COUNTY NEWS: Sussex woman tells tale of her Dunkirk Little Ship
When Samantha Kennedy first stepped aboard the Mary Jane she had no idea how much it would change her life.
Planning to move from Hastings to London in 2012, Samantha began shopping for a houseboat to make home.
But by a twist of fate, the first boat she saw was the Mary Jane, one of the original Little Ships which helped save the lives of British soldiers stranded on the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk in the early days of the Second World War.
“I didn’t look at any other boats, nor did I have any idea what I was talking about,” said Samantha.
“When the seller told me she was a Dunkirk ship I indignantly replied ‘Of course, she is!’, bluffing that I knew what that meant.
“After a little haggling and much to the surprise of all that knew me – including myself – I decided to buy her and move to London. Little did I know how much work this would be or the adventures to come.”
After moving in, Samantha and her partner Travis van Moorsel worked tirelessly for months to restore and preserve the boat – keeping her floating and in tip top condition.
Samantha’s first true taste of the significance of the Mary Jane came in May 2015, when the couple took part in a commemorative voyage to Dunkirk, marking the 75th anniversary of the evacuation.
“It was an incredible honour,” said Samantha.
“With 60 other ships we crossed the channel in formation. There were Spitfires and Hurricanes flying over us [and] as we entered Dunkirk marina, there were hundreds of people waiting to welcome us.
“With marching bands and cheers all around us, I started to appreciate how important Mary Jane actually is.
“The highlight for me was having Ted, a veteran who was saved on the beaches, join us on board for lunch.
“We were delighted to serve him and it was truly emotional to hear his story.”
Since then Samantha has been invited to take part in the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations and, most recently, to take part in the filming of Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed blockbuster Dunkirk.
Both the boat and her crew play a significant role, re-creating the June 1940 voyage.
Samantha said: “After waiting for a year for the movie to finally be released, we received an invite to the world premiere on the red carpet at Leicester Square.
“We were utterly beside ourselves. Watching the movie and spying Mary Jane a multitude of times and to watch the whole of my crew on the huge screen was mind blowing.
“Buying Mary Jane was the best decision I have ever made and I know that we will do everything we can to keep her going.”
For more photos of the Mary Jane and her adventures, follw th instagram account maryjanedunkirk.