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Dunkirk ‘little ship’ with Norfolk link being restored

PUBLISHED: 12:30 12 June 2020 | UPDATED: 12:31 12 June 2020

The D-Day lifeboat that sailed from Blakeney being restored in North Devon. R-L, Simon Morris, John Puddy, Richard Ker, John Vistuer, and Rob Braddick. Pictures: Tidy Eye

The D-Day lifeboat that sailed from Blakeney being restored in North Devon. R-L, Simon Morris, John Puddy, Richard Ker, John Vistuer, and Rob Braddick. Pictures: Tidy Eye

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A ‘little ship’ hero of Dunkirk with a Norfolk connection is being saved at its original home in Bideford, Devon.

The Jane Hannah when it was based in Blakeney. Photo: John WrightThe Jane Hannah when it was based in Blakeney. Photo: John Wright

In May 1940 the Jane Hannah MacDonald III (JHM), then known as Jane Hannah, set off from Blakeney in north Norfolk and became one of the little ships of Operation Dynamo.

The ships rescued more than 300,000 British and Allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk after the fall of France to Nazi Germany.

The ship had been bought for fishing and leisure fishing trips out of Blakeney, after previously serving as a 35ft lifeboat at Flamborough, Yorkshire.

It was owned by Bernard Chase and skippered by George Long, a 60-year-old Blakeney fisherman.

George Long skippered the Jane Hannah across to Dunkirk. Photo: John WrightGeorge Long skippered the Jane Hannah across to Dunkirk. Photo: John Wright

Helped by Billy ‘Fat Freddie’ Long, the son of George’s brother William, he took the boat from Blakeney to Lowestoft and then on to Ramsgate in Kent, from where it was then requisitioned by the navy and taken across the choppy waters of the Channel on the night of June 5, 1940.

Mr Long’s service to his country was recognised at the time, and he was certified as an Auxiliary Coastguard immediately upon his return to Blakeney on June 22, 1940.

After the war in 1948, the vessel was sold into commercial fishing and passed through the hands of a number of owners ending up with Simon Evans of Evans Marine International in Migennes, France.

Former Bideford resident John Vistuer rediscovered the four-tonne vessel in France and enlisted the support of holiday park owner Rob Braddick to bring her home.

George Long. Photo: John WrightGeorge Long. Photo: John Wright

And now three old school friends Simon Morris, James Morris and Mr Braddick, together with the Appledore Maritime Heritage Trust, plan to restore it, at Mr Braddick’s Bideford yard.

The boat, which had been built in Blackwall, East London, in 1909 at a cost of £931, was launched from Bideford in 1910.

Mr Braddick said Mr Vistuer had told him the boat’s story, “including the the former owners and the part the lifeboat, then named Jane Hannah, played in Dunkirk whilst it was owned by the Chase Family in Blakeney and skippered by George Long, which was really exciting”.

The ship on its way back to Bideford Quay in Devon. Pictures: BBCThe ship on its way back to Bideford Quay in Devon. Pictures: BBC

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