‘Last Little Ship to leave Dunkirk’ Lady Cable

Lady Cable ready for passenger service after WWII


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.

9 thoughts on “‘Last Little Ship to leave Dunkirk’ Lady Cable”

  1. I am proud to say Frank Sophie Gooding was my grandfather who I never knew he still has family in Torquay and America we are pleased to read this story with interest and my children are all interested in the history of Dunkirk and of lady cable.

    1. Hi doug we are cousins my mum was yoir dads sister pam. Would be nice to know what happened to our grandad after the Dunkirk situation. Im very interested for mums sake as much as anything x

  2. Hi, I’m also the grandson of Frank Sophie Gooding. Frank was married to Dorothy (Nan) & they had 9 children, John, Bet, Burt, Pam, Lil, Marion, Silvie (Fatty), Dot (Skinny) and Sandra; my mum being Dot. My Brother, Sister and I were all brought up by our Nan. Frank left the family home sometime after WW2, Nan would offen speak very highly of Frank and would always say that if he walked through the door tomorrow she would have him back. Unfortunately he never did, She never knew where he went. On the web site below, there are 5 pictures relating to the Lady Cable; in one of the pictures, there’s a man with a skipper’s hat on, is this Frank Sophie Gooding?


    1. Hi Roy it’s dee dee my mum has pictures of him. do you have any. She is in an old people’s home now but somebody went to speak to her from the herald a few years ago about him. I too often wonder where he spent his later years. Xxlooks like us cousins are very interested I guess that’s all part of history now.

  3. Great to read this! I am Dougs daughter, my grandad was Bert Gooding. We had photos taken on the Lady Cable in Torquay when he passed away in 1996. Very interesting story, very proud of Frank Gooding’s achievements, sad that no one knows where he went and what happened. Would love to see more photos of Frank Gooding if anyone has any.

  4. Hey Roy that’s not grandad I saw the one mum had of him sat in a chair he looked like uncle John

  5. I skippered the Lady Cable in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and had the honour and privilege of having Frank Gooding onboard for a sail past in Torquay harbour (I think it was for the 50th anniversary).

  6. In addition to the story,my dad was on the Lady Cable as it left Dunkirk. He was in the RAMC. He always told me that he was on the last little ship to leave Dunkirk. He did get the chance to see it in Paignton harbour. he died in 1976.

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