The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships is marking the 70th anniversary of Operation Dynamo by returning the original 'Little Ships' once more to Dunkirk. The flotilla of around fifty set sail from Ramsgate, Kent, at 0700 BST and expects to arrive at its destination around 4:00 pm. These small craft have been lovingly and painstakingly restored and preserved over the decades. They include fishing trawlers, pleasure craft, paddle steamers and lifeboats. They are being escorted by the Royal Navy frigate HMS Monmouth and the RNLI is providing a lifeboat escort.
This photograph of some of the 'Little Ships' was taken at Chatham Navy Days in 2002.
Photo courtesy of Colin Smith, Wikimedia Commons
On Saturday 29th May a commemorative service will be conducted at the Allied memorial on Dunkirk beach. A minute's silence will be followed by the playing of the national anthems of Britain, the Czech Republic, France and Belgium, the countries whose troops were rescued seventy years ago.Operation Dynamo was planned in the Secret Wartime Tunnels of Dover Castle. Churchill estimated that only 30,000 to 40,000 troops would be rescued, but in the event 338,000 were evacuated. He later described the operation as 'a miracle of deliverance.' The manoeuvre gave rise to the expression 'The Dunkirk Spirit' meaning indefatigable British determination and courage in the face of adversity and apparently insurmountable odds.
The Royal Naval ships had to wait off-shore in deeper water and the 'Little Ships' played their part by getting closer in to land so that they could transport troops to the larger vessels. Many soldiers made their journey back to Ramsgate in the smaller craft.
The original 1940 fleet of 900 naval and civilian craft made their hazardous journey across the English Channel (La Manche to the French) under the protection of the RAF. They had to avoid minefields and were fired on by the Luftwaffe whenever the weather allowed. The evacuation of Dunkirk is fittingly remembered as a victory over tremendous odds and it is right and proper that such events should be remembered.
(On a more personal note Barry's father had a cousin who was killed at Dunkirk. He was his parents' only son. His father, Barry's great-uncle, fought in the First World War and had been blinded in a gas attack. Barry met him only once and was shown this grand old man's collection of WWI shell cases – a display that made a deep impression on a young boy. His wife was German and the family history reports that she died of shame shortly after her son's death because of what her country had done – blinding her husband in the first war and then killing their son in the second. Poor woman!)