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Dunkirk Little Ships gather for rescue anniversary

Little Ships gather before their voyage across the Channel Credit: PA

Some of the wooden boats which helped rescue more than 338,000 British soldiers trapped on the beaches in northern France in the Second World War will leave for Dunkirk today.

Nineteen Dunkirk Little Ships have arrived at Royal Victoria Dock in east London, part of a fleet of around 55 boats crossing the Channel this week to help mark the historic episode in the Second World War.

Poor weather means the boats will have to leave by 11am today, two days ahead of schedule, in order to ensure both the crews and the vessels are safe.

The plan is to head to Ramsgate in Kent for commemoration events, before crossing the Channel.

It's the 75th anniversary of Operation Dynamo Credit: PA

Ian Gilbert, commodore of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships, said there is huge pride in being involved in the event, which marks the 75th anniversary of the great rescue - dubbed Operation Dynamo.

"As we go further away from 1940 the little ships become the sole living reminder of Operation Dynamo which resulted in the phrase 'the Dunkirk spirit'.

"The little ships represent that and there are very few veterans left who can tell that story, but the ships help with that. I think it gives us all a sense of pride and purpose."

– Ian Gilbert, Assn, Dunkirk Little Ships
The ships will gather in Ramsgate before crossing the Channel Credit: PA

All the boats are British-made, average around 80 years old and were built in an area that marked the "zenith of boat building", according to Mr Gilbert.

He added that it is "a wonderful privilege" to own and sail on the boats which were part of something "so unique and important".

The association makes the journey with the historic boats every five years.