Lifeboat that saw action at Dunkirk painstakingly restored


A lifeboat which was present at Dunkirk is set to sail there on the 80th anniversary of the mass evacuation after being painstakingly restored.

The Lady of Mann was lifeboat number eight on board the passenger ship RMS Lady of Mann, which brought 4,262 men back to England in May 1940.

It was also on the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company vessel when it carried six landing craft, 55 officers and 435 troops to Juno Beach on D-Day in June 1944.

The Lady of Mann (pictured after the restoration) was lifeboat number eight on board the passenger ship RMS Lady of Mann, which brought 4,262 men back to England in May 1940

The Lady of Mann (pictured after the restoration) was lifeboat number eight on board the passenger ship RMS Lady of Mann, which brought 4,262 men back to England in May 1940

It had been languishing in a rotting, dilapidated state in an Essex boatyard (pictured) when IT manager Matt Cain paid £3,000 for it in 2009 after spotting it for sale online

It had been languishing in a rotting, dilapidated state in an Essex boatyard (pictured) when IT manager Matt Cain paid £3,000 for it in 2009 after spotting it for sale online

After the ship was broken up in 1971, the 27ft lifeboat was sold off and converted into a fishing boat which operated out of Maldon, Essex.

It had been languishing in a rotting, dilapidated state in an Essex boatyard when IT manager Matt Cain paid £3,000 for it in 2009 after spotting it for sale online.

He feared another buyer would have kept its engine but scrapped the rest of the boat, destroying a historical relic.

Mr Cain, 44, a father-of-two, carried out a first restoration of the Lady of Mann the following year and sailed it in the 2012 Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant.

But disaster struck when it sank at its mooring in Windsor, during the floods of February 2014.

After the ship was broken up in 1971, the 27ft lifeboat was sold off and converted into a fishing boat which operated out of Maldon, Essex. Pictured: the ship getting ready for its rebuild

After the ship was broken up in 1971, the 27ft lifeboat was sold off and converted into a fishing boat which operated out of Maldon, Essex. Pictured: the ship getting ready for its rebuild 

Disaster struck when it sank at its mooring in Windsor, during the floods of February 2014 (pictured)

Disaster struck when it sank at its mooring in Windsor, during the floods of February 2014 (pictured) 

After some soul-searching, Mr Cain decided to fund a second restoration, which he enlisted professional boat builders for as it was a far larger, more complex undertaking.

He has spent over £30,000 returning the Lady of Mann to her former glory, while also working on it himself in his spare time.

In the last few months, he has sorted its electrics and fitted its brass horn.

The mahogany boat still has its original markings on its stem post on the bow include serial numbers confirming its World War Two use.

The Lady of Mann has now been formally accepted by the Dunkirk Little Ships association after being inspected by their archivist.

Mr Cain hopes to take it back to Dunkirk in May for the 80th anniversary commemoration of the evacuation of over 330,000 British Expeditionary Force soldiers, which enabled the Allies crucial time to regroup in World War Two.

He said: ‘I’m a fanatic about the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company and was scrolling the internet about it when I came across a page with this boat listed for sale.

‘I went down to see it and it was in a dilapidated state in the boatyard but the original lines of the hull were unmistakable.

A postcard featuring the passenger ship RMS Lady of Mann

A postcard featuring the passenger ship RMS Lady of Mann

‘There were also markings on the stem post and serial numbers so I could tell straight away its Dunkirk heritage.

‘Since it had a recently installed ‘new’ engine there was the chance someone could have bought it for that alone then scrapped the boat, which I couldn’t let happen, so I bought it for £3,000.

‘It was heartbreaking when the boat sank in 2014 but after some soul-searching I felt it needed to be restored again.

The mahogany boat still has its original markings on its stem post on the bow include serial numbers confirming its World War Two use

The mahogany boat still has its original markings on its stem post on the bow include serial numbers confirming its World War Two use

‘This is definitely not a project for financial gain, it’s cost a fair bit since it needed to be worked on by professional boat builders who have done a fabulous job restoring it to a condition beyond our wildest imaginations.

‘Now, the intention is to prepare it to return to Dunkirk for the first time in 80 years.

‘Before the lifeboat was aboard its mother ship, so this will be the first time it sails itself.’

The voyage to Dunkirk will be particularly poignant for Mr Cain as his grandfather, dispatch rider Private George Cain, of the Royal Army Service Corps, was evacuated from its beaches.

He said: ‘My grandfather was in a pub on the Isle of Man with his mates the night the war was announced and they got the first boat to Liverpool the next morning.

Mr Cain hopes to take it back to Dunkirk in May for the 80th anniversary commemoration of the evacuation of over 330,000 British Expeditionary Force soldiers, which enabled the Allies crucial time to regroup in World War Two

Mr Cain hopes to take it back to Dunkirk in May for the 80th anniversary commemoration of the evacuation of over 330,000 British Expeditionary Force soldiers, which enabled the Allies crucial time to regroup in World War Two

The Lady of Mann has now been formally accepted by the Dunkirk Little Ships association after being inspected by their archivist

The Lady of Mann has now been formally accepted by the Dunkirk Little Ships association after being inspected by their archivist

The interior after the restoration project. In the last few months, Matt has sorted its electrics and fitted its brass horn

The interior after the restoration project. In the last few months, Matt has sorted its electrics and fitted its brass horn

‘However, when he told the recruiting officer he was a carpenter they said he couldn’t join his friends as his skills were needed at home.

‘He therefore got the boat back to the Isle of Man before getting on another boat to Fleetwood the following day.

Owner Matt Cain, 44, with his wife Rebecca

Owner Matt Cain, 44, with his wife Rebecca

‘This time he didn’t reveal his profession, instead telling him he loved motorcycles, and was recruited as a dispatch motorcycle rider.

‘He was commended after driving several lorries into a lake, bleeding their engines of oil and running them until they ceased so they could not be utilised by the Germans, before being evacuated in a Belgian fishing boat with several French soldiers.’

‘I remember travelling to Dunkirk with him for the 50th anniversary of the evacuation not long before he died in 1990.’

Operation Dynamo got under way on May 27, 1940 and the beaches were ideal places to gather the men together.

However, the 20 miles of gently sloping sand and shallow waters were the worst possible place to try to get the men aboard ships.

To counteract this, 700 private boats sailed from Ramsgate in Kent to Dunkirk to rescue the soldiers.

The ‘little ships’ appeared off the beaches and long lines of men snaked into the sea as they waded out to meet the small craft, while in the distance destroyers and larger ships could be seen scurrying to and fro.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: