Some of the wooden boats which helped rescue more than 338,000 British soldiers trapped on the beaches in northern France have arrived in London to help mark the historic episode in the Second World War. The 19 Dunkirk Little Ships which arrived at Royal Victoria Dock in east London are part of a fleet of around 55 boats crossing the Channel to Dunkirk this week.
Ian Gilbert, commodore of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships, said there is huge pride in being involved in the event, which marks the 75th anniversary of the great rescue - dubbed Operation Dynamo. He noted that the boats were part of "the great response of the British naval tradition in 1940" and it is hoped the public will be encouraged to take an interest in being able to see them close up.
Gilbert said: "As we go further away from 1940 the little ships become the sole living reminder of Operation Dynamo which resulted in the phrase 'the Dunkirk spirit'. The little ships represent that and there are very few veterans left who can tell that story, but the ships help with that. I think it gives us all a sense of pride and purpose."
All the boats are British-made, average around 80 years old and were built in an area that marked the "zenith of boat building", according to Gilbert. He added that it is "a wonderful privilege" to own and sail on the boats which were part of something "so unique and important".
Visitors to Royal Victoria Dock will be offered trips around the area on the boats. Poor weather means the boats will have to leave by 11am on Sunday, two days ahead of schedule, in order to ensure both the crews and the vessels are safe. The association makes the journey with the historic boats every five years.