Dunkirk Little Ship, the Sundowner, has now left Ramsgate

Sundowner has now left Ramsgate Photo Mark Stanford

Dunkirk Little Ship the Sundowner has left Ramsgate and is now travelling to Chertsey where it will undergo full renovation.

The historic vessel, which had been moored at Ramsgate’s Inner Harbour, has been sold and is understood to have gained a sale price of £40,000.

Sundowner had been expected to leave yesterday (July 11) but instead undertook sea trials. However, she finally departed today at 11.45am as shown in the video by Brian Whitehead below.

The Sundowner was one of the Little Ships that took part in the World War Two Dunkirk evacuation in 1940.

The 58ft motor yacht will be fully restored at Dennett’s Boat Builders for the new owner who is an enthusiast for Dunkirk Little Ships.

The sale was made by The Steam Museum Trust which holds the lease to the Ramsgate Maritime Museum and associated facilities.

It is understood the new owner has an interest in returning the craft to Ramsgate but the renovation will be a long process – possibly up to two years.

The former Admiralty vessel Sundowner was built in 1912  and went into private ownership in 1929 after being bought by Charles and Sylvia Toller.

The 58ft motor yacht was requisitioned on May 31 1940 to sail to Dunkirk to assist in the evacuation. Lightoller, aged 66 and retired, volunteered to take her, along with his eldest son Roger, and Gerald Ashcroft, an 18-year-old Sea Scout.

Photo Carl Hudson

On arrival at Dunkirk 75 men were crammed into the cabin, and another 55 on deck, a total of 130. Sundowner then returned to Ramsgate, avoiding fire from enemy aircraft through evasive manoeuvres on the way, though the greatest danger was being swamped by the wash from fast-moving destroyers.

Photo Mark Stanford

After disembarking the troops, she was preparing to return for France for another load, but by then only ships capable of doing 20 knots were allowed to continue.

Photo Brian Whitehead

Sundowner remained in service as a coastal patrol until 1945, and after a refit was returned to Lightoller in 1946, and once again used as a family boat.

Sundowner was bought by the East Kent Maritime Trust after the last owners had to put into Ramsgate harbour in 1986 for repair to the hull after suffering heavy damage in rough weather. She was restored in time for the 50th anniversary of Dunkirk in 1990.

Photo Mark Stanford

In 2008 the EKMT, which had been responsible for the Ramsgate Maritime Museum, became defunct. It taken over by The Steam Museum Trust, under the trusteeship of Michael List Brain, after a lease was signed with Thanet council in 2012.

The lease covered the clock house, Smeaton’s dry dock, 30 Military Road and related facilities and runs until 2037.

Photo Mark Stanford

The maritime museum, which closed when EKMT became defunct, reopened in 2015 with volunteers on a seasonal basis. The Steam Museums Trust and The Ramsgate Society put forward proposals for the repair and complete restoration of The Clock House building; the reorganisation and curation of the Maritime Museum Collection by creating a modern heritage centre and exhibition space; the repair and restoration of the Smeaton Dry Dock, the steam tug Cervia and The Sundowner; improvements to the Pier Yard car park, a pop-up cafe and bar and the creation of a business plan to secure the long term sustainable financial future for the project.

Photo Carl Hudson

This however was put on hold when Thanet council said it wanted to carry out its own feasibility study. It is understood The Ramsgate Society have approached Ramsgate Town Council about reviving the plans.

Follow the Sundowner’s journey with Michael Dennett Boat Builders on facebook


  1. Dutch s pity like everything in Ramsgate,s heritage she was left to rot .
    Hope we may see her back one day and our Maritime museum restored to its original condition


  3. The heritage of the harbouris so badly maintained and promoted – it could be such huge draw for visitors from the world over with the right emphasis. How much would tdc lose in mooring fees if day six births were given free to historically significant craft (like Sundowner) – along with the Tunnels and the Pugin links, our town really deserves to be a globally important destination.

  4. I can’t say on a public forum what I feel about this, What next? how TDC and RTC can allow this is beyond reason, it is the thin end of the wedge this trust has until 2037 to do what they like, and council decisions are to blame.

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