You, like me, may well have been to the cinema to see the much acclaimed film ‘Dunkirk’ recently. What an epic it is too. The film truly brought home the horrors of this conflict and the bravery of those involved in the evacuation from the beaches.
This year then, there may be even more interest in the annual Little Ships trip up the Thames which you will be able to see from the banks and locks at various points along the route. The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships Veterans Cruise will be on Sunday 3rd September. Do go and find a good vantage point to cheer the veterans and see the craft.
The Veterans Cruise unites Veterans from a number of conflicts but primarily from WWII with the Little Ships of Dunkirk. These vessels themselves have been brought to prominence recently in the feature film ‘Dunkirk’ directed by Christopher Nolan. Several of the vessels appearing in the film will be carrying Veterans at this event. An unlikely collection of heroic craft, not built for war, which came from the rivers and coastal waters of England.
All had stories to tell, and all were involved in the in the evacuation of Dunkirk, one of the most audacious mass rescues in history. Many had never been to sea, until a memorable page of history was written across the nine days between 26th May and 5th June 1940.
Boats of all shapes and sizes took part: fishing boats, lifeboats, pleasure boats and even sailing boats. The British and French armies were surrounded on three sides by German Forces. On the fourth side lay the shallow waters of the Dunkirk beaches, too shallow for naval vessels to get near. The only possibility to mount a mass rescue was to get craft with shallow enough draft to enable them to get close in and get the soldiers on board. Word went out. The Admiralty directed many boatyards along the Thames, the Estuary and Kent to help source boat and crew.
On the first day of the evacuation, only 7,669 men were evacuated, but by the end of the eighth day, more than 385,000 soldiers had been rescued by the hastily assembled fleet of over 800 boats in order to fight another day.