Gorleston’s Dunkirk Little Ship thrown a lifeline

A DUNKIRK veteran lifeboat. in danger of being scuttled, has been given a glimmer of hope after a former crew member read of its fate in the Mercury.

The Mercury reported in September how former Great Yarmouth and Gorleston RNLI lifeboat the Louise Stephens faced an uncertain future.

The 46ft vessel had been saved from the scrapheap by John Parr, from Caldy, near Liverpool, who was looking to house it in a boating museum he was chairman of - but as the economic crisis hit the museum and his pocket, he was forced to seek a buyer, and the Mercury reported how he dreamed of seeing it return to where it belongs - Norfolk.

Now hope has arrived in the form of Gorleston boat enthusiast Peter Johnson, 68, who is trustee and chairman of the Alfred Corry Lifeboat Museum in Southwold, who shares John’s passion and has teamed up with the Merseysider to see what can be done.

Peter was a volunteer crew member on the Louise Stephens when she operated as a lifeboat in Yarmouth and Gorleston in the 1960s and his uncle was the mechanic in charge of repairs.

Peter, who sometimes missed school as a boy because he was up all night on the lifeboat, said: “Even in these uncertain times, it is important to preserve our past in order to educate both our current and our future generations.

“The issue is going to be what level of interest there actually is from local people. A lot of people say it would be nice to see it return, but how many are actually willing to get involved?”

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The boat, which is currently moored in south-east Scotland, cannot be housed in the Alfred Corry Museum but the pair are optimistic about whipping up local support to give it the home it deserves where the public can enjoy it.

John has also revealed there are two other boating enthusiasts - one who may have a trust fund specifically for these type of projects - who have got in touch following the report.

The Louise Stephens is one of the 1,000 little ships of Dunkirk that sailed from Ramsgate in England to Dunkirk in France as part of Operation Dynamo. They helped rescue more than 338,000 British and French soldiers trapped on the beaches during the second world war.

John, who has spent thousands on restoring the boat to its former glory when it saved lives on the East Coast, said: “Peter is exactly the type of person I was hoping to hear from.

“I think we have very good prospects of bringing the boat back to East Anglia, I am keen to see if we can pull it off. That would be fantastic news for the area.”

He added: “I cannot thank the Mercury enough for highlighting this, you deserve great thanks.”

The pair want to hear from people interested in helping see the boat home.

John can be contacted on 0151 6254311 or 07931 377702, or email hilbre1948@aol.com