Sailors join ‘little ships’ for 75th anniversary of Dunkirk evacuation


Patrol boats HMS Trumpeter and HMS Ranger, and sailors from HMS Collingwood, crossed the Channel with the little ships of Dunkirk to mark the 75th anniversary of the legendary evacuation.

They are taking part in four days of events in the French port in memory of the miracle of deliverance which saw more than a third of a million men rescued in May and June 1940.

The patrol boats accompanied around 50 small craft, veterans of the massive effort to save the British Expeditionary Force from annihilation in May and June 1940, from Ramsgate to the French port in weather which mirrored the fine weather of three quarters of a century ago.

More than 338,000 British and French troops were rescued during Operation Dynamo, most picked up by larger vessels from Dunkirk port, rather than the beaches along the coast – which provided many of the iconic images of the evacuation.

Prince Michael of Kent, the honorary admiral of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships, joined HMS Trumpeter for the crossing, while spread across the little ships were two dozen sailors from HMS Collingwood’s Victory Squadron which is affiliated with the association.

The flotilla was treated to a flypast by a Hurricane and Spitfire from the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight – air cover was vital in 1940 in keeping much of the efforts of the Luftwaffe to destroy the evacuating ships in check.

With the flotilla now safely in Dunkirk’s Bassin du Commerce, the focus of events shifts to the land. Commemorations include:

  • A ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery at the Rue des Furnes (Friday May 22, 3.30pm) – you can watch the ceremony streamed live at www.cwgc.org
  • A service at the Allied Memorial in La Panne (Saturday May 23, 11am)
  • Memorial for MV Crested Eagle, a paddle steamer sunk off Zuydcoote with 300 men on board (Sunday May 24, 10am)
  • 75th anniversary commemorative service on the quay in the Bassin du Commerce (Sunday May 24, 11.30am).
Proceedings end early on Monday when Trumpeter and Ranger escort the little ships home to Ramsgate, leaving Dunkirk at 6am and arriving in Kent around 3.30pm.

All times are local.

Images by LA(Phot) Luron Wright