Sadness as Shoreham chapter for Dunkirk little ship is over

Chris English with John Trute, retired chief engineer in the Merchant Navy, and Terry Peat, retired Royal Engineer
Chris English with John Trute, retired chief engineer in the Merchant Navy, and Terry Peat, retired Royal Engineer

A group of Shoreham volunteers, who lovingly restored one of the little ships used to evacuate troops from Dunkirk in 1940, are disappointed that the ship is to be moved to Hull.

Chris English was one of around 25 hardworking volunteers who, back in 2012, brought the The Steam Tug Challenge to Shoreham Harbour for restoration, saving it from the scrap-yard.

Steam Tug Challenge proudly leaving Shoreham Harbour in 2013

Steam Tug Challenge proudly leaving Shoreham Harbour in 2013

“It’s very easy to scrap historic artefacts but impossible to replace them,” said the retired electrical engineer, who lives in Brighton.

“I think its important to do what we can to preserve these things.”

Volunteer Clive Purser, a retired ship’s chief engineer from Worthing, successfully applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund for funding to replace the leaky steam boiler and together the team, who called themselves the Shoreham Crew, worked hard to revamp the ship.

When it steamed out of Shoreham Harbour in 2013, Mr English said: “We were extremely proud.”

It was hoped the boat would visit Dunkirk in 2015 for an event commemorating the 75th anniversary of the evacuation – an event recently depicted in the film, Dunkirk. But sadly due a lack of funding, the trip did not take place.

The ship, which is owned by the Dunkirk Little Ships Restoration Trust, was docked at Southampton port, where it has remained closed to the public – much to the regret of Mr English.

He and the rest of the Shoreham Crew, who still meet weekly at Pebbles on the Port bar in Southwick, dreamed that the boat could be returned to Shoreham and restored again.

Mr English said he would like to see it become a museum ship, open to the public, and to tour festivals in Europe.

But hopes that the boat could return to Shoreham were dashed when it was announced earlier this month that it had found a new home in Hull Marina.

On hearing the news, Mr English said: “It’s good news that it’s found a new home – but it’s very disappointing that it’s not in Shoreham.

“The Shoreham chapter has ended, which is very sad.”

Bob Long, a volunteer at the Dunkirk Little Ships Restoration Trust, said it was shame the boat had been ‘stuck’ at Southampton for so long, after plans for it to be housed at a museum ‘went to pot’.

After years of searching, he said its new home in Hull marina ‘should be ideal’, adding: “It should give it a new lease of life.”