Thieves break into Dunkirk ship being restored in Hartlepool and steal volunteers' tools
The owner of a boat that rescued 900 troops from Dunkirk during the Second World War has told of his disappointment after it was broken into at Hartlepool marina.
Thieves forced their way into the Coronia overnight on Tuesday and stole tools that were used by volunteers to restore her to her former glory,.
She was one of 700 'little ships' that famously helped to evacuate more than 337,000 stranded Allied soldiers from Dunkirk in France in 1940 after retreating from the Nazis.
The Coronia arrived in Hartlepool just over a year ago and is currently birthed at Navigation Point on the marina where volunteers are restoring her ready for 202's Dunkirk reunion.
Owner Graham Beesley said: "On Wednesday morning when volunteers turned up to do some more work they noticed the door had been forced on what we call the tool room.
"It is a bit of a draw back. They are tools that the lads bring down ourselves. They are all retired tradesmen and volunteers who are working on her.
"It's a bit annoying to say the least."
Graham said the break in has been reported to police and local CCTV has been checked.
Coronia successfully brought 900 Allied soldiers safely back to Britain from Dunkirk in two crossings of the channel and carried more to larger ships that were unable to get close enough to the beach.
One of her naval officers, Lieutenant AH Turner, received the Distinguished Conduct Service medal. Out of 750 small crafts that answered the country's call to help the rescue effort, only 250 safely returned.
Coronia came to Hartlepool just over a year ago after being bought by Graham. She had previously operated as a pleasure boat in Scarborough for a number of years but fell into disrepair and was facing the scrap heap.
Graham brought her to Hartlepool to take advantage of local maritime expertise.
He added: "The restoration work is going on steadily and is all on schedule. She is starting to take shape again.
"The goal is to take her to the 2020 Dunkirk reunion for every ship still sailing."
The general public is welcome to visit the Coronia to see the work, have a coffee and, if they wish, leave a donation to the restoration work.
Hartlepool's Phoenix Variety Showgroup are holding a fundraiser for the restoration work at the Smallcrafts Club on Friday, November 17.