Dunkirk Little Ships!
One of Britain’s finest hours. The rescue of over 330,000 allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk in May-June 1940. Made possible by the selfless sacrifice and heroism of hundreds of brave crews of little boats from all across the country who answered the call for help and came to the rescue of our forces in their hour of need.
The army was beaten in battle and fled to the coast where they waited for help from the Navy. The waters around Dunkirk were too shallow for the big battleships so the Dunkirk little ships sailed in close to shore and picked up the wet and miserable men standing chest deep in the water waiting patiently for help. They then ferried them to waiting battleships or took them back to Britain themsleves.
It led to that famous phrase – the Dunkirk spirit – that determination that whatever has gone wrong we can, together, with fortitude and sense of purpose overcome it.
Victories do not come from evacuations. But This one did reinforce a sense of “island under seige”, we rely on nobody but ourselves. So the Dunkirk little ships are a vital part of that national endeavour that overcame nazism.
Every year the Dunkirk Little Ships parade at Henley on Thames traditional boat rally bedecked in flags, and every year the crowds stand to applaud them.
To celebrate the 70th anniversary, I painted this to celebrate true Dunkirk Spirit and the part played by the little man, the families who put to sea in their little coastal or river boats, heading for the smoke of northern France to do their bit with true courage.