The Little Ships of Dunkirk

A still from Dunkirk
A still from Dunkirk

The role of two Scarborough boats in the evacuation of Dunkirk is back in the public's consciousness thanks to a major new Hollywood blockbuster.

Dark Knight and Inception director Christopher Nolan's 'Dunkirk' is now in cinemas and is drawing rave reviews for its portrayal of Operation Dynamo, which took place between May 26 and June 4 1940.

The film, starring Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance and Cillian Murphy, tells the story of the evacuation from the French beach from three different perspectives, including that of the flotilla of 800 "little ships", which included Scarborough's MV Coronia and the Regal Lady.

The Coronia, then called Brit, was taken into war duties on September 1939. It had been working up until then as a pleasure boat in Yarmouth, having been built four years earlier.

Renamed Watchful, it was painted grey and sent to Dunkirk as part of Dynamo, 250 of the little ships would never return.

On the first day of the evacuation, only 7,669 men were evacuated, but by the end of the eighth day, 338,226 soldiers had been rescued by a hastily assembled fleet of over 800 boats

The Coronia

The Coronia

According to 'Scarborough's Coronia' by Tom Machin: "Watchful had worked from the beaches taking our troops to the bigger ferries and destroyers which would be anchored about a mile from the shore for the first days of the evacuation, then towards the end of the operation making three trips across The Channel and bring home 900 soldiers ready to fight again.

"One of her naval officers, LT. A H Turner, received the DSC during the operation.

"To commemorate her gallant service as part of the fleet which braved the enemy in those fateful days of the summer of 1940, when the fate of France was sealed, and the battle for Britain was to begin, Coronia proudly flies the of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships at her masthead."

Following the war, she went to Scarborough and was renamed Yorkshire Lady and later Coronia II in 1951.

The Coronia

The Coronia

Following a spell in Gibralta, she returned to Scarborough and is now owned by MP Robert Goodwill.

She was not the only Scarborough boat to distinguish herself during the evacuation.

Regal Lady was launched as the Oulton Belle’ on the May 23, 1930.

Her crowning glory came May 1940, with nearly a decade already under her keel, Regal Lady, a luxury charter boat was requisitioned by the Admiralty to take part in the secretive mission.

Regal Lady

Regal Lady

Regal Lady’s involvement with the evacuation meant that 1,200 troops were saved in three separate crossings, a huge contribution to the saving of lives.