Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Little Ships

Recently it was the 70th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation where in the early stages of WWII when we were losing that phase of the war, dozens of small private boats and pleasure cruisers took part in operation Dynamo which had them sailing across the English Cannel to rescue the retreating British army that had become trapped on the beaches at Dunkirk in France. This event was remembered by a flotilla of the surviving ‘little ships’ sailing across the channel to Dunkirk for a celebration of the success of what, without these small boats, would otherwise have been a disastrous loss to Britain.
This was an amazing event that is unprecedented in any war scenario before or since and it allowed the rescue of some one hundred thousand members of the armed forces and so enabled Britain to keep on fighting against the Axis forces.

This anniversary triggered another memory of my childhood, when one of my aunts owned a small cabin cruiser that allegedly, had been created from one of these boats. It had originally been an open working boat that after the end of the war had been fitted out with a cabin and upper decking to turn it into a four-berth cabin cruiser and was named Lady Drake.
I was curious if the link with Dunkirk was correct, so in trawling the Internet, I came across a web site that lists all the vessels known to have taken part in the Dunkirk evacuation but alas Lady Drake is not listed amongst them. I suppose the name was changed with the refit and I don’t know what its original name was at the time of the evacuation. It certainly would have looked very different to its appearance when my Aunt Mary owned it.

Lady Drake c 1954

Before she bought that one, she had previously owned another boat called Far Ben, which was altogether more up market. I am not sure why she changed, perhaps a little scaling down in costs was required.
Having found the list of little ships used in Dunkirk, I then wondered what I would find if I Googled for Far Ben and much to my surprise, I found this following movie on You Tube.

This is definitely the same boat in which I spent several holidays with my parents cruising up and down the river Thames in the fifties , often accompanied by the Corke family.

Far Ben with my aunt's freinds, c1952


  1. That's amazing, Pete - you must have been thrilled to find that video of Far Ben on You Tube! And to think that she/he is still chugging away!

    I recently read a fiction story about the little boats that were used to rescue the soldiers from Dunkirk - quite incredible, and such heroism, to undertake not only the trip but the rescue as well. Too bad you couldn't find the Lady Drake on the 'net, but Far Ben was a pretty decent find, I'd say!

  2. This love of boats certainly does run in the family. I know Kay's Kevin and Wendy love boats -- sailing, and my two 'boys' each have a boat. Actually Owen is in the Bahamas right now cruising the island -- just a small boat, but big enough for the job.