Monday, 4 April 2011

The Dunkirk Dilemma

Oh dear me, on reflection I just don’t have enough evidence to make the claim that the lovely Rosemarie was a Dunkirk Little ship as I deeply suspect she was. I have been working hard to try and prove that Rosemarie deserves recognition and the prestigious Little Ship status, but I just can’t risk putting my unsubstantiated beliefs into an otherwise charming and creative documentary without jeopardising the other content! So this is a last desperate call to anyone with information which may verify my suspicions, while I’ve still got time to include it in the film.

I must add that the ‘Association of Dunkirk Little ships’, haven’t helped me at all during this research and in fact have not replied to a single one of my e-mails which I started sending over a year ago now! It seems they like to concentrate on the few boats they know, which is a disgrace in my opinion as there are potentially hundreds more boats to be found, and the living memory of these is fading fast.

Russell Plummer, in his book; ‘The Ships that saved an Army’ identifies around 800 small boats but states that there may be up to 1,300. That’s another 500 to yet to be found! There are non specific entries in the list which could be applied to Rosemarie (or similar craft), such as; Rose Mary particulars unknown, and Motor Boat 42 particulars unknown. Unfortunately I don’t have The Rosemaries service number, but descriptions like this do not invite my trust in the original recording of details.

My distrust is heightened further, when I hear that some boats which have been awarded the Dunkirk status didn’t actually go, as Raymond Peake informed me. “Some boats from Newlyn went to Falmouth for the Dunkirk evacuation but they were sent back because they displaced too much water, and I know that ‘ Maid Marion’ has a brass plaque saying she went to Dunkirk, but I know she never went! What they were looking for was boats like the Rosemarie with a shallow draft, they only wanted boats with a 6ft draft, which could go right in close [to the beaches]”.

In May 1940, Falmouth was one of the Departure points of the small ships leaving for Dunkirk. Rosemarie was requisitioned in 1940 and worked as a patrol boat around the Lizard peninsula for her first year of service. I know that one of the Rosemaries wartime jobs, with Frankie Peters as skipper and Fred Hamling as Engineer, was to record all the troops returning from Dunkirk and check the ships, so the Rosemaries job was in effect to list these ships, such an irony she’s not listed! I can’t believe she didn’t go to Dunkirk herself, particularly for the final evacuations where the call was sent out for any able ships, in desperation to get all the troops off the beaches. On Friday the 31st of May, A boat called Rose Marie, was towed over, by the dutch Skoot ‘Hilda’, captained by Lieutenant A.Gray of the Royal Navy along with five other motorboats ref; ‘The Evacuation from Dunkirk’ W.J.R Gardner ISBN 071465120-6 Page 72. Which Rose Marie this is, is still unclear to me as details such as the length of the boat and numbers are unfortunately not listed.

From ‘The Ships that saved an Army’, I can see two ‘Little ships’ called Rose Marie. One owned by J. Boyer, Sheerness, (no other details) and another; a twin-screw schooner built by J. Crossfield, Conway 1926. Now this boat from my own research at the National Maritime museum in Falmouth, was not acquired by the Government until 1946, and so it is possible that she is a case for mistaken identity. Her Lloyds reference number is 148325, she measured 53ft by 13.2 with a 7.7 draft. I think she could easily have travelled to Dunkirk (if she did go) under her own power, and would be a large boat to tow as part of a flotilla of 8. Her draft was also, well over the admiralty requirements so I think she could be stealing our Rosemaries glory, but as I can’t prove this. I have to go with what I’ve got in the film, and let people make their own conclusions; otherwise I’ll be using the film to argue this case, poor Rosemarie, she deserves so much better.

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