Over 20 Dunkirk Little Ships with gather in London’s Royal Docks over the weekend of May 16th and 17th ahead of their Return to Dunkirk to mark the 75th anniversary of the Dunkirk Evacuations.
During the evening of Saturday, May 16, as part of the nationwide Museums at Night festival of arts, heritage and culture, the Dunkirk Little Ships will parade around Royal Victoria Dock. The Little Ship ‘Silver Queen’ will offer twilight trips around the docks and there will be the chance to step aboard some of the other ships taking part.
The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships are also holding a church service quayside at 11am on Sunday, May 17, which is open to the public to attend.
On May 21st over 60 of the Little Ships will leave Ramsgate in Kent and make their way to Dunkirk to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of Operation Dynamo.
In 1940 700 small civilian boats sailed from Ramsgate in Kent to Dunkirk in Northern France under extraordinarily dangerous conditions, braving mine fields, E-boat attacks and Stuka bombs to rescue British and French forces trapped on the beaches by the advancing German army. These little ships, mostly privately owned pleasure boats, private yachts and fishing boats, contributed to the rescue of over 338,000 British and French soldiers. Although the Evacuation of Dunkirk was no victory for the British Army it saved the troops to carry on the fight against Hitler – indeed many went on to return to liberate Europe through Normandy and Italy.
Mike Luddy, Managing Director of the Royal Docks Management Authority said: “ We are thrilled to be welcoming the Dunkirk Little Ships to London’s Royal Docks ahead of their journey across the channel. It will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for Londoners to get close to the vessels that have played their part in shaping British history.”
Ian Gilbert, Commodore, Association of Dunkirk Little Ships said:
” As I write this 60 individual owners of vessels with an average age of over 80 years are preparing to take their precious Little Ships across the English Channel to Dunkirk at the end of May. For 60 vessels of that age to make their way across one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world would be remarkable enough – but what makes this event particularly note worthy is that each of these Little Ships took part in Operation Dynamo in May 1940. The fortitude and bravery of the Little Ships and their crews has entered in to the English language with the phrase ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ being widely used in times of adversity.
The crossing to Dunkirk by the remaining Little Ships is taking place to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Dynamo and the bravery of all those who took part and particularly those 20,000 men who were either taken prisoner or now lie forever in the war cemeteries around Dunkirk. The Little Ships will commemorate their bravery and sacrifice as long as they still sail.”