Help us sail Norfolk’s ‘little ship’ Lucy Lavers back to Dunkirk

Lucy Lavers as she would have appeared at Dunkirk.

Lucy Lavers as she would have appeared at Dunkirk. - Credit: Matthew Usher

A £30,000 appeal is being launched to send a Norfolk lifeboat which took part in the Dunkirk evacuation back to France to celebrate its 75th anniversary.

George Hewitt at work on Lucy Lavers. Picture: Matthew Usher.

George Hewitt at work on Lucy Lavers. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Former Aldeburgh, Wells and Lowestoft lifeboat Lucy Lavers was one of hundreds of so-called Little Ships which helped rescue thousands of besieged Allied troops from the beaches of northern France, between May 27 and June 4, 1940. It was the first time she had put to sea.

Now Stiffkey-based charity Rescue Wooden Boats is restoring Lucy to her former glory and hopes she will be completed in time to join other boats on a commemorative trip to mark the 75th anniversary of Operation Dynamo.

In early May 2015 Lucy Lavers will leave Wells, calling at Lowestoft, Southwold, Aldeburgh, Harwich, Ramsgate, before finally crossing the Channel to Dunkirk.

The aim of the voyage is to tell her story in each port and to encourage people, especially youngsters, to learn about the Dunkirk evacuation, and the stories of those who took part.

Lifeboat Lucy Lavers at Rescue Wooden Boats, Stiffkey. Picture: Ian Burt

Lifeboat Lucy Lavers at Rescue Wooden Boats, Stiffkey. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

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Wendy Pritchard, from Rescue Wooden Boats, said returning to Dunkirk would be an emotional journey.

'For us the journey is also a celebration of her being brought back to life,' she said. 'When we started out in 2011, we had no money. We launched ourselves on a shoestring.

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'We are also recording and capturing the story of her life and place in history so it is available for posterity, not just for this journey. So if people contribute to a nautical mile, to getting her there and back, they are also contributing to telling her story in the future.'

By 2013, work on Lucy was under way, a lottery grant was in the pipeline and a visitor centre had been opened at Stiffkey, near the boatyards where Lucy is being lovingly restored by David and George Hewitt.

Lucy's voyage will involve a team of volunteer sailing crews, onshore coordinators, and a film crew, who will all working together along her route to France and back.

The sailing crew includes coxswains and crew from Norfolk lifeboat stations, who have volunteered to take Lucy Lavers from port to port.

There will be a programme of linked events onshore, including presentations and a volunteer-manned travelling exhibition.

There will also be a once in a lifetime opportunity to take part in the voyage, by bidding for a place on board for one of the individual stages of the journey.

The trip from Wells to France is 385 nautical miles and will cost Lucy £90 per mile to complete.

Rescue Wooden Boats has a shopping list of items supporters can sponsor - ranging from sea sickness pills and torches, to navigation lights and anchor chain.

After her return trip to Dunkirk, the Lucy Lavers will be permanently moored at Wells, where she will provide educational trips and take visitors on board.

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