The skies may have been grey and the drizzle relentless but the Dunkirk "little ships" had been through tougher things in their time.

The 39 vessels taking part in the Jubilee pageant 72 years after their Second World War mission were not to be deterred by a spot of bad weather.

In 1940 they were drafted in by the Royal Navy to help rescue hundreds of thousands of Allied troops from the shores of northern France.

dunkirk

Some of the many ships carrying Allied forces across the English Channel from Dunkirk, France, between May 29 and June 3, 1940

On Sunday they had a slightly easier mission to complete: navigating carefully through the correct bridge arches as they sailed in formation down the River Thames.

The skipper of one of the boats, Papillon, remained upbeat despite the rain.

Ian Gilbert, 61, from Shepperton in Surrey, said: "Nothing gets us down. Regrettably, we're used to this kind of weather.

"It's what doing anything outdoors in the UK is all about. I just feel sorry for the people who have come to watch."

His wife Karina, 58, who co-owns the boat, also showed true Dunkirk spirit as she brewed coffee on board while awaiting the command to start.

"We're a resilient bunch," she said. "It's going to be a real privilege to take part and I'm really looking forward to it."

Led by MTB 102, the little ships will sail behind the royal squadron as they journey from Barn Elms to Tower Bridge and beyond.

The flagship is taking part despite an eventful trip from Lowestoft earlier in the week when it hit an underwater obstruction off Aldeburgh in Suffolk.

The 74-year-old motor torpedo boat was travelling at eight or nine knots when it ground to a halt and both engines cut off.
It is feared the collision may have broken an engine shaft or knocked a blade off the propeller.

MTB 102 and the rest of the Dunkirk little ships earned their place in the country's wartime heritage when Operation Dynamo swung into action.

Many of them private fishing and pleasure boats, they helped the Navy to rescue 338,000 troops from the French beaches between 27 May and 4 June 1940.

The evacuation came after the speed of the German advance through The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France trapped nearly half a million Allied troops there.

Described as a "miracle of deliverance" by wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the event is seen as one of several in 1940 that determined the eventual outcome of the war.

The boats will finish their journey today at West India Dock in east London.

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  • Small boats participate in the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on June 3, 2012 in London, England. For only the second time in its history the UK celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of a monarch. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. Thousands of well-wishers from around the world have flocked to London to witness the spectacle of the weekend's celebrations. The Queen along with all members of the royal family will participate in a River Pageant with a flotilla of a 1,000 boats accompanying them down The Thames. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

  • Paddle boats participate in Thames Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on June 3, 2012 in London, England. For only the second time in its history the UK celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of a monarch. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. Thousands of well-wishers from around the world have flocked to London to witness the spectacle of the weekend's celebrations. The Queen along with all members of the royal family will participate in a River Pageant with a flotilla of a 1,000 boats accompanying them down The Thames. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

  • Queen Elizabeth smiles during a pageant commemorating her Diamond Jubilee in London. Picture date: Sunday June 3, 2012. See PA story ROYAL Jubilee. Photo credit should read: Dylan Martinez/PA Wire

  • Fireworks are fired from Tower Bridge, London, marking the end of the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. Picture date: Sunday June 3, 2012. See PA story ROYAL Jubilee. Photo credit should read: Peter Macdiarmid/PA Wire

  • The Queen's launch makes its way down the river on June 3, 2012 in London, England. For only the second time in its history the UK celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of a monarch. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. Thousands of well-wishers from around the world have flocked to London to witness the spectacle of the weekend's celebrations. The Queen along with all members of the royal family will participate in a River Pageant with a flotilla of a 1,000 boats accompanying them down The Thames. (Photo by Harry Engels/Getty Images)

  • The Queen's launch makes its way down the river on June 3, 2012 in London, England. For only the second time in its history the UK celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of a monarch. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. Thousands of well-wishers from around the world have flocked to London to witness the spectacle of the weekend's celebrations. The Queen along with all members of the royal family will participate in a River Pageant with a flotilla of a 1,000 boats accompanying them down The Thames. (Photo by Harry Engels/Getty Images)

  • Queen Elizabeth II is greeted by Chelsea pensioners at Chelsea Pier on June 3, 2012 in London, England. For only the second time in its history the UK celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of a monarch. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. Thousands of well-wishers from around the world have flocked to London to witness the spectacle of the weekend's celebrations. The Queen along with all members of the royal family will participate in a River Pageant with a flotilla of a 1,000 boats accompanying them down The Thames, the star studded free concert at Buckingham Palace, and a carriage procession and a service of thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral. (Photo by Bethany Clarke - WPA Pool /Getty Images)

