Dunkirk Little Ships
On the 26th of May this year the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships arrived in Ipswich to start their annual commemorative meeting; commemorating their part and the wider story of the Dunkirk Evacuation or Operation Dynamo that began on 26th May 1940 until the 3rd June 1940. 78 years since they made the voyage across the Channel many are still on the water and some make the journey back to Dunkirk every five years as part of the commemorations.
In late May 1940 the British Expeditionary Force was trapped at Dunkirk with thousands of troops from the French and Belgian armies too. As the frontlines moved closer to the coast and the Allied troops fell back, the British government took the decision to evacuate as many troops as possible. Aiming for 40,000 over 3 days they ended up evacuating 338,000 over 9 days. The vast majority were rescued by the Royal Navy but in order to get troops to ships offshore the government requisitioned and called for hundreds of inshore vessels and pleasure craft. These vessels had shallower draughts and could take troops straight from the beaches into naval vessels waiting offshore. Hundreds answered the call with volunteer crews and many with naval crews too.
From fishing boats and Thames Sailing Barges to Lifeboats and motor yachts, they became known as the Dunkirk Little Ships.
With many veterans of the evacuation no longer with us, it is these vessels that are the last reminder we have of the extraordinary story of the Dunkirk Evacuation, and which form the centre of commemoration events every year.
These vessels are registered as historic vessels and are important heritage treasures that are carefully and wonderfully looked after and restored. The IMT interviewed several of the Little Ships during their visit so check out the IMT social media channels to watch and learn more.
One Little Ship, The Trimilia (formerly known as Prudential, a RNLI Lifeboat) currently resides in Ipswich and is a permanent reminder of Dunkirk every time you walk along the waterfront. She saved 330 in her life as a lifeboat and about 2800 troops from Dunkirk, you can usually spot her opposite the Old Custom House.