Little Ships

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Hello, my name is Banshee and I am an Anglophile.  I should be in an Anglophile protection program as my ancestors sloshed ashore at Plymouth Rock.  But I get all teary eyed at the first strains of God Save the Queen and I need a box of Kleenex when I hear Jerusalem.  Suffice it to say,  I got weak-kneed and goosebumpy watching video of the Jubilee flotilla on the Thames.

Boats and sailing vessels of every conceivable shape and size plied the broad, tidal waters of the river that cuts through the heart of London; “our liquid history,” as one commentator said.  There was the majestic splendour of Gloriana, the first royal barge to be commissioned in over one hundred years, complete with gilded paddles.  There were kayaks and canoes (two that I saw from Canada!) and every other kind of vessel from kayak to navy warship representing the British Isles and the Commonwealth.

Nearly every boat had a story. The best of the lot was not Gloriana or The Spirit of Chartwell but that mini-but-mighty flotilla of ships affectionately known as Dunkirk’s Little Ships – a flotilla composed of both fishing and pleasure craft that sailed across the Channel in May 1940 to aid in the rescue of stranded troops on the beaches of Normandy.

The Daily Telegraph posted an interview with an owner of one of these boats today.  He talked about this special fleet and what they mean (or should mean) to Britons.  If not for the bravery of this impromptu navy, over three hundred thousand soldiers could have been lost.  That’s a staggering number.

The dramatic rescue of soldiers by these civilian vessels marked a psychological boost for Great Britain and yet harkened darker hours to come.  In 1940, things were looking grim for Britain.  The Germans had amassed a huge attack the Allies were unprepared for.  They fell back to the beaches and were trapped.   After “The Miracle of Dunkirk,” Winston Churchill gave one of his most famous speeches telling Britons to prepare for invasion as it became obvious they might stand alone .

When I was very young, I read a book about Dunkirk.  In it, two young children from the south coast of England stowed away on their grandfather’s boat, hoping for a great adventure.  The story has stuck with me – I wish I could remember the name of the book and author.Regardless of how you feel about the Queen, admittedly some of her subjects have embodied the meaning of valiant. “Operation Dynamo” shone a light on the  valour, pluckiness, and sheer British-ness of the British.  An island threatened, invaded, never truly conquered.

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