FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Dunkirk 75: Little ships at the Royal Docks

Posted in England, London by folkestonejack on May 16, 2015

It is almost 75 years since the emergency evacuation of the allied forces began in Dunkirk, a remarkable feat that saw 338,226 men rescued from the most horrific scenes on the beaches and in the harbour. Over a nine day stretch Operation Dynamo involved over a thousand ships in the rescue effort, including approximately 700 little ships.

Every five years since 1970 the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships has organised a commemorative return to Dunkirk and this year’s return will bring together fifty five little ships.

The flotilla arrives in the Royal Docks

The flotilla arrives in the Royal Docks

Eighteen of the little ships began their journey from Teddington today, making a most impressive spectacle as they passed through the Royal Albert Dock in formation just before 6pm. The leading ship, the Silver Queen, made a striking sight as she passed the planes lined up at London City airport and then headed under Connaught Bridge. I was quite astonished to see just how much smaller some of the ships that followed were – so much smaller than I expected would have made the original crossing in 1940.

After overnighting at the Royal Victoria Docks the flotilla will set off for Ramsgate in the morning, ahead of the bad weather forecast for Monday. The ships will be escorted by the RNLI and the Royal Navy on the crossing from Ramsgate to Dunkerque which is scheduled for Thursday 21st May (or Friday 22nd May if the weather conditions are unfavourable). Memorial services and events are scheduled to take place over the weekend of 23rd-24th May in Dunkerque.

The Silver Queen in King Albert Dock

The Silver Queen in King Albert Dock

On a personal level I have much to be thankful for, as both my grandfathers were rescued during Operation Dynamo. Sadly, no-one on either side of my family knows which ships they came back on. The horrors of Dunkirk still weighed heavily many years later and it was a topic that was never discussed.

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