In May 2020 the Dunkirk Little Ships will assemble in Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Operation Dynamo; the Evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk.
Medway Queen was there in 1940 and again in 2015 for the 75th anniversary. Now we plan to be there again for the 80th anniversary commemorations.
In May/June 1940 HMS Medway Queen made seven return trips across the channel to rescue the troops from the beaches and the East Mole of Dunkirk under the command of Lt. A. T. Cook RNR. Her crew estimated that they had picked up 7000 men and shot down 3 enemy aircraft.
It was exhausting and it was dangerous with about one third of the ships and boats employed being lost. Medway Queen’s own unit, the 10th Mine-sweeping flotilla, lost HMS Brighton Belle and HMS Gracie Fields.
It brought out the very best from the men of the Royal Navy and the civilians who helped out. Medway Queen was small for a naval ship with a crew for the operation of just 48; but 7 of those 48 men were given awards for their actions. In eight consecutive nights Medway Queen and her crew made 7 trips, the days between being spent preparing for the next trip. The men worked until they dropped – literally.
Prince Michael of Kent mentioned the possibility of Medway Queen joining the 80th anniversary event when he visited the ship in Gillingham last year. The Medway Queen Preservation Society trustees plan to do just that. Details of our part in the events are still being finalised but getting Medway Queen to Ramsgate is not easy.
The ship is still without her own power, the current restoration focus being on preparing her to earn revenue in a static role in the short to medium term. She is overdue for hull painting and this will be undertaken on the slipway at Ramsgate in the same movement sequence from Gillingham Pier. Early in May, Medway Queen will be towed to Ramsgate and placed on the slip for hull maintenance and painting.
When that is complete she will be moored at the Commercial Quay for the Little Ships’ events. The whole schedule depends on tides, weather and, no doubt, a few unknowns that we haven’t discovered yet!
The plan is to complete the very necessary work and then move on to the events. The Medway Queen Preservation Society has funds allocated for the work on the hull but sponsorship would be very helpful towards the costs of the movement and for ongoing restoration. Private or commercial sponsorship would be very welcome and, in the latter case, the society will do all it can to offer promotional opportunities in return.
The society believes in self-help and a planned commemorative publication together with other merchandising related to the event will contribute towards the costs.
The new book “Medway Queen Memories of Dunkirk” will be published shortly, before the anniversary, and will be on sale there and at Gillingham Pier. It contains many first-hand accounts of the operation, from both crew and evacuated servicemen. As details of the plan evolve they will be posted on a dedicated page on www.medwayqueen.co.uk.
There will be added attractions and events on board or on the adjacent quayside and we will maximise the hours during which the ship is accessible to visitors.
If you want to know more or can help in any way please contact the Medway Queen Preservation Society: Gillingham Pier, Pier Approach Road, Gillingham, Kent. ME7 1RX, tel 01634 575717