  • Atmosphere The Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant Flotilla London, England - 03.06.12 Mandatory Credit: WENN.com

  • Queen Elizabeth II is greeted by Chelsea pensioners at Chelsea Pier on June 3, 2012 in London, England. For only the second time in its history the UK celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of a monarch. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. Thousands of well-wishers from around the world have flocked to London to witness the spectacle of the weekend's celebrations. The Queen along with all members of the royal family will participate in a River Pageant with a flotilla of a 1,000 boats accompanying them down The Thames, the star studded free concert at Buckingham Palace, and a carriage procession and a service of thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral. (Photo by Bethany Clarke - WPA Pool /Getty Images)

  • Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, aka Kate Middleton The Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant Flotilla London, England - 03.06.12 Mandatory Credit: WENN.com

  • Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh arrive at Chelsea Pier on June 3, 2012 in London, England. For only the second time in its history the UK celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of a monarch. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. Thousands of well-wishers from around the world have flocked to London to witness the spectacle of the weekend's celebrations. The Queen along with all members of the royal family will participate in a River Pageant with a flotilla of a 1,000 boats accompanying them down The Thames, the star studded free concert at Buckingham Palace, and a carriage procession and a service of thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral. (Photo by Bethany Clarke - WPA Pool /Getty Images)

  • The man powered boats make their way down the river on June 3, 2012 in London, England. For only the second time in its history the UK celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of a monarch. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. Thousands of well-wishers from around the world have flocked to London to witness the spectacle of the weekend's celebrations. The Queen along with all members of the royal family will participate in a River Pageant with a flotilla of a 1,000 boats accompanying them down The Thames. (Photo by Harry Engels/Getty Images)

  • Atmosphere The Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant Flotilla London, England - 03.06.12 Mandatory Credit: WENN.com

  • The man powered boats make their way down the river on June 3, 2012 in London, England. For only the second time in its history the UK celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of a monarch. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. Thousands of well-wishers from around the world have flocked to London to witness the spectacle of the weekend's celebrations. The Queen along with all members of the royal family will participate in a River Pageant with a flotilla of a 1,000 boats accompanying them down The Thames. (Photo by Harry Engels/Getty Images)

  • The Prince of Wales attends the 'Big Jubilee Lunch' in Piccadilly, London, ahead of the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. Picture date: Sunday June 3, 2012. See PA story ROYAL Jubilee. Photo credit should read: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

  • The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall attend the 'Big Jubilee Lunch' in Piccadilly, London, ahead of the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. Picture date: Sunday June 3, 2012. See PA story ROYAL Jubilee. Photo credit should read: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

  • The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall attend the 'Big Jubilee Lunch' in Piccadilly, London, ahead of the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. Picture date: Sunday June 3, 2012. See PA story ROYAL Jubilee. Photo credit should read: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

  • Previously unreleased photo of the ivory dress and coat, in white Boucle fabric and threaded throughout with silk ribbon, designed by Miss Angela Kelly MVO, which Queen Elizabeth II has worn for the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant. Picture date: Thursday May 31, 2012. The Bouclé has been embroidered with gold, silver and ivory spots and embellished with Swarovski crystals to reflect the River Thames. The outfit is finished with a silk organza frill. The Queen's hat has a swept up brim, the crown of which is made of the same material as the coat and details include feathers hand dyed in Buckingham Palace by one of Angela Kelly's team. More silk organza and Swarovski crystals have been used to decorate this uniquely shaped hat. See PA story ROYAL Jubilee Dress. Photo credit should read: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

  • The Duchess of Cornwall attends the 'Big Jubilee Lunch' in Piccadilly, London, ahead of the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. Picture date: Sunday June 3, 2012. See PA story ROYAL Jubilee. Photo credit should read: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

  • The Duchess of Cornwall attends the 'Big Jubilee Lunch' in Piccadilly, London, ahead of the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. Picture date: Sunday June 3, 2012. See PA story ROYAL Jubilee. Photo credit should read: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

