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Royal Navy veteran takes part in maiden voyage of refurbished ‘little ship of Dunkirk’

Royal Navy veteran takes part in maiden voyage of refurbished ‘little ship of Dunkirk’

by Tom Martin (September 2021)

A ROYAL Navy veteran was invited on the maiden voyage of a refurbished boat, which was once used by the military in 1940 and played an important role in bringing back troops from Dunkirk.

Tom Morrison, who is the chairman of the Royal Naval Association in Skelmersdale, was invited on board Estrallita as she made her way from Lowestoft before docking in Portsmouth and Lymington.

Estrallita was commandeered by the Royal Navy in 1940, fitted with a gun and used as a harbour patrol boat for the duration of the Second World War when she was also one of the famous ‘little ships’ used to bring back troops from Dunkirk.

The boat was bought by Tom’s friend, Tony Billson, who also served in the Royal Navy, after he  spotted her in a “sorry state” in Ramsgate harbour.

It took Tony five years to properly restore the boat and once completed, he invited Tom as well as a third friend, Michael Hawkins, on her return to sea.

The journey also raised more than £700 for charity after the three men asked for donations for Combat Stress, which is a charity that supports veterans.

Tom, who served on board HMS Bulwark with Tony in the 1970s as a stoker, said: “Estrallita was restored to her former glory and able to return to the port she was laid up in for years and also sailed from during operation Dynamo in 1940.

“Lots of the locals remembered her and were extremely impressed at Tony’s resolve to rescue her and lovingly restore her to her former glory.

“While in Ramsgate we introduced ourselves to the local Royal Naval Association branch and they guys welcomed us with open arms as well as making a generous donation to our JustGiving page for Combat Stress.”

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