Dunkirk little ship turned Chichester houseboat lost in boatyard blaze

The Vere, built in 1905, rescued 346 men from Dunkirk in 1940, and then became a houseboat on Chichester canal. Issued by the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships
The Vere, built in 1905, rescued 346 men from Dunkirk in 1940, and then became a houseboat on Chichester canal. Issued by the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships

A Dunkirk ‘little ship’ being restored after spending 40 years as a houseboat on Chichester canal was one of dozens of vessels destroyed in a major boatyard fire.

One of the casualties of the fire, at Medina Village, Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, on Monday was the Vere, one of only about 100 remaining vessels of the operation to rescue servicemen from Dunkirk in the Second World War.

The 1905 cruiser, which was used to rescue 346 men from the French beaches in 1940, was undergoing restoration work at the boatyard.

Jason Carley from the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships, said: “To lose a Dunkirk little ship in circumstances like this is terribly sad.”

“Vere survived two world wars and was one of the few little ships skippered by her owner at Dunkirk.

“With only just over 100 little ships still remaining and even fewer afloat, the loss of any of them is a real tragedy.”

After the war, Vere had a number of owners and spent over 40 years on the Chichester Canal as a houseboat.

One of her owners, a schoolmaster who inherited her from his father, discovered while carrying out restoration work two German machine-gun bullets embedded in her frame.

Ten years ago she sank in shallow water in the canal because of substantial damage from water penetration.

She was raised by the Receiver of Wreck and was about to be broken up when a group of maritime enthusiasts rescued her and removed her to the Isle of Wight.

Also destroyed in the fire were racing yachts being stored for a regatta in the spring.

Seven fire engines from the island fought the blaze and four further appliances from Hampshire were brought in to assist.

Nobody was injured in the blaze, although nearby residents were evacuated from their homes.

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