Coronavirus sees cancellation of Dunkirk little ships reunion featuring Hartlepool boat that rescued 900 soldiers

A reunion of boats that took part in the evacuation of Dunkirk in the Second World War – including one restored in Hartlepool – has fallen victim to the coronavirus pandemic.

Monday, 23rd March 2020, 1:01 pm
Updated Monday, 23rd March 2020, 1:01 pm

Motor Vessel (MV) Coronaia, which has been restored at the marina by owners Graham Beesley and partner Pauline Field over the last two years, is one of only 55 surviving ‘little ships’ that played a key role in Operation Dynamo in 1940.

She was due to sail across the English Channel in May for an 80th anniversary reunion.

But due to the increasing coronavirus emergency in Europe, the event has sadly been cancelled.

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Graham Beesley alongside the MV Coronia which has been restored at Hartlepool Marina. Picture by FRANK REID

Graham said: “The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships got in touch with us to say that regrettably, due to the situation any sort of reunion in France has been cancelled for the foreseeable future.

“It’s sad but it’s one of them things. You just have to accept the situation.

“Hopefully it will go ahead at a future date but these things do take a lot of planning; 55 little ships plus a Royal Navy escort and the RNLI.

“There is talk about having a smaller reunion in Ramsgate but hasn’t been confirmed yet.”Coronia rescued 900 Allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk in three crossings.

Volunteer Tom Hind working on the MV Coronia at Hartlepool Marina. Picture by FRANK REID

She has undergone a full restoration while she has been in Hartlepool thanks to skilled volunteers working on her and other helpers raising much-needed funds.

Coronia has recently reverted to the name of HM Tender Watchful as she was called after being commandeered by the Admiralty during the war when she delivered supplies to larger warships out at sea.

Work to restore her to her former glory while in Hartlepool has included being fitted with a funnel, generator, and wheelhouse, all in its original style.

Despite not being able to take part in the Dunkirk reunion, Graham and Pauline say the work has still been worthwhile and Coronia will serve as a museum to the brave men of Dunkirk.

MV Coronia pictured in 1930s in Great Yarmouth when she worked as a pleasure vessel.

Graham added: “Apart from going into dry dock on Teesside in April for a few weeks she will stay in Hartlepool.”

Coronia is currently closed to visitors due to coronavirus.