Memories of the 1990 trip to Dunkirk

Massey Shaw - english channel

Memories of the 1990 trip to Dunkirk

Massey Shaw chairman,  Lord Ambrose Greenway recalls the 1990 trip to Dunkirk.

On Thursday 24th May 1990 HRH Prince Philip waved off 76 small craft belonging to the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships as they left Dover in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the WW2 evacuation. It was a perfect sunny morning with calm seas and excellent visibility and the 40-mile crossing was expected to take around 5-6 hours, the fleet’s speed being limited to 6-8 knots by the slower participants. Escort was provided by the Royal Navy’s HMS Alacrity, a minesweeper and two patrol craft. Also present initially to view the spectacle was the preserved paddle steamer Waverley.

In mid Channel a lone Spitfire flew over the fleet, executing a victory roll which brought a lump to many throats. The tribute had been arranged by well-known television presenter and former spitfire pilot Raymond Baxter, who was a founder member of the ADLS and was skippering his own ‘little ship’ L’Orage.

Off the French coast the North East wind freshened to a brisk Force 4, occasionally 5, and a course alteration for the final leg of the voyage saw the fleet pitching into an increasingly choppy sea. Apart from being somewhat uncomfortable, especially aboard the smaller craft, progress slowed considerably and it was not until the sun was low in the sky that the fleet finally reached Dunkirk after spending over 10 hours at sea.

It had turned out to be a tough crossing, especially for the Massey Shaw which had never been designed for such conditions – at times resembling a half-tide rock – but she came through it well.

The photographs were taken by Ambrose Greenway, current chairman of the Massey Shaw Education Trust, from the motor yacht Sundowner which had been taken to Dunkirk in 1940 by her owner Commander Charles Lightholler RNR, second officer and senior surviving crew member of the ill-fated Titanic.

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