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Little ships keep spirit alive

PUBLISHED: 14:18 03 June 2002 | UPDATED: 15:27 03 March 2010

DUNKIRK veterans from Ipswich were among those lining the quayside to take part in yesterday's service to commemorate the Little Ships.

Some 62 years after the 700-strong fleet of small craft made the hazardous journey to France, the heroes of the day were honoured once more.

DUNKIRK veterans from Ipswich were among those lining the quayside to take part in a service to commemorate the Little Ships.

Some 62 years after the 700-strong fleet of small craft made the hazardous journey to France, the heroes of the day were honoured once more.

Among them was Signalman William Hawes, who was a 21-year-old army dispatch rider when his corps became stranded in France.

Watching the boats moor alongside the wet dock with his wife June, Mr Hawes who lives in Kesgrave, described the scene in 1940.

He said: "All of these boats, from fishing boats to yachts were crammed full of soldiers. You

couldn't have believed it. They were jammed on board like sardines. There were soldiers clinging everywhere, almost falling overboard."

Of the original fleet, some 120 vessels remain. This weekend 20 of them defied the choppy coastal waters to make their way up the River Orwell.

Organiser Commodore Charles Cave said: "It was called Operation Dynamo and it was a tremendous effort. It is wonderful to keep the Dunkirk spirit alive in people's minds."

The evacuation from Dunkirk marked a turning point in the war when the British army overnight changed from a defensive to an offensive fighting force.

Each year the Little Ships make a commemorative cruise in the British Isles.

But the real accolades of the day went to the brave men who were truly fighting on the beaches.

The Little Ships will be moored all day today at the wet dock at the Common Quay outside the Custom House.

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