Vessel that rescued 900 troops at Dunkirk could become Hartlepool coffee shop

A ‘little ship’ that rescued 900 troops from the beaches of Dunkirk during the Second World War has arrived in Hartlepool for a major restoration.

MV Coronia was one of 700 small vessels that helped to evacuate more than 337,000 Allied soldiers after becoming pegged back by the Germans in France in 1940.

Graham Beasley on deck of former Dunkirk ship Coronia berthed in the Hartlepool Marina where it will undergo restoration. Picture by FRANK REID

Graham Beasley on deck of former Dunkirk ship Coronia berthed in the Hartlepool Marina where it will undergo restoration. Picture by FRANK REID

She and a support boat recently sailed into Hartlepool Marina where she will be berthed for the foreseeable future after being bought by Graham Beesley.

In recent years, Coronia has operated as a pleasure boat in Scarborough.

But falling passenger numbers and rising maintenance costs led to her being sold three weeks ago.

New owner Graham said: “She was falling into such disrepair the time came where, having a lot of past experience with boats and renovation, it was time to really take on the project before she got to the point of no return.

Former Dunkirk ship Coronia berthed in the Hartlepool Marina where it will undergo restoration by Graham Beasley. Picture by FRANK REID

Former Dunkirk ship Coronia berthed in the Hartlepool Marina where it will undergo restoration by Graham Beasley. Picture by FRANK REID

“Another year and she would have had to been scrapped.”

In 1940, a flotilla of small ships answered the country’s call to sail to Dunkirk to help the besieged soldiers.

At the time, Coronia was named HMS Tender Watchful carrying supplies to navy ships.

The story of the rescue operation is told in the new Christopher Nolan hit film Dunkirk.

Former Dunkirk ship Coronia berthed in the Hartlepool Marina where it will undergo restoration by Graham Beasley. Picture by FRANK REID

Former Dunkirk ship Coronia berthed in the Hartlepool Marina where it will undergo restoration by Graham Beasley. Picture by FRANK REID

Graham added: “Seven hundred little small ships sailed to Dunkirk and sadly 250 of them never returned to these shores.

“Coronia is privileged to fly the flag as a veteran of Dunkirk.”

As well as bringing 900 troops back home in two channel crossings, she also ferried more to larger vessels that were unable to get close to the beach.

One of her naval officers, Lieutenant AH Turner, received the Distinguished Conduct Service medal.

Graham Beasley at the wheel of former Dunkirk ship Coronia berthed in the Hartlepool Marina where it will undergo restoration. Picture by FRANK REID

Graham Beasley at the wheel of former Dunkirk ship Coronia berthed in the Hartlepool Marina where it will undergo restoration. Picture by FRANK REID

After the war, Coronia went to Scarborough. Since 1992 she has been used as a pleasure boat for tourists.

Graham decided to bring her to Hartlepool for her restoration because of the local expertise. The work is expected to take up to two years.

Purdy Welding and Fabrication, of Brenda Road, will do most of the steelwork.

Graham added: “We would like to raise some funds. The idea is once she is up and running to open her as a little coffee shop and for every cup one pound goes to the restoration. Our ultimate goal is to have her up and running by 2020 for the next Dunkirk reunion.”