WWII

Dunkirk's Little Ships: Up Close With A Vessel Still Sailing Today

Hundreds of the small vessels were sent to help rescue trapped Allied troops from the shores of Dunkirk 80 years ago.

Eighty years ago, a daring plan was needed to rescue hundreds of thousands of trapped Allied troops from the shores of Dunkirk - a coastal city in northern France.

They had been surrounded by Nazi and Axis forces following defeat in the Battle of France in May 1940 during World War Two.

During Operation Dynamo, the name given to the evacuation, Britain called on assistance from every available seaworthy vessel that could get close enough to the French shoreline - everything from yachts and speedboats to ferries and pleasure cruisers.

More than 860 'little ships' were brought into service, setting off from Ramsgate on the Kent coast, to cross the English Channel.

In ten days, they helped rescued more than 330,000 troops, beating the odds to succeed.

Owner Jill Finn alongside her little ship 'Lazy Days'.

Simon Palmer, Association of Dunkirk Little Ships, told Forces News: "They would ferry the troops from the very shallow beaches out to the deeper parts of the sea where the large ships were, so constantly under attack from the German dive bombers.

"We had an incredible determination to get across there.

"Now that very sadly most of the troops have passed on, the little ships are a sort of little living testament, and so we are very keen that we will continue to try to remember those men in arms in the years to come."

Many of the little ships used during the Dunkirk evacuation were damaged during the operation, however, dozens are still seaworthy even now.

One of those, a 34-foot motor yacht named 'Lazy Days', has been restored back to use.

"She was very badly shot at, we found her in the corner of a marina that we had a boat on," says owner, Jill Finn.

"She had a moorhen nesting on the back and was covered in attractive green mould and bulrushes, and then the rest is a labour of love."

A plaque to remember the boat's history.

Dozens of the ships sail back to France each year to honour the bravery and sacrifices of all involved in the mission.

More than 70 ships were due to take part in this year's commemorations, but the event was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2015, the 75th anniversary of Dynamo was marked with more than 50 little ships sailing from Ramsgate marina to France.