time we were stationed in the Clyde, have been obliterated. There is no record of what our ship saw that day,” he said.

He has managed to find others supporting his claim issuing appeals through local newspapers the Arran Banner and the Oban Times.

Now, with the help of Mr Marlet, he is hoping the people of Lowestoft can shed some additional light on the mystery.

If you were stationed off the Scottish coast at that time or have any other information relating to HMS Dasher, write to George Humphreys, 5 Cypress Close, Whitstable, Kent, CT5 4EB. And don't forget to let us know, too.

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