BBC Documentary: "Little Ships of Dunkirk"

sgtpepperband

War Hero
Moderator
Book Reviewer
#1
'Navy News' (Oct 09 Edition) said:
The BBC is planning to make a documentary on the Little Ships of Dunkirk and would like to speak to Royal Navy veterans who took part in the evacuation.

Linda Sands is the producer/director for the one-hour BBC4 project, which is due to be filmed and broadcast next year.

Linda is keen to make contact with those on ships during Operation Dynamo in 1940, including Royal Navy personnel who commanded the Little Ships.

Initial contact would be in the form of a chat so that Linda can get an idea of their experiences, with a view to following up some individuals at a later date on camera.

Linda can be contacted at [email protected] or at 028 9033 8270 (work) or 07876 754606.

Operation Dynamo, in the early summer of 1940, was instigated when Allied troops became trapped by the German Army's thrust to the Channel coast.

With the threat of a significant part of the British Army being captured or destroyed, a hastily-assembled flotilla of warships and merchantmen was sent across the Channel to bring the soldiers to safety.

Although the large proportion of the work was done by warships - many of them destroyers - in a carefully co-ordinated operation, it was the Little Ships which captured the public imagination.

Many small craft made the trip across the Channel, largely crewed by RN and Reservist personnel, and were most commonly used to ferry the troops from the beaches out to the warships, while overhead the RAF went head-to-head with the Luftwaffe.

More than 330,000 troops were spirited away from under the noses of the Germans, with a further 220,000 being rescued from other ports, though at least 5,000 men died and more than 230 ships were lost.
 

Seaweed

War Hero
Book Reviewer
#2
Wandering around Woodbridge one afternoon I spotted a plaque screwed to the front of the cabin on a trim little wooden launch proclaiming that it had been a 'little ship' in its day. Wonder how many are still afloat.

For the story generally, and how the evacuation was pulled together and made to happen, try 'Full Cycle', the biography of Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, by Rear Admiral WS Chalmers.
 
#3
Seaweed said:
Wandering around Woodbridge one afternoon I spotted a plaque screwed to the front of the cabin on a trim little wooden launch proclaiming that it had been a 'little ship' in its day. Wonder how many are still afloat.

For the story generally, and how the evacuation was pulled together and made to happen, try 'Full Cycle', the biography of Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, by Rear Admiral WS Chalmers.
Several of the boats are shown here (click on each one for details) on the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships website but I don't think the list is exhaustive.
 

(granny)

RIP
Book Reviewer
#4
At the same time as 'Dunkirk' there was another evacuation taking place in France. Operation 'Ariel' got underway. At St Nazaire members of the BEF who had struggled down through France were picked up by a Fleet of ships. On the 17th June 1940 one of them, the SS Lancastria, was bombed and sunk with the loss of thousands of lives. It is the biggest disaster at sea. My Father managed to get off the beach and was succesfully evacuated. I am still trying to find out on which ship he was brought home. The details of the sinking of the 'Lancastria' are not allowed to be divulged until 2040.
 
#5
(granny) said:
At the same time as 'Dunkirk' there was another evacuation taking place in France. Operation 'Ariel' got underway. At St Nazaire members of the BEF who had struggled down through France were picked up by a Fleet of ships. On the 17th June 1940 one of them, the SS Lancastria, was bombed and sunk with the loss of thousands of lives. It is the biggest disaster at sea. My Father managed to get off the beach and was succesfully evacuated. I am still trying to find out on which ship he was brought home. The details of the sinking of the 'Lancastria' are not allowed to be divulged until 2040.

Every day is a school day.
 
#6
There may well be a few of the boats left, but realistically how many of the 87+ year old crews would still be alive for interview?
 
#7
stirling said:
(granny) said:
At the same time as 'Dunkirk' there was another evacuation taking place in France. Operation 'Ariel' got underway. At St Nazaire members of the BEF who had struggled down through France were picked up by a Fleet of ships. On the 17th June 1940 one of them, the SS Lancastria, was bombed and sunk with the loss of thousands of lives. It is the biggest disaster at sea. My Father managed to get off the beach and was succesfully evacuated. I am still trying to find out on which ship he was brought home. The details of the sinking of the 'Lancastria' are not allowed to be divulged until 2040.

Every day is a school day.
Here you go Stirling

http://www.royalpioneercorps.co.uk/rpc/history_lancastria.htm
 
#9
This programme is available to watch on iPlayer until 12 June via this link: BBC2: Little Ships

BBC iPlayer said:
To mark the 70th anniversary of the 'miracle of Dunkirk', 50 of the surviving little ships which made the original perilous cross-channel voyage are returning to France. Dan Snow tells their extraordinary story: their role in the evacuation and the people who struggled to keep them afloat during those fateful days in 1940, when the future of Europe hung in the balance.
So sad that James 'Lofty' Christmas died before the programme was broadcast.
 

Asst_Ed

Lantern Swinger
#10
With the exception of the Lancastria disaster, Operation Aerial is a success story almost forgotten; perhaps it's because it wasn't as dramatic as Dunkirk, it just hasn't entered the national consciousness.

