MTB102 is to lead the Little Ships at the pageant to mark the Queen’s Jubliee in London today
This is a great day for the UK’s boating community, as 1,000 small and medium sized craft from all round the home countries – preserved working boats, pleasure craft, veterans of the Battle of Dunkirk and others line up for a procession on the River Thames to mark 60 years of Queen’s Elizabeth II’s reign.
Larger sailing craft are lined up below Tower Bridge to form an impressive avenue of sail.
It’s great to see small craft involved in a national celebration. They say there hasn’t been anything like this in 350 years, and huge crowds are expected to see the procession row and motor by on the river. I imagine the folks who sell flags will have experienced a bonanza!
The BBC has some wonderful web pages explaining the event.
We’ve received many press releases and announcements about the boats and people taking part in the pageant, but the one I found most striking and moving was from the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships, which announced that three Dunkirk veterans – ordinary geezers, most of the time – would be carried aboard their craft taking part in the pageant.
(If you watch events on TV, the Little Ships will be travelling together – the vessels taking part in the pageant are organised by type to minimise the risk of collisions.)
The three veterans are:
- Vic Viner (embarked on Nyula) joined the Royal Navy in 1933. In 1940 he was landed from HMS Esk, an E-Class destroyer with other members of the RN to help organise the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (British forces in France at that time) from the beaches of Dunkirk. After several days he suffered a near-miss from a Stuka’s bomb and was blown in to the water. He regained consciousness still with his tin hat and trousers on but with is jacket completely gone; he has no memory of how he got back to England. Vic’s brother was on board the G-class destroyer Grenade, which was hit and abandoned off the beaches. He was then picked up by the paddle steamer Crested Eagle, which was bombed between the funnel and the engine room. As she sank her fuel oil ignited and the blaze that followed claimed over 300 lives, including Vic’s brother
- Reg Vine (embarked on Janthea) was a 15-year old sea cadet with TS Phoenix (Twickenham Sea Cadets) based at Eel Pie Island, Twickenham. The unit held frequent training expeditions, and when Reg was asked if he would like to participate in a ‘potentially exciting’ trip on the unit’s launch Rummy II along with some other members of his cadet troop, his father signed the necessary permission. Rummy II took two unpowered life boats in tow and headed down stream. As they stopped for supplies at Richmond it was clear from the large number of boats heading down stream that a major enterprise was underway. The young crew arrived at Ramsgate late on the 30th May. Reg was issued a helmet, a Lee Enfield rifle and pocket full of .303 rounds. He was in the war! On the way over Reg and co suffered an air attack by three German bombers before arriving at Dunkirk with the two lifeboats still in tow. The young cadets then rowed the lifeboats, shuttling between the beach and Rummy II herself, which then carried the soaking men to larger Royal Navy and civilian ships lying approximately half a mile off shore. After two days of ferociously hard work, regular attacks and some minor hits to the vessel, the Rummy II and her exhausted crew returned to England safely.
- Harry Kidney (embarked on Thamesa) was born in Sheffield in 1920 and was with the Royal Signals in France and Belgium before retreating to the Dunkirk beaches, from where he was taken to HMS Icarus and then returned to England on board a Little Ship whose name he cannot now recall.