Horning woman remembers Dunkirk litte ship that saved her mother’s life during second world war

Horning sisters on Mona's Queen - name of boat that saved their family in second world war. Anita Duggan and family.

Two sisters whose mother was evacuated from Dunkirk during the second world war have made an emotional visit to the resting place of the ship that saved their family.

Anita Duggan's family in Belguim, before the second world war and their escape to Britain.

Just days before the Mona's Queen ship was lost at Dunkirk in May 1940, a 17-year-old Christine Duggan, along with her parents and siblings, were rescued from the beaches and brought to England. They had travelled from their home in Brussells and climbed aboard the Mona's Queen in the dead of night.

Mona's Queen memorial on the Isle on Man - Anita Duggan and family around the ship's anchor

More than 60 years later, a chance meeting at the New Inn pub in Horning has reconnected Christine's daughter, Anita Turpin, with her mother's story of survival.

'Two years ago I was at a pub quiz in the village when I heard that one of the teams was called Mona's Queen, a name which means a lot to my family,' said Mrs Turpin, who lives in Horning.

'I went over to speak to the team members and asked why they had chosen that name.' She soon learned the team were from the YMCA Wirral and were staying in Horning the night before they received an award from the Broads Society for their work with young people on the Norfolk waterways.


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The YMCA group from Birkenhead, Merseyside, operate a restored motor cruiser named Mona's Queen and regularly travel to Horning to go boating with young people.

After meeting Mrs Turpin, their chief executive, Nigel Hughes, made arrangements for her and her sister, Cecilia Duggan, to be given VIP treatment on an emotional trip to the Isle of Man, where a memorial to the original Mona's Queen has been erected.

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'It has been a very personal journey for me and my sister,' said Mrs Turpin. 'We had such a wonderful welcome on the Isle of Man. To think they are so far west and I am so far east, but still connected is wonderful.'

Mona's Queen was one of three Steam Packet Company vessels sunk at Dunkirk in the space of 24 hours in May 1940. The anchor was dramatically raised in 2010 – the 70th anniversary of Dunkirk, and restored. It was taken to the Isle of Man and unveiled last year as the focal point of a memorial at Kallow Point at Port St Mary, in honour of all Steam Packet Company employees who served during war-time and particularly those who lost their lives.

Another twist to the Duggan's story lay with family name – as it was a Captain Radcliffe Duggan who was the master of Mona's Queen.

He was not on board when she was lost at sea, and his grandson, retired Captain Colin Duggan, was also at Kallow Point to meet the sisters.

Mrs Turpin know little of her mother's escape from Nazi occupation for many years.

'She didn't talk about it for a long time, but she started to later in life; she didn't want her memories to be lost,' recalled Mrs Turpin.

After travelling across the channel in the Mona's Queen, Christine went to live in Oxford where she met her future husband.

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