A day of celebrations took place in Hastings Old Town on Saturday (May 26) when the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports raised the flag on the Cyril and Lilian Bishop lifeboat in honour of the role she played in rescuing troops from the beaches of Dunkirk.
Following a short service and blessing of the flag at the lifeboat station, there was a procession up All Saints Street, which was closed to traffic, to the site where the lifeboat is on display. Lord Boyce gave a dedication speech and raised the flag. Also, local group Jiggery Pokery performed their song ‘The Ghost of Dunkirk’.
Dee Day White, who was instrumental in bringing the historic lifeboat back home to Hastings, explained how she gained the name ‘The Ghost of Dunkirk’.
He said: “On May 30 1940 the call went out from the admiralty asking all small ships with a shallow draft, capable of going in close ashore, to make their way to Dover and Ramsgate. “The lifeboat was towed to the Dunkirk beach by a tug called Foremost 87, then took part in what was to be known as Operation Dynamo. Trapped on the beach were 380,000 British troops along with French and Belgium troops, surrounded by the German army, with no cover, toilets or food and the only hope of escape from the sea. “The tide at Dunkirk, like Camber Sands, goes out over a mile.
Men marched into the sea, up to their chests and stood in a queue, walking in and out with the tide, waiting to be saved by the little ships, which ferried them to the Navy boats laying off shore. It was a shuttle service being operated 24 hours a day. “The Cyril and Lilian Bishop could carry 25 - 30 soldiers at a time with her Royal Navy crew supervising and went back and forth for four days and nights under fire from enemy aircraft. “We know she was hit twice with two bullet holes in her forward top box, and a large hole in her bow.
“One young soldier was given permission to swim a mile off-shore to the Navy boats early one morning. He went under the cover of mist and smoke from the burning Dunkirk and said: “I saw a red, white and blue lifeboat come out of the mist like a ghost and christened her The Ghost of Dunkirk” This name has stuck.”
A video filmed on June 17 2017 when the Ghost of Dunkirk was moved to its final resting place can be viewed here: https://www.hastingsobserver.co.uk/news/video-lord-warden-to-raise-lifeboat-flag-1-8509142