The wreckage of the Compass Rose (Picture: Environment Agency).

Dunkirk 'Little Ship' Wreck Removed From Cambridgeshire River

The boat was too badly damaged and came to pieces as it was being removed from the water by a mechanical grabber mounted on a pontoon.

The wreckage of the Compass Rose (Picture: Environment Agency).

The wreckage of the Compass Rose, which had been abandoned by its owner (Picture: Environment Agency).

The remains of a boat which helped troops to escape the beaches of Dunkirk during the Second World War have been removed from the River Lark in Cambridgeshire.

The Environment Agency pulled the wreck from the water, after it had been left to sink.

The sunken ‘Compass Rose’ had been abandoned by its owner, who officers were unable to contact after numerous attempts, and had to be removed because it was obstructing navigation on the river and could pose a risk to other boaters and the environment.

Having suffered the detrimental effects of several years in the water, the wreck was too badly damaged to salvage and came to pieces as it was being removed from the water by a mechanical grabber mounted on a pontoon.

The wreck falls apart as it's pulled from the river.
The wreck fell apart as it was pulled from the river (Picture: Environment Agency).

The 40-foot (approximately 12-metre) wooden cruiser is one of a dozen vessels being removed this month as part of plans to clear sunken, abandoned, unregistered and illegal boats from the Rivers Nene and Great Ouse.

Despite the fact boaters are required by law to register any vessel they keep, use or let for hire on Environment Agency waterways, most of the wrecks have not been registered.

The potential punishment is prosecution, a hefty fine and a criminal record.

Paul Separovic, the Waterways Operations team leader at the Environment Agency, said:

"This is a sad ending for one of around 700 boats that supported a heroic, life-saving effort during the war.

"It’s regrettable the Compass Rose survived that momentous event only to be left to sink nearly 80 years later.

"We know the value these boats can carry – not just financially but sentimentally and, in this case, historically – and that’s why we’re encouraging boaters to make sure their vessels are registered with the Environment Agency, which also means they’re more likely to be well-maintained and checked for safety."

One of the 'little ships' used in Operation Dynamo (Picture: Environment Agency).
One of the 'little ships' used in Operation Dynamo.

Mr Separovic continued: "In each of these cases, we’ve made numerous attempts to contact and work with the boats’ owners to resolve the issues, but without success – so now we’re forced to remove the boats so they don’t pose a danger to people, nature or wildlife.

"Most of these boats aren’t registered, making them illegal.

"Boaters’ registration charges go straight back into maintaining the waterways, locks and moorings boaters have come to enjoy.

"Skipping out on these charges is unfair to other boaters, tens of thousands of whom enjoy our beautiful and historic rivers every year.

"It puts the future of our treasured waterways at risk."

The Environment Agency looks after more than 350 miles of navigable waterways in the Anglian network, which includes the Ancholme, Black Sluice, Glen, Welland, Nene, Great Ouse and Stour, including locks and facilities.