Sadness as Return to Dunkirk event marking 80th anniversary of Little Ships wartime effort is postponed

Image ADLS

The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships (ADLS) has decided to postpone the Return to Dunkirk event scheduled for May 2020 until 2021.

This year up to 76 Little Ships planned to cross the Channel to Dunkirk from Ramsgate to mark the 80th anniversary of  Operation Dynamo where the vessels assisted with the rescue of British and Allied Forces from the beaches and Mole of Dunkirk in late May and early June of 1940.

The commemorative flotilla this year would have taken Royal Navy ratings and been accompanied by Royal Navy vessels. The Belgian and French would have had a military vessels in attendance.

In Dunkirk the City authorities had planned a number of memorial events. It is hoped that the return in 2021 will attract the same interest and support both in the UK and with allies in France and Belgium.

The Little Ships have returned every five years since 1965 and this year’s return would have been most poignant and of national historic importance as it was to have been the last return where veterans of the operation would have been present in Ramsgate and Dunkirk.

Commodore Simon Palmer said “Not only do we have to consider the seaworthiness of our Little Ships, all of which are well over the age of 80, but also the safety of our crews. It became clear that the boats might be in better condition than some of our crews by the time we came to cross the Channel”.

The Association is actively looking at the possibility of making the Return in 2021. The ADLS has organised Commemorative Returns to Dunkirk since 1965.

Ian Gilbert, the Rear Admiral ADLS said: “It is extremely sad that we have had to make the decision to postpone Dunkirk80; a huge amount of work has already gone into the arrangements both here and in Dunkirk, and many hours have been devoted to the preparation of the Little Ships for this Commemorative crossing. It is only the second time we have not sailed since the first return in 1965.”

The ADLS is looking forward to events later in their calendar, especially the Annual Veterans Cruise weekend in September based at the Thames Motor Yacht Club at Hampton Court.


  1. In such a year for poignant anniversaries such as the Dunkirk Return, the V.E. Day and the anniversary of the Battle of Britain it’s a great shame this virus has curtailed them and others. We hope these veterans can attend in 2021. Our Merchant Navy and seafarers owe a great deal to these men and women and we thank them all.

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