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Mission to restore Dunkirk Little Ship for 80th anniversary

PUBLISHED: 12:22 29 October 2019 | UPDATED: 12:22 29 October 2019

Owners Kathy Norris and Andrew Robson are devoting their spare time to renovating war hero MY-Glala in Ipswich. Their dream is to get her back into the water to sail to France in the reunion of the Dunkirk Little Ships in May 2005. The town of Dunkirk invites the boats back every five years. Picture: DAVID VINCENT

Owners Kathy Norris and Andrew Robson are devoting their spare time to renovating war hero MY-Glala in Ipswich. Their dream is to get her back into the water to sail to France in the reunion of the Dunkirk Little Ships in May 2005. The town of Dunkirk invites the boats back every five years. Picture: DAVID VINCENT

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Under a giant canopy at Ipswich Waterfront, one of the famous Dunkirk Little Ships is undergoing a major transformation.

Owners Kathy Norris and Andrew Robson are devoting their spare time to renovating war hero MY-Glala in Ipswich. Their dream is to get her back into the water to sail to France in the reunion of the Dunkirk Little Ships in May 2005. The town of Dunkirk invites the boats back every five years. Picture: DAVID VINCENTOwners Kathy Norris and Andrew Robson are devoting their spare time to renovating war hero MY-Glala in Ipswich. Their dream is to get her back into the water to sail to France in the reunion of the Dunkirk Little Ships in May 2005. The town of Dunkirk invites the boats back every five years. Picture: DAVID VINCENT

The dream is to get MY Glala restored and back into the water into order to join the 80th anniversary reunion flotilla when it sails to Dunkirk in May next year.

The Glala arrived in Ipswich in 2005 and has been out of the water for a number of years now.

Previous owner Simon Richardson was painstakingly restoring the ship, but sadly died in 2017 with the project incomplete.

Yachting enthusiasts Kathy Norris and Andrew Robson, from Colchester, bought her later that year and have taken on the project, spending all their spare time continuing the work.

Owners Kathy Norris and Andrew Robson are devoting their spare time to renovating war hero MY-Glala in Ipswich. Their dream is to get her back into the water to sail to France in the reunion of the Dunkirk Little Ships in May 2005. The town of Dunkirk invites the boats back every five years. Picture: DAVID VINCENTOwners Kathy Norris and Andrew Robson are devoting their spare time to renovating war hero MY-Glala in Ipswich. Their dream is to get her back into the water to sail to France in the reunion of the Dunkirk Little Ships in May 2005. The town of Dunkirk invites the boats back every five years. Picture: DAVID VINCENT

There are no cabin fittings inside as yet, but the structure is sound and the engines remain intact.

Andrew has even invented a tool to clear out the caulking between the exterior planks, ready to replace it.

Up on top Kathy has been cleaning the teak decks, ready for them to be sanded and varnished.

This is an impressive boat, measuring 78ft in length and 12ft in width, and is listed for its historical importance as one of the earliest motor yachts.

The canopy will allow them to work on board right through the winter weather.

They need to complete the work on the hull, and restore the engine and steering system before she can be launched again.

Their target is to get her back in the water by April, ready to take part on the flotilla to Dunkirk in May as part of the anniversary of Operation Dynamo.

Andrew said: "The town of Dunkirk invites them back every five years, and they are escorted by the Royal Navy. She was last there in 2005. They reckon there will be 60 boats next year."

Kathy added: "She won't be finished but so long as we have the engine, steering and lights we will go."

There is no ship's bell, or compass, and they are trying to source appropriate fixtures and fittings, online and at boat jumbles.

There are also looking for reclaimed timber for the flooring and the fit-out of the cabins inside. Only quality wood, of course.

"We are not going to use pallets. She is too important for that," added Kathy.

Glala was ordered for a wealthy Argentinian in 1914 and when the First World War came along he bailed out. The boat had a series of wealthy owners.

In 1936 she changed hands for £7,000, probably equivalent to £500,000 in today's money.

In 1939 she was requisitioned and a machine gun and depth chargers were placed on board. She was based at HMS Wildfire and patrolled off Kent, from where she joined Operation Dynamo, a flotilla of 850 ships, boats and barges which sailed to France to rescue British troops from the beaches.

Andrew said: "It is very hard to find out the history of the boat in war time. People didn't speak about things they did. They went about the war.

"We don't know how many lives Glala saved."

Later she served as a hospital ambulance ship in Belfast, and a fire boat on the River Mersey.

In later years she was in private ownership again and was once a houseboat in Southampton.

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