‘The Evacuation of St Nazaire’ by Charles Pears, which is offered for £36,000 by Rountree Tryon.

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The ship was sunk in June 1940 while carrying thousands of people evacuating from France, during the Second World War.

At least 3000 evacuees were killed, making it one of the worst disasters in British naval history, though news of the event was censored by the UK government until after the war ended. The recently discovered painting of the disaster is the only known view of it to exist.

Charles Pears’ (1873-1958) oil on canvas The Evacuation of St Nazaire, which is offered for £36,000, was found in Australia.

It is believed that the painting was commissioned for the captain of the Oronsay, shown on the left of the image, who navigated back to England and saved around 10,000 people.

Dealer Jamie Rountree says he has had museum interest in the picture, although nothing concrete yet.

National media coverage attracted “hundreds of visitors” to the gallery to see it, many of whom with “a close attachment with the Lancastria and the evacuation of St Nazaire”.

They included that youngest survivor and “many children and grandchildren of both survivors, and people who died in the disaster”.

“One person told me a story of how his father missed getting onto Lancastria because there was a spot-check at the docks, and he had ‘taken’ a Luger gun in order to keep as a memento,” Rountree adds.

“He took so long getting rid of the Luger that he missed the final boat out to Lancastria and thus survived.”