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Dunkirk: Relied upon then, relied upon now

In May 1940, a fleet of hundreds of pleasure boats, fishing boats and other civilian vessels gathered, at the Admiralty’s request, to take part in the evacuation of British troops from the French port of Dunkirk. Nineteen RNLI lifeboats were part of this unusual and daring force, known as the Little Ships. Discover stories of lifesaving courage, as shown by our volunteers then and now.

Tower lifeboat Crew Member Stephen Wheatley
Family histories: My grandad was rescued at Dunkirk
Lifeboat crew members from Tower and Dover tell us about their family connections to wartime rescues.
The crew’s stories
Aldeburgh lifeboat, Abdy Beauclerk
Photo gallery: Lifeboats of Dunkirk
Discover the RNLI lifeboats that helped to save thousands of lives during the Dunkirk evacuation of May 1940.
take a look
Ramsgate’s current Trent class lifeboat Esme Anderson
Then and now: Oceans apart?
In the decades between 1940 and now, technology has rocked the world, but you can still depend on our lifesavers.
Read more
Extract from the Life-boat 1940
Defining Dunkirk: RNLI reporting from the war years
Six extracts from the Life-boat journal, giving the RNLI perspective on Dunkirk at the time.
see the report
Ramsgate Coxswain Howard Knight
Video: ‘Black as Hades’
Watch a quick video that sums up the Dunkirk story and introduces some of our rescuers from Ramsgate and Margate.
Ramsgate Coxswain Ian Cannon and his daughter Becky
Generations of lifesavers at Ramsgate
Coxswain Ian Cannon’s great great uncle Alf went to Dunkirk with the Ramsgate lifeboat crew. Ian’s daughter Becky is now part of the crew too.
read their story
Aldeburgh Lifeboat Station’s Lucy Lavers, photographed by Bekens
The Lucy Lavers lives on
Aldeburgh lifeboat Lucy Lavers was among the 19 lifeboats that joined the fleet of ‘little ships’ in Operation Dynamo and her story continues to this day.
Lucy's story
Ramsgate class lifeboat Prudential, that took the Ramsgate crew to Dunkirk
Ramsgate’s resilient crew
When the wartime crew at Ramsgate were tasked to Dunkirk, the crew didn’t hesitate to go to the rescue in their trusty lifeboat Prudential.
read on