A small boat that managed for Churchill a kind of

triumph in may 1940, present at Palavas ( South of France).

Pierre-François PUECH Association of Dunkirk Little Ships

The small boat Aquabelle, present in Palavas (Hérault) evokes an aspect of the history of the Second
World War. This cabin cruiser ship, who was restored by the association "Les Amis de l’ Aquabelle" and
two individuals, Alain Audren and Colin Dimbylow, grand-son of the first English owner, tells how
Churchill launched, between 26 May and 4 June 1940, the repatriation of its troops at Dunkirk. On May 10,
Germany having invaded Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium, the French engaged the best of the
Allied armies in Belgium between 10 and 12 May. Then, the Germans developed the second phase of their
attack to encircle the allies by launching new troops from the Ardennes to the Channel. This offensive took
only five days to reach the Channel. The pocket of the allied forces was gradually reduced, forcing them to
the sea. The fact is that the Allied strategy that had planned the sanitary evacuation of wounded by train to
Le Tréport, had to be imperatively redefined*. Hitler's armies had swept Britain's allies out and left the
British Expeditionary Force, sent to France in September 1939, horribly exposed along the Belgian–French
border. Thousands of soldiers having retreated found their backs to the English Channel on the beaches near
to Dunkirk. Churchill was in favor of continuing the fight; the result was a flotilla of more than 800 civilian
small boats along with 220 naval vessels, crossing the English Channel.

Bagpipe of « Amicale des Anciens Marins, Marins Anciens Combattants de Montpellier et environs ».

Daily Express Friday, May 31, 1940. TENS OF THOUSANDS SAFELY HOME ALREADY Many more
coming by day and night. Ships of all sizes dare the German guns…. An armada of ships-all sizes, all
shapes-were used for crossing the Channel… Cost to the Navy of carrying out, in an inferno of bombs and
shells, one of the most magnificent operations in history has been three destroyers, some auxiliary crafts and
a small steamer.

When describing Friday 31 May 1940, Able Seaman (an unlicensed member of a merchant ship) Sam
Palmer later wrote: 'I was told off with another seaman, two ordinary seamen and two stokers, to take over
two motor yachts, the Naiad Errant (built in 1939) and the Westerly (built in 1933).' Both boats were seagoing craft built by William Osborne of Littlehampton – the port that Henry VIII had chosen for his Royal
Dockyard (John Richards, 2008. Dunkirk Revisited, Chapter II, Friday 31st May).
Among the small boats that the
British authorities had gathered was
present another ship constructed in
1939 by William Osborne: the
Aquabelle now present in Palavas.
Details in Aquabella, including her
wheel, compass binnacle, switches,
bell and gauges, are parts of the boat
historic patina © Pierre-François

L’Aquabelle, a Dunkirk Little Ship, arrives on Palavas Quay September 17, 2015 © Pierre-François Puech
If you love boats, you are in good company. My elder brother asked me to help him to build scale models
and I guard of that time a certain admiration for these boats. I am not alone with my infatuation for boats
and there is something about boats that encourages friendships. I recently met Jean-Michel Lacroute whose
hobby has been to construct and keep at home a beautiful replica of those 39” model yachts.

Jean-Michel led me to follow this magnificent yacht, the Aquabelle, built in 1939 with quality wood
(mahogany, oak and teak) for a businessman. This man was Benjamin Taylor, engineer and English patron
in the field of reinforced concrete. The family has learned that The Aquabelle had made several crossings
without assistance and had brought several boats in tow, explains Les Amis de l’Aquabelle joined by Colin
Dimbylow grand-son of Benjamin Taylor. The Aquabelle was at Fareham (Hampshire) after the war, where
Benjamin Taylor decided to redeem the ship to make a last cruise in May 1947.

Eve Puech ACPM president and Colin Dimbylow 2015 © Pierre-François Puech
* Army W mission. One criticism regarding the B.E.F. concerned the conditions of transport that demand in

war the accurate road, waterway and railway communications to avoid chaos leading to disaster. The B.E.F.
landed in France in September, 1939, and during the month’s conditions between September and the short
campaign in May, 1940 the opportunity was present for the British army (army W) to co-ordinate the
transport with French railway. The relations between the British and French high commands in 1939-1940
are particularly interesting to study. Exploring the jungle of text we have found that Lt. Col. (temp. Col.)
Richard Danvers WAGHORN WO 373/89 2483 and my gandad Alfred Puech (1881-1974) Ingénieur
Principal de la Voie had at that time a correspondence concerning the sanitary transport and means of
embarkation by rail at Le Treport (France); see Appendix.
As a historian, not everything that happened between 1939 and 1940 deserved applause but as the war
moved further Small Ship sections were created because in some occasions the small ships were the best
option, notably in the McArthur’s Southwest Pacific Area to provide transport.