Lady Cable shortly after WWII
A Devon-based group, the Lady Cable Trust, is applying for Lottery funding to restore Lady Cable, the Dunkirk Little Ship believed to have been the last to rescue troops from the beaches.
Built as a 40ft passenger motor boat at Teignmouth in 1924 by Morgan Giles, Lady Cable worked as a beach boat at Teignmouth and Torquay until in May 1940, when the British Expeditionary Force found itself cornered on the beaches around Dunkirk and in dire need of rescue by as many small privately owned boats as could be made available.
The Lady Cable’s skipper Frank ‘Sophie’ Gooding answered the call and took her to Dunkirk, where she made seven journeys from the beach to rescue ships offshore before returning to Dover.
At Dover, she was refuelled and then again set out for Dunkirk under the command of a 19-year cadet named Price.
The story goes that the young cadet made four journeys from the beach on the last day of the rescue and then returned to collect an officer who had been directing operations but could not find him, and so picked up more French soldiers and returned to England – they believed they were the last Little Ship to leave Dunkirk.
In the chaos of battle, it might not be surprising that several other craft have been said to have been last to leave, and a search on Google reveals this is so – but that in no way reduces the achievements of Gooding and Price and their small crews, who are said to have rescued 630 men. And, of course, she might easily have been the last boat off the beaches as Price, his crew and the troops on board believed.
Price was recommended for accelerated promotion.
The Lady Cable Trust’s aim is to use the restored boat and the examples of skipper Sophie Gooding and Cadet Rating Price as part of a programme of citizenship and heritage for young people. See the Lady Cable Trust website for much more about the Lady Cable herself and the Trust’s plans, and a collection of old photographs.