HMS Dasher Disaster


Lying in 130m (426 feet) of water to the S of Little Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde, HMS Dasher was lost following what is thought to have been an accidental explosion of aviation fuel on 27th March, 1943. She sank within eight minutes, with the loss of 379 lives, who either perished on-board, were killed by the burning oil that had spread across the surface of the sea, or from exposure. Only 149 of her crew survived the disaster.

Mystery surrounded the loss for many years, with relatives told little of the fate of their loved ones. This was in part due to the necessary circumspection required in times of war, but recent research has suggested that it may also have been because one of the drowned sailors became 'the man who never was' - a deliberate subterfuge on the part of British intelligence whereby a body was set adrift off the Spanish coast in May 1943, which convinced the Germans to redirect their defences away from the invasion of Sicily. This operation was launched from nearby Greenock.

Dasher had been built as a cargo ship in the USA in 1941 but was quickly converted to an aircraft carrier and commissioned by the Royal Navy in July 1942. She sailed for Britain the following month, arriving off the Royal Naval Air Station at Campbeltown on 24th August. She then took part in the landings in North Africa and convoy duty but, suffering some minor damage, had come to the Clyde for repairs. It was during trials after these repairs were completed that disaster struck.

Designated an official war grave, a memorial was unveiled in Ardrossan in 1993.

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