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New film about Dunkirk shines a light on the little boats from Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 16:27 17 July 2017 | UPDATED: 09:13 18 July 2017

The Lucy Lavers returns to port at Wells Quay after its anniversary of Dunkirk trip - The Lucy Lavers comes sails into Wells Quay. Picture: Matthew Usher.

The Lucy Lavers returns to port at Wells Quay after its anniversary of Dunkirk trip - The Lucy Lavers comes sails into Wells Quay. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2015

A highly-anticipated blockbuster film about the Dunkirk evacuation is set to hit cinemas this month and the filmmakers have attempted to show all sides to the massive rescue effort, including the role played by civilian boats, some of which came from East Anglia.

Lucy Lavers being launched at Aldeburgh Lucy Lavers being launched at Aldeburgh

Between May 26 and June 4, 1940, more than 300,000 British and Allied troops had been cut off and surrounded by the German army during the Battle of France and they stood on the shores of Dunkirk in desperate need of rescue.

Small vessels from all over the south of England were encouraged to cross the Channel and aid the evacuation, known as Operation Dynamo, and among them was the newly-built Aldeburgh lifeboat, named Lucy Lavers.

The Lucy Lavers was restored and brought back into use two years ago by the charity Rescue Wooden Boats, based in Stiffkey, near Wells.

Trustee Wendy Pritchard said: “She was in Dunkirk towards the latter part of Operation Dynamo so the people she rescued probably included some French soldiers.

Some of the exhibits on display at the Rescue Wooden Boats Museum at Stiffkey - An old photo of the Lucy Lavers lifeboat. Picture: Matthew Usher. Some of the exhibits on display at the Rescue Wooden Boats Museum at Stiffkey - An old photo of the Lucy Lavers lifeboat. Picture: Matthew Usher.

“There are no records of who was on which boat. We know the policy was to ‘save the army’ so they wanted fighting men back, so some badly injured ones were probably left.

“There might be something in naval officers’ personal accounts held by their families, but very few of them are left now, and very few of the survivors either.”

Rescue Wooden Boats will screen an hour-long film about the Lucy Lavers in August. It will focus on how the lifeboat made a commemorative journey from Wells to Dunkirk in May 2015, 75 years after the evacuation.

Ms Pritchard added: “The RNLI has recently commissioned some photos of Lucy Lavers as the ‘poster girl’ for their forthcoming publicity on the role lifeboats played in Dunkirk in light of the forthcoming film.

“Dunkirk was a turning point in the war, probably turning Britain from defeat to success, and it was an extraordinary operation set up in a very short space of time - the little ships are an evocative story.”

You can book tickets to see the new Lucy Lavers documentary or take a trip aboard, by going to the Rescue Wooden Boats website. The film Dunkirk is released on July 21.

More: Norfolk’s Dunkirk little ship Lucy Lavers returns home to Wells

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