The Wrecks of Dunkirk
I’ve just come back from Dunkirk where we’ve been filming for the new Battle of Britain documentary I’m working on and got up horribly early to catch the wrecks that can still be seen at low tide. Unfortunately, it wasn’t early enough and already as I began a piece the tide was snapping at my heels. Annoyingly, I fluffed my lines a bit and so we decided to come back again later that evening just before the tide had turned. It was still pretty overcast – which was appropriate considering the thick smoke and cloud that covered Dunkirk during the evacuation – but the light was much better and most importantly, the wrecks were lying there for all to see.
I have to admit, I found it incredibly moving to see them there. We did a piece beside the remains of a small wooden ship, but we also had a good look at the Devonia, a pre-war Bristol Channel paddle steamer that had been commissioned by the Navy in 1939 and converted into a minesweeper. Joining the 7th Minesweeping Flotilla at Granton, she carried out a number of operations before heading to help with the evacuation on 30th May. She had been helping lift men from the beaches at La Panne but came under heavy air attack and although was not directly hit, suffered a number of near misses which caused no small amount of damage – and enough to make it unlikely that she would be able to make it back across the Channel. Instead, her skipper was ordered to beach her.
The Naval Staff History claims she was run aground to help as a makeshift pier at La Panne, but she’s now at Bray Dunes, so presumably the location of her beaching in the official history is incorrect. I must ask Steve Prince at the Naval Historical Branch if he knows the reason for this…
(This picture was taken by Andy – see his other shots on WW2TALK).
Can you let us know roughly when we can expect your Battle of Britain program to be broadcast?
It’s due for some time in September – it will be part of a BBC Battle of Britain season.
Great thanks for letting me know. Really enjoying the Battle of Britain book and have reserved Blood of Honour at the Library!
Great – many thanks. I hope you enjoy it!
Hi -first post here.
I’ve just finished reading “Darkest Hour” and thought it was absolutely brilliant. I love the attention to detail. The scenes set at Dunkirk brought home what a desperate and apparently hopeless situation the war must have seemed at that point in time.
I’ve just joined after this article came up in a google search. It certainly does look overcast in the colour shot and like you say rather apt. I notice the colour shot has a cross/Poppy on it. Did you place it on the ship?
It was already there, actually – I suspect placed there during the 70th anniversary celebrations.
Sorry, Computer problems. Thanks for the reply
I noticed that you are using my picture of the Devonia and more than likely the other two are from the same place as the original picture is posted, I took it on the 70th anniversary of the sinking of the Devonia after placing the Royal British Legion Cross on her along with HMS Crested Eagle who can still be seen today too at low tide. I suspect you already know that though as both ships history is written up by me on the same thread as the photographs you have used.
Anyway, I don’t mind you using my photographs-That is why I post them on the interenet but I would like users of my research material to credit me and or post a link to the original source.
Here is the link with an update since your last visit:
Really sorry about that – someone emailed them to me, but of course I’ll change that – credit where credit’s due! And thank you for letting me use them!
No worries and thank you.
Ref the different location of the Devonia, I suspect she moved with the tide and current over a period of time. The current runs from SW to NE along the French coast which also answers why bodies from Dunkirk and the Dieppe Raid were found washed ashore further north, as far as Holland in some cases.
That’s very interesting – I hadn’t thought of that.