On the other hand, Operation Cycle, the evacuation from Pays-en-Caux (Le Havre/Dieppe/St Valery) was one big balls up thanks to the French, Churchill, Rommel and the weather.

You'll be able to read about both in the July edition Navy News. Shameless plug. :lol:

Just the small matter of finishing the supplement left now...
 
#11
Dad always said that his father was on a 'little ship' as crew. But his papers show pensioned in 1933, then nothing until Pembroke II in July 1940. Dad said that as he was an 'old Navy' man (Joined up 1911 & Leading Stoker), he was put on an old fashioned steamer (with a brass funnel!), and fired to her, to use railway nomenclature. I don't doubt that it's true, but whether this was a romanticised memory I don't know. He didn't know what little ship, so I guess I never will know. He was a Dover man, so maybe a vessel from there ?
 
#14
Ok, I know that this is an older thread but having re-joined Rum Ration...ooops, Navy Net, this one caught my eye.

Coming into port in small craft late last year we passed an old tub flying the St Georges Cross, as we were now only making 8kts I got chatting to the skipper, mentioning his flag and was this a small ship, turned out no, he was just a proud Englishman and did not know that as well as the flag of an Admiral this was also an honour granted to the Little Ships. CrossofStGeorge.gif
 

(granny)

RIP
Book Reviewer
#15
Does anyone know if there is a list of the ships that brought home the survivors of Operation Ariel, and a list of the men they brought home? Or any idea where to start searching?
 
#18
Bit late to this thread, but I've only just joined. I have just completed a Paper about the specific contribution made to the "armada " of little ships by the Watermen and Fishermen of Southend on Sea. 30 small craft were requisitioned from Southend; 12 of the largest excursion beach motor vessels on 27th May, 6 cocklers f from leigh on Sea on the morning of May 29th, sailing from leigh creek at 0030 on 30th, under leadership of S.lt Solomon; and over the next ftwo days another 12 boats, more beach excursion boats, 5 yachts, and the Southend Lifeboat "Greater london: Civil service No3" - volunteered and were taken across by their Owners and crews My father's Company contributed 7 of the "pleasure boats, and at the end of the war we got only 1 returned to us. I have all dad's papers relating to Operation Dynamo and it's aftermath for him and his partner personally, as they tried to the compemsation the Navy had promised them when requisitioning their boats under Form T691, etc.; - and the Ministry Of Shipping [which was tasked with handling the compensation claims, used every bureaucratic way the clerks could devise to delay and then reduce the amount of the Compensation. However that's not why I joined.
 
#19
@ Repulse. Hi there. The most complete List of Dunkirk Little Ships - 1300 of them - was authored by Russell Plummer in 1990, title "Little Ships that saved an Army, and published by patrick Stephens. I have a copy for my own family research. Your Dad's description of the little ship he crewed aboard should make her easy to identify. The steamer and brass funnel suggests one of the older Navy Steam Pinnaces to me - I read somewhere that several of them went to Dunkirk. As a "veteran ex-Navy Man, I'm sure the Small Vessels Pool Drafting Office would have welcomed your dad's volunteering with metaphorical "open arms" - they were desperately short of coxswains and engineroom staff by May 28th and on the morning of may 29th the BBC was asked to put out a request for anyone with small-boat handling skills, and engine-room experience especially with internal combustion units - to report at once to the nearest RNR Shore Establishment, or the the nearest Fishery Office. Your Dad would have been asked to sign-on again using a Crew Agreement T.124X, which would have been valid for 30 days, giving him £3-0-0 'all found' for that period, and placing him under Naval Discipline for that time too. Some little ship volunteers were signed on using T.124X Forms, some volunteered and took their own boats over without signing anything. The pity of the history is that all the professional watermen from the seaside Resorts who volunteered their craft and themselves and crews on May 27th and 28th in response to the Small Craft Control Order of may 10th - had their boats requisitioned and sent downriver with untrained Navy crews, while their services were refused, because an Admiralty Standing Order based on the Geneva Covention revisions of 1931, prohibited civilian help to the Services in a combat zone. So the rule-bound Capt Champion and R.Adm Taylor sent seaworthy little ships away towards Dunkirk in the charge of RN personnel untrained in small craft handling in shallow waters, and with enginemen who knew nothing at all, about engines running on TVO - which most of those craft had. Not until the evening of may 28th in the BBC's 6.00pm News Bulletin did the Admiralty beg for civilian watermen and yachtsmen to take boats over, thus signalling that the Adm. S.O was being placed in abeyance during the Emergency. Of course, that was far too late for the boats already dispatched in the charge of untrained RN personnel. The RN of the late 1930's didn't USE engines that ran on TVO in any of their hundreds of Ship's motor-boats, Those either had the older reciprocating steam engines, or they had the newer HS i.c.engines fueled by Petrol; - so HMS Sultan didn't train motormen to handle them. And worse yet, Fuelling Berth Staff are known to have fuelled-up these little ships unsupervised with the wrong fuel - so that a large number of the reqisitioned small craft suffered engine failures which their RN crews didn't know how to put right; and the little ships were abandoned and left to drift. Compiling my History I identified a list of nearly 40 little ships which are noted as having suffered engine failure; and 33 other those are noted as being fitted with engines that ran on TVO.
 

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