East Sussex 1 supports Dunkirk Little Ships

Prince Michael of Kent with David Hughes

The national training vessel East Sussex 1 sailed to France on May 21st to support the Return of the Little Ships to Dunkirk.

Members of the Eastbourne-based East Sussex Sovereign Harbour Unit had already taken East Sussex 1 to Dover the previous weekend to be in position to join the 50 plus strong flotilla of original Little Ships when they set off from nearby Ramsgate.

While in Dover the MVS boat took a prominent part in a ‘sail past’ in the harbour with several members of Thanet Unit on board.

Five East Sussex crew members travelled to Ramsgate to assist the Thanet Unit in marshalling a parade of standards around the harbour.

Then, on Thursday, East Sussex 1 slipped her berth early in the morning and sailed past the Goodwin Sands to take her position at the rear of the fleet, ready for any incident.

For most of the trip the focus was on keeping an eye on tail-enders struggling to keep up with the main fleet.

Then, after several hours, and close to the French coast, one of the Little Ships broke down in choppy seas and the MVS boat played a major part in assisting her to be towed safely into Dunkirk.

On Friday, in Dunkirk, East Sussex 1 had the honour of being visited by HRH Prince Michael of Kent who is both patron of the MVS and Honorary Admiral of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships.

Prince Michael talked to all of the crew members before inspecting the vessel’s bridge where he was presented with a commemorative plaque by the vessel’s skipper David Hughes.

During the following three days MVS members attended several moving ceremonies marking the evacuation and specific incidents, including the sinking of the paddle steamer Crested Eagle at Zuydcoote, a few miles north-east of Dunkirk with 300 lives lost.

Some members had the opportunity to talk to the three surviving veterans of the evacuation who were able to attend.

All of the MVS volunteers found taking part in the return to be a moving experience.

They also commented on the very friendly reception given to all involved by the people of Dunkirk.

MVS East Sussex

The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships