Event Reports for 2022

9th February 2021 - "Firefly", the smallest of the Dunkirk Little Ships. A take by Penny Webb

Penny and Mark Webb came to talk about the story of their boat Firefly which is moored at Conyer, and was the smallest of the little ships involved in the Dunkirk evacuation. She was built in Leigh on Sea in 1923 by a local company who normally built fishing boats, several of which were also at Dunkirk and one of which was lost to a mine along with her crew. She is 26 feet in length and has a draught of 2 ft 10 inches which made her perfect for picking small numbers of troops off the beach and ferrying them out to waiting warships. This became even more important as The Mole from which most men were evacuated by larger ships became increasingly dangerous to use. Over 800 small craft took part in “The Nine Day Wonder” from 26th May to 4th June 1940. About 120 boats survive today. 338,226 men were rescued from the beaches of whom 100,000 were French soldiers. This stunning defeat at least averted total disaster and enabled the return to France at D-Day.
Firefly was built as a leisure yacht for her first owner Phillip Stuart Jackson Taylor as a new type of small light cruiser. He had a distinguished career in WW1 having been wounded at Gallipoli, then joining the Royal Flying Corps and becoming a squadron leader in the RAF. He later became an aide de camp to the King. In 1925 Firefly featured in a long article in Motor Boat Magazine, which Penny still has a copy of together with several photos. The article recounts a voyage when Jackson Taylor sailed her from Putney to the needles in 48 hours. Stuart Jackson Taylor was eventually killed in a plane crash on Lampedusa, whilst on his way to the Yalta conference in 1945.

Firefly’s next distinguished owner, who bought her in 1930, was William Archibald Bury. He had served in the navy during WW1 and was the engineering officer on both the Zeebrugge and Ostend raids, attempting to sink old warships in the ports and block their use. He set the charges on both occasions and was the last man to be taken off. At Zeebrugge he was badly wounded, having being shot in the leg and having a half crown blasted from his pocket through his thigh!! In memory Mark has placed a half crown under Firefly’s mast step. Perhaps he wasn’t fit enough to use Firefly as in 1931 she was sold.

She was bought by William Bowen who had served on Elco high speed launches in the Mediterranean hunting U Boats so he was well used to such craft. He moored her just off his house at Burnham on Sea. Any of you who know Burnham will know the house, 1 The Quay which is in a prominent position. He had the coach roof raised and a wheelhouse built to give some shelter and make the accommodation more comfortable. This was probably done by Priors of Burnham, a famous yacht builder’s which is still active.

In 1958 Brian Green, an Essex man, became the owner and kept her for many years, taking her on the first return trip to Dunkirk