THE charity behind the restoration of a boat which was used to help rescue soldiers on the beaches of Dunkirk is appealing to find the hundreds it helped save.

The Vanguard Restoration Foundation hopes to restore the oyster dredger Vanguard by securing the vital £500,000 needed to have it rebuilt.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the group hopes the boat, now residing in Burnham, will get a fresh boost of Dunkirk spirit.

The aim is to get her ready for a return to Dunkirk in June 2025 to take part in celebrations marking the 85th anniversary.

Foundation spokesman Nick Skeens said: “Teaming up with Lowestoft’s International Boatbuilding Training College means we will now be able to restore Vanguard to the condition she was in when she joined two other boats from Burnham to rescue soldiers from the Dunkirk beaches. 

"We are appealing to the public to help us secure the necessary money.”

The charity has teamed up with boat college director Mike Tupper and the project cost includes scholarships so people of all ages can learn shipwright skills and take part in her restoration.

The Burnham boats Vanguard, Sea Salter and Ma Joie took 600 soldiers to safety and a search is on for the soldiers or their relatives or friends.

In May 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered private boats to go to Dunkirk to help rescue the stranded British army in a naval operation codenamed Operation Dynamo. 

The boats taking part became known as the Dunkirk Little Ships.
With her crew of fishermen, Vanguard was among the first to answer the call, sailing on May 30 alongside Sea Salter, a larger oyster dredger and the yacht Ma Joie.

Returning on the 31, Vanguard is the only surviving vessel from the trip, with the Ma Joie not returning and the Sea Salter being broken up.

Decades later, Vanguard was abandoned on Canvey Island.

Vandals set her alight twice, others ripped her planks away for firewood and she was left to rot. 

She was rescued by a group of enthusiasts who brought her home to begin the next chapter in her life. 

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