Massey Shaw Education Trust | Massey Shaw Dunkirk timeline
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Massey Shaw Dunkirk timeline

Dunkirk timeline

Explore Massey Shaw’s involvement in the Dunkirk evacuations in May 1940 along with the rest of the ‘Little Ships’ who are credited with saving thousands of troops from the beaches in a unique rescue mission.

Note: Photos are for illustrative purposes only and are not originals from the time.

Dunkirk in May 1940 on fire

Thursday 30th May 1940

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) receive a call from the Admiralty to send a Fireboat to participate in a secret mission

A volunteer crew was selected comprising of four regular firemen, six Auxiliary Fire Service personell, two sub officers and a station officer. All LFB men could work the engines and one of them was an ex-naval signalman.<br /> Massey Shaw was provisioned in two hours, taking additional fuel, oils, and water and cast off at 4pm.<br /> They found a PLA River Pilot, Mr Punch to take them down river and reached Holehaven and stayed overnight.

31st May 1940

Massey continued on to Southend Pier to collect her orders

The crew were busy painting all the brass work grey and placed wooden boards over the crew space windows to protect them from heavy weather.<br /> They arrived in Ramsgate later that day and after a brief stopover they were placed under the command of a young naval sub lieutenant who was to take them to Dunkirk.

Massey arrives at Dunkirk

31 May 1940

Originally they were expecting to undertake firefighting at the Oil Refinery, but were redirected to Bray Dunes to assist the evacuation of the troops.<br /> Massey had taken a small rowing skiff with them to help the troops get aboard the boat but this was sunk within minutes by desperate soldiers.<br /> A second attempt was made to get a line ashore by a crew member (Richard Helyer) swimming with a floating line to the shore and attaching it to another sunken vessel. Unfortunately, the line was lost due to the number of men that tried to use it.<br /> Eventually, some 40 men were taken aboard and Massey left the beaches at 11pm in the dark to return to Ramsgate.<br /> The soldiers were seasick and many suffered from hypothermia. They slept on the deck, in the engine room and forepeak.

1st June 1940

7am - Massey arrived back at Ramsgate and unloaded 65 soldiers

The crew spent the rest of the day resupplying the boat with fuel & provisions, plus getting some rest.<br /> In the evening Sub Officer May and two of the Auxiliary Firemen volunteered to go with a naval crew back to Dunkirk. A Lewis Gun was installed on the foredeck for protection.<br /> 12 Naval personnel were taken back to Dunkirk as a beach party, and an additional ships lifeboat taken as a tender.<br /> Massey left Ramsgate and arrived off the beaches at 11pm – shelling had intensified making loading the troops more difficult.<br /> A floating grass line was run out from the boat to the shore by the beach party and loading of troops commenced in the dark.<br /> 100 troops were transferred from Massey to a troopship before the boat returned and collected a number of injured soldiers who were stretcher cases. Difficulty was experienced loading the injured on to the larger boats but Massey and her crew managed a further five trips taking a further 500 away from the Dunes.

2nd June 1940

Massey left Dunkirk at 3:30 am on 2nd June and arrived back at Ramsgate unloading a further 40 soldiers.

Massey was provisioned during the day and returned again to Dunkirk with her Fire Service Crew. This time they made their way to the harbour and started to take soldiers aboard. Unfortunately, there were difficulties getting troops on to Massey in the dark and so no troops were taken. One of Massey’s crew who had gone ashore to help with the embarking was left behind when the boat had to withdraw due to shelling.<br /> The crew member was able to find his way back to Ramsgate on another vessel and re-joined his crew members.

3rd June 1940

Massey left Ramsgate for London.

Off Margate a French merchant ship hit a mine and Massey went to the rescue of her crew. 39 badly injured sailors were rescued and taken back to Ramsgate for medical attention.<br /> Whilst in Ramsgate Massey got a line caught on one of her props and had to wait until this was removed before making her way back to London the following day.

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