  • The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall attend the 'Big Jubilee Lunch' in Piccadilly, London, ahead of the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. Picture date: Sunday June 3, 2012. See PA story ROYAL Jubilee. Photo credit should read: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

  • The Duchess of Cornwall attends the 'Big Jubilee Lunch' in Piccadilly, London, ahead of the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. Picture date: Sunday June 3, 2012. See PA story ROYAL Jubilee. Photo credit should read: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

  • A crewman aboard the boat 'Havengore' stands waiting for the royal party at the start of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames in London on June 3, 2012. Queen Elizabeth II was to sail on a ceremonial barge down the Thames on Sunday at the centre of a 1,000-boat pageant to mark her diamond jubilee, although heavy rain threatened to spoil the party. AFP PHOTO / POOL / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/GettyImages)

  • A couple with their eyes painted with Britain's Union flag pose for pictures beside the River Thames in London, on June 3, 2012, as Britain celebrates the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Queen Elizabeth II was to sail on a ceremonial barge down the Thames on Sunday at the centre of a 1,000-boat pageant to mark her diamond jubilee, although heavy rain threatened to spoil the party. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Royal supporters gather beside the River Thames in London, on June 3, 2012, as Britain celebrates the Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. Queen Elizabeth II was to sail on a ceremonial barge down the Thames on Sunday at the centre of a 1,000-boat pageant to mark her diamond jubilee, although heavy rain threatened to spoil the party. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Boats heads up the River Thames, London, ahead of the start of the Diamond Jubilee river pageant (Owen Humphreys/PA Wire)

  • Revellers queue to enter a Jubilee Party in Battersea Park on June 3, 2012 in London, England. For only the second time in its history the UK celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of a monarch. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. Thousands of well-wishers from around the world have flocked to London to witness the spectacle of the weekend's celebrations. The Queen along with all members of the royal family will participate in a River Pageant with a flotilla of a 1,000 boats accompanying them down The Thames. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

  • Jubilee revellers cross Chelsea Bridge ahead of the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on June 3, 2012 in London, England. For only the second time in its history the UK celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of a monarch. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. Thousands of well-wishers from around the world have flocked to London to witness the spectacle of the weekend's celebrations. The Queen along with all members of the royal family will participate in a River Pageant with a flotilla of a 1,000 boats accompanying them down The Thames. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

  • People carrying umbrellas queue to enter Battersea Park festival on the route of the jubilee river pageant on June 3, 2012 in London. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II will sail on a royal barge down the River Thames as part of a huge pageant marking her diamond jubilee, in one of the biggest events of its kind in London's history. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/GettyImages)

  • A canal boat heads up the River Thames, London, ahead of the start of the Diamond Jubilee river pageant (Owen Humphreys/PA Wire)

  • Crowds brave the rain on the banks of the River Thames, near Tower Bridge in London, ahead of the start of the Diamond Jubilee river pageant (Owen Humphreys/PA Wire)

  • Members of the public wear royal masks near Tower Bridge during the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames in London on June 3 2012, where 1,000 vessels of all shapes and sizes will be part of the Diamond Jubilee river Pageant. Britain is celebrating the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, marking 60 years on the throne during which she has set a number of landmarks. AFP PHOTO / IAN KINGTON (Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Organisers start to dress the shops prior to the Jubilee street party in Marple Bridge, Stockport in Manchester on June 3, 2012. Britain kicks off four days of celebrations to mark Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee, including a 1,000-boat river pageant and a star-studded concert. Britons nationwide will get out the bunting and hold street parties, sitting down to share lunch with their neighbours, reminiscent of the silver jubilee in 1977, when around 10 million people joined in the merriment. AFP PHOTO / ANDREW YATES (Photo credit should read ANDREW YATES/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Organisers start to dress the shops prior to the Jubilee street party in Marple Bridge, Stockport in Manchester on June 3, 2012. Britain kicks off four days of celebrations to mark Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee, including a 1,000-boat river pageant and a star-studded concert. Britons nationwide will get out the bunting and hold street parties, sitting down to share lunch with their neighbours, reminiscent of the silver jubilee in 1977, when around 10 million people joined in the merriment. AFP PHOTO / ANDREW YATES (Photo credit should read ANDREW YATES/AFP/GettyImages)

