Founded in 1966 by the late radio and TV presenter Raymond Baxter. The year before, he had organised and assembled a fleet of 43 of the original Little Ships of Dunkirk to return to Dunkirk to commemorate the epic of the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940, in which they played such a significant role. It was decided that such a unique assembly should not be allowed to disperse into obscurity.
In the course of Operation Dynamo, the Little Ships together with Naval and Merchant Marine vessels operating off the Dunkirk beaches and harbour between the 28th May and the 4th June 1940, no less than 338,000 British and French troops were evacuated.
"Having had the pleasure of spending time on Mimosa, the history she represents is truly overwhelming, as well as the true care and dedication that is clear throughout this precious gem of the water. The work that has gone on for her preparation for the Dunkirk reunion has been something else again. The present owners should be very proud."
"The Admiralty have made an Order requesting all owners of self-propelled pleasure craft between 30' and 100' in length to send all particulars to the Admiralty within 14 days from today if they have not already been offered or requisitioned".
The Medway Queen is credited with saving 7,000 men. John Howarth from Rochester recalls how he was in the middle of the Channel surrounded by bodies and almost resigned to death when, over the horizon, came the Medway Queen on her way back to England, crammed with troops. He could hardly believe his luck when the ship stopped long enough to pick him up!
They filled up with soldiers and took them out to the big ships, sixteen times, until a Sgt.-Major on the jetty told them not to come back because the Germans were on the pier. They told him they'd keep coming while he was there. On the last trip they persuaded him to join them. When they arrived in Ramsgate next morning, they expected to be arrested for stealing Tom Tit, but the Senior Naval Officer congratulated them and said he wished he could have had more like them.
'Sure enough, there in the cockpit was the highly polished brass plate bearing the legend 'Dunkirk 1940'. I had found my dream boat. How could I have guessed then, that L 'Orage would become such an important factor in the lives of my family and myself for more than a quarter of a century and that because of her, we would become closely involved with people and events beyond my wildest flights of fantasy?' - Raymond Baxter
Bluebird of Chelsea
Malcolm Campbell, world land-speed record holder in 1924, was knighted in the year he commissioned his new boat Blue Bird. He added the world water-speed record to his tally just six years later with his RR aero-engined hydroplane Bluebird K3. The name Bluebird, was taken from Maeterlink's play L 'Oiseau Bleu, and given to all his record-breaking cars and boats, and the three successive yachts he owned.
On 29th May 1940 Reda, as Janthea formerly was, sailed from Ramsgate in company with five other yachts across the English Channel. After severe machine-gun attacks from the air off Gravelines they arrived at La Panne beach at 1500 and at once began towing whalers full of troops to off-lying ships. Reda then returned to Ramsgate with 21 soldiers aboard. She braved a bombing raid as she left but survived unscathed. On 31st May she went back for more and after ferrying 50 Frenchmen to a larger transport, brought 23 more direct to Ramsgate.