Christmas Message to the MVS from Prince Michael of Kent


I was very pleased to hear about the progress you have made in implementing your growth and development plan with the Caledonia Investment Trust and that you have secured a third year of funding from them.
I understand that this funding was crucial to getting you through the Covid recovery period and to building the foundations for you to become a much more effective charity.

Being able to use Cayzer House has been of great benefit to you.
You held your 2021 AGM there, which was an amazing morale boost for your members; it was also where you hosted a reception for Parliamentarians and officials last September which opened many new doors for us.
Recent support from Capita and Jigsaw has come as a direct result.
I gather that you would very much like to hold another reception there soon to target other potential corporate sponsors.
I understand that your progress in developing good relations with Parliamentarians was also boosted greatly by the reception there last September.
This very much led to a new role for you in providing the Secretariat for All-Party Parliamentary Group on Local Resilience and Civil Contingencies.

You have trained and qualified most of your volunteers to DEFRA 1 standards for Flood Response and are now able to support your local Emergency Services in this area.
I understand that over the past two years MVS has been called out to assist the Emergency Services both ashore and afloat.
You have also continued to provide routine safety patrols for Harbour Authorities to help implement the Port Marine Safety Code and have been supporting the relevant authorities on inland waterways.

One of your published aims concerns protecting the marine environment and you have assisted your local authorities by removing plastic waste from around the coast, in rivers and in ports.
East Sussex Unit is continuing to remove plastic waste from an area near Beachy Head inaccessible by land.
Other MVS Units are conducting safety patrols and assisting with environmental work.

One of the agreed objectives in the Caledonia development plan was to increase your membership numbers.
The Caledonia funding enabled you to encourage veterans from disadvantaged groups such as BLESMA (the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association) to join you as members.
You are also building better links with Merchant Navy training colleges and have set up a new Unit in Southampton to work closely with the Merchant Navy Cadets from Southampton Solent University’s Warsash Maritime School.
It would seem you expect to build on experience gained through this to establish similar arrangements with other Merchant Navy nautical colleges and have already held preliminary discussions at both Fleetwood and South Shields.

Next year and the year after will see the celebration of two very significant anniversaries for me.
In April 2024 we will celebrate the MVS’s 30th anniversary and in May 2025, as Honorary Admiral of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships, I will be leading the celebrations for the 85th anniversary of the Dunkirk Evacuation.
This was known in 1940 as “Operation Dynamo”.
The background to the 2025 event is that we were due to have celebrated the 80th anniversary of Operation Dynamo in 2020 but this had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
So, it was decided to mark the 85th anniversary in 2025 instead.

Operation Dynamo of course took place in May and June 1940 and was one of the most remarkable events in our national history.
Approximately 850 private vessels and 20 warships evacuated over 339,000 British and French troops from the Dunkirk beaches and brought them back to England to carry on the fight.
Not all vessels participating were documented or known, and more than 200 vessels were lost due to enemy action.
The term “Little Ships” applies to all craft originally privately owned and includes commercial vessels such as barges, plus British, French, Belgian and Dutch fishing vessels, as well as pleasure steamers.
In the Association we also include some ex-Service vessels, which are now privately owned, as well as ex-Lifeboats.

Only 120 of the original Little Ships remain, but the owners are keen to keep the “Spirit of Dunkirk” alive and more than 50 of them took part in the 70th anniversary celebrations in 2010.
So, in practice, this could mean that in May 2025 as many as 60 of these fragile little vessels will be retracing their 1940 journey from Dover across the Channel to Dunkirk and back.
I very much hope that MVS will be able to help us by providing an accompanying safety vessel or vessels.

I take this opportunity to wish you a very Happy Christmas and a successful New Year.