  • A woman wearing an crown with the Britain's Union flags smiles while queueing up to enter Battersea Park before the start of the Battersee Park festival on the route of the jubilee river pageant on June 3, 2012 in London. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II sails on a royal barge down the River Thames as part of a huge pageant marking her diamond jubilee, in one of the biggest events of its kind in London's history. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Kibworth residents in Leicestershire use gazebos to cover tables from the rain before a street party, during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations (Rui Vieira/PA Wire)

  • Crowds gather on Westminster Bridge, London, ahead of the start of the Diamond Jubilee river pageant (Max Nash/PA Wire)

  • Revellers arrive to wait along the Thames river at the Southbank for the Jubilee celebrations, in London, on June 3, 2012, where 1,000 vessels of all shapes and sizes will be part of the Diamond Jubilee river Pageant. Britain is celebrating the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, marking 60 years on the throne during which she has set a number of landmarks. AFP PHOTO/BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/GettyImages)

  • A royalist supporter wears a suit displaying the colours of the British Union flag as he walks beside the River Thames in London, on June 3, 2012, as Britain celebrates the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Queen Elizabeth II was to sail on a ceremonial barge down the Thames on Sunday at the centre of a 1,000-boat pageant to mark her diamond jubilee, although heavy rain threatened to spoil the party. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Royal revellers wait in the rain on the south bank of the River Thames, London, for the start of the Diamond Jubilee river pageant. Picture date: Sunday June 3, 2012 (Lewis Whyld/PA Wire)

  • Visitors attending the Battersee Park festival wear masks featuring a likeness of (L-R) Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Prince William and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II on the route of the jubilee river pageant on June 3, 2012 in London. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II sails on a royal barge down the River Thames as part of a huge pageant marking her diamond jubilee, in one of the biggest events of its kind in London's history. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Royalist supporters pose for pictures with Britain's Union flag wellington boots as they gather along the River Thames in London, on June 3, 2012, as Britain celebrates the Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. Queen Elizabeth II was to sail on a ceremonial barge down the Thames on Sunday at the centre of a 1,000-boat pageant to mark her diamond jubilee, although heavy rain threatened to spoil the party. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Spectators await the Royal Jubilee river Pageant near Tower Bridge in London, on June 3, 2012, where 1,000 vessels of all shapes and sizes will be part of the Diamond Jubilee river Pageant. Britain is celebrating the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, marking 60 years on the throne during which she has set a number of landmarks. AFP PHOTO/ IAN KINGTON (Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Royalist supporters gather along the River Thames in London, on June 3, 2012, to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. Queen Elizabeth II was to sail on a ceremonial barge down the Thames on Sunday at the centre of a 1,000-boat pageant to mark her diamond jubilee, although heavy rain threatened to spoil the party. AFP PHOTO / MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Crowds of revellers gather during the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames in London on June 3, 2012, as Britain celebrates the Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. Queen Elizabeth II is to sail on a ceremonial barge down the Thames at the centre of a 1,000-boat pageant to mark her diamond jubilee, although heavy rain threatened to spoil the party. AFP PHOTO/MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Crowds of revellers gather during the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames in London on June 3, 2012, as Britain celebrates the Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. Queen Elizabeth II is to sail on a ceremonial barge down the Thames at the centre of a 1,000-boat pageant to mark her diamond jubilee, although heavy rain threatened to spoil the party. AFP PHOTO/MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Crowds of revellers gather near Tower Bridge during the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames in London on June 3, 2012, as Britain celebrates the Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. Queen Elizabeth II is to sail on a ceremonial barge down the Thames at the centre of a 1,000-boat pageant to mark her diamond jubilee, although heavy rain threatened to spoil the party. AFP PHOTO/MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Crowds gather on Tower Bridge and along the bank of the River Thames in London, ahead of the start of the Diamond Jubilee river pageant. Picture date: Sunday June 3, 2012. See PA story ROYAL Jubilee Pageant. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

  • Rowing boats begin to gather on the River Thames, London near Hammersmith Bridge, during the Diamond Jubilee river pageant. Picture date: Sunday June 3, 2012. See PA story ROYAL Jubilee. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

  • A man wearing a Union Jack waistcoat onboard a rowing boat as they begin to gather on the River Thames, London, during the Diamond Jubilee river pageant. Picture date: Sunday June 3, 2012. See PA story ROYAL Jubilee. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

  • Rowing boats begin to gather on the River Thames, London, during the Diamond Jubilee river pageant. Picture date: Sunday June 3, 2012. See PA story ROYAL Jubilee. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire