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Dunkirk stowaway Stanley E Holtom on the 200 Voices podcast
200 Voices an RNLI podcast

‘It was the dive bombers dropping bombs on the little boats’

151. Dunkirk Stowaway: Stanley E Holtom

When school friends Stanley and Peter boarded a cabin cruiser in 1940, little did they know they’d play a part in the Dunkirk evacuation.

It was the Second World War rescue mission that Winston Churchill called a ‘miracle of deliverance’. The port of Dunkirk was destroyed – its beaches the only escape route for nearly 340,000 retreating allied troops.

Shallow waters meant that big ships couldn’t get close enough for a mass evacuation. Only the smallest of vessels could reach the shattered soldiers. Responding to a request by Britain’s Ministry of Shipping, an armada of 700 little boats – including pleasure craft and private yachts – quickly formed.

Among the volunteers were RNLI crews from Ramsgate and Margate. And, as chance would have it, aboard a cabin cruiser, 8-year-old Stanley Holtom and his friend, Peter. This is the story of how two little boys came to take part in Operation Dynamo.

Hear more about the RNLI's involvement in Operation Dynamo in episode 15 – Lifesaving in Wartime: John Ray.

Learn more about the RNLI's extraordinary efforts in the Second World War in a special episode of Saving Lives at Sea, presented by Dermot O'Leary. Search Series 9: Episode 1 on BBC iPlayer.