The wreckage of a boat that helped evacuate Dunkirk during the Second World War has been removed after it was left to sink in a Cambridgeshire river.

The sunken Compass Rose had been abandoned by its owner on the River Lark.

Despite repeated failed attempts by the Environment Agency to contact the owners they were forced to remove the vessel because it was blocking the river.

The Compass Rose was among the 800 small boats that took part in the wartime evacuation of Dunkirk. Credit: Environment Agency

After several years in the water, the wreck was too badly damaged to salvage and broke into pieces as it was being removed from the water by a mechanical grabber mounted on a pontoon.

The 40-foot wooden cruiser is one of a dozen vessels being removed this month as the Environment Agency seeks to clear sunken, abandoned, unregistered and illegal boats from the Rivers Nene and Great Ouse.

The Compass Rose was on the of 800 small boats that took part in the hastily arranged evacuation of allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk in May and June 1940.

“This is a sad ending for one of around 700 boats that supported a heroic, life-saving effort during the war. "It’s regrettable the Compass Rose survived that momentous event only to be left to sink nearly 80 years later.

Paul Separovic, Waterways Operations team leader at the Environment Agency
The wreckage of a sunken Dunkirk rescue vessel has been removed from the River Lark in Cambridgeshire. Credit: Environment Agency

The Environment Agency looks after more than 350 miles of navigable waterways in the Anglian network.

The rivers include the Ancholme, Black Sluice, the Glen, Welland, Nene, Great Ouse and Stour.