The Cyril and Lilian Bishop lifeboat has been awarded official status as a ‘Dunkirk Little Ship’
Dee Day White, who was instrumental in bringing the boat back to Hastings, said: “This old lady of the sea has been given the recognition she deserves.
“On May 30 1940 the call went out from the admiralty asking all small ships with a shallow draft, capable of going in close ashore, to make their way to Dover and Ramsgate.
“The Hastings lifeboat, with a scratch crew of Bill Terrell, George Moon, Jim Terrell, Ted Terrell, Bill Hilder, Will Martin, Bodger Barton, Jim White and Fred Button, made its way to Folkestone then Dover.
“The lifeboat was towed to the Dunkirk beach by a tug called Foremost 87, then took part in what was to be known as Operation Dynamo. Trapped on the beach were 380,000 British troops along with French and Belgium troops, surrounded by the German army, with no cover, toilets or food and the only hope of escape from the sea.
“Dunkirk Harbour had a long jetty, perfect for the big Navy boats to come alongside, but also a perfect target for German aircraft and they were soon put out of action.
“The tide at Dunkirk, like Camber Sands, goes out over a mile. Men marched into the sea, up to their chests and stood in a queue, walking in and out with the tide, waiting to be saved by the little ships, which ferried them to the Navy boats laying off shore. It was a shuttle service being operated 24 hours a day.
“The Cyril and Lilian Bishop could carry 25 - 30 soldiers at a time with her Royal Navy crew supervising and went back and forth for four days and nights under fire from enemy aircraft.
“We know she was hit twice with two bullet holes in her forward top box, a large hole in her bow. Sand in her mast headlight would suggest a capsize.
“When she returned to Hastings from Dunkirk she was overhauled and repaired, then went back to her role as a lifeboat until 1950.
“66 years passed and she was converted to a fishing boat, then a cabin sailer and sunk in a harbour in Scotland.
“Luckily Simon Evans bought her for his collection of 22 lifeboats and started to renovate her.
“Following various phone calls, Skinners Sheds purchased her for the people of Hastings and she came home to a hero’s welcome. Her renovation was continued by local tradesmen and volunteers, helped by local businesses.
“Now at last we have the right to call her a Dunkirk Little Ship, which gives us exclusive rights to proudly raise and fly the flag, which confirms her status, recognised by the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships - a wartime hero of Operation Dynamo.”
Benefit from an ongoing discount on your Observer series titles by joining our voucher membership scheme. Once you’ve subscribed we’ll send you dated vouchers which can be exchanged for your paper at any news outlet. To save money on your (paper title) simply click here (www.localsubsplus.co.uk).