The “Dunkirk Little Ships” Are Back

This year the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships is participating with over twelve of the original ‘Little Ships’ at the festival Ostend at Anchor. They took part in ‘Operation Dynamo’ when, between 28 May and 2 June 1940, over 338,000 British, French and Belgian troops were evacuated from the beaches at Dunkirk.
Organized by the British Admiralty, some 700 small boats, most privately-owned pleasure craft, were requisitioned and set sail for Dunkirk, crewed mainly by Royal Navy personnel, although some were sailed by their owners. Sixty Belgian ships, including many fishing vessels, also participated and are known to have evacuated about 4,300 soldiers.
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Operation Dynamo in 1965, the well-known British radio and television journalist Raymond Baxter – himself the owner of a small motor cruiser that had been at Dunkirk, organized a ‘gathering’ attended by 43 of the ‘little ships’ that had taken part in the evacuation. As a result, the ‘Association of Dunkirk Little Ships’ was created in 1966 with the aim of keeping alive the spirit of Dunkirk by maintaining for posterity the little ships and the memory of the brave souls who had taken them to Dunkirk.
The Association now comprises some 100 ‘little ships’ – yachts, motor cruisers, fishing boats, former lifeboats, tugs and assorted pleasure craft that took part in the evacuation. In recognition of their achievement, the ships are permitted to fly the Admiralty flag – the cross of St. Joris, combined with the arms of Dunkirk. All the ships are maintained with much care by their current owners – not always an easy task as even the youngest ships are now 75 years old! Nonetheless, every five years many of the ‘little ships’ return to the Dunkirk beaches in order to commemorate the evacuation.
The organizers of Ostend at Anchor consider it a great privilege to welcome the Dunkirk Little Ships and their owners as guests of honor to the festival.