Sunday, June 03, 2012

Dunkirk boats in Diamond Jubilee pageant

As the day of the Diamond Jubilee pageant on the River Thames in London arrives, I thought it might be amusing to comment on the fact that some of the boats used to evacuate soldiers from the beach at Dunkirk will be taking their place on the river today.

I mention this because there is an old Dunkirk rescue boat which shares my name: Jane Holland.

The Jane Holland was one of 19 lifeboats sent to Dunkirk to evacuate the British Expeditionary Force. You can find photographs of her and her crew here at the Eastbourne RNLI site. According to the station historians, a Naval Officer had asked for a boat which would not sink on its way to Dunkirk, like all the others he had been given. He was given the Jane Holland, which was unfortunately rammed on her approach to the beach - leaving a great gash in her side - and then riddled with machine-gun bullets from a German fighter plane. When the engines failed, and the boat came under further enemy fire, those on board were forced to abandon ship right outside Dunkirk Harbour.

Despite this hellish attack, the Jane Holland did not sink. She was found a few days later, floating in the English Channel, utterly battered and bashed, letting in water and splendidly decorated with over 500 bullet-holes. Incredibly, the boat was repaired and later returned to active service as a lifeboat in the early 1940s.

Since she seems to have 'left service' after a final rescue mission in 1948, I don't imagine the Jane Holland is still going. But it's nice to think of her spirit at least, floating down the Thames today with the other extant boats of the Dunkirk evacuation.


Poetry Pleases! said...

Dear Jane

The unsinkable and indestructible Jane Holland will be floating amidst distinguished company. According to today's Sunday Times, passengers on the paddleboat Dixie Queen will include Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Sir Andrew Motion, Dame Moira Stuart and Baroness Floella Benjamin.

Best wishes from Simon

myraduffy said...

What a great link to have with the past,Jane. This deserves more publicity!