Dunkirk’s Little Ships Still Seaworthy 70 Years On

It has been 70 years since the battle of Dunkirk, yet the Thomas Kirk
Wright and The Felicity, two lifeboats that rescued hundreds of men,
remain intact.

The Thomas Kirk Wright - today


Brian Traves is a volunteer at the Old Lighthouse centre in Poole where the
Thomas Kirk Wright is on display.

He said: “The boat was built in 1938
on the Isle of Wight.  She set out to Dunkirk in 1940 and took 5 trips
across the Channel.  On her last trip she was fired upon and lost an
engine, but despite this she still managed to make it back and was
repaired in Dover.  The Thomas Kirk Wright continued in service until
1962 and was sold in July 1990 to the RNLI.”
Mr Traves added: “these boats were the early design of a modern
jet boat with some noticeable differences. The Thomas Kirk Wright had
2 petrol horse power engines, the current boats have twin diesel
engines.  Flat out, the boat could only reach 6 ½ knots where as today
the same sort of boat manages 25 – 27 knots.  She doesn’t have
propellers instead having impellors which made it ideal for landing on
the beach, whereas today it is necessary to use inflatable dinghies.”
The Davis family from Poole owned two boats, which were both
commandeered during the war.  The 60 passenger “Felicity”, had
previously been used to bring concealed German and Belguim refugees,
food and blankets.

The Felicity in 1937


David Davis, the son of one of the men who took the
Felicity to Dover, said: “The Island Queen was bombed en route and she
didn’t return.  The Felicity, which was built in 1928 returned in one
piece. In 1991 she mysteriously caught fire.  The insurance company
wrote her off, but a friend Julian Aldridge from Key Haven decided to
rebuild her. She was relaunched in June 1988.”

The Felicity is still
water worthy and is used for day trips.

The Felicity in 1966


The Felicity Relaunch in 2001

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