Barfleur salutes SS Léopoldville troopship

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On Tuesday 17th April Barfleur welcomed a 93-year old American World War 2 veteran, Mr John Waller, and his family for a special trip from Poole to Cherbourg.

They were on board to retrace Mr. Waller’s wartime footsteps. On Christmas Eve 1944 he was one of 2,000 American soldiers on board the troopship SS Léopoldville crossing the English Channel from Southampton to Cherbourg. In the middle of that night just 5½ miles from Cherbourg the Léopoldville was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-486. More than 800 people drowned and the bodies of 493 were never recovered. Mr Waller survived despite spending 45 minutes in the freezing waters.

As Barfleur approached the coast of Cherbourg on Tuesday, Commandant Roignant invited the family on to the bridge, and slowly manoeuvred his ship alongside the wreck site and into the lee of the wind, to allow Mr. Waller to pay his respects and to lay a wreath into the sea.

BBC South Transport Correspondent Paul Clifton accompanied the family to Cherbourg, and you can watch his report here:

Video © BBC, used with kind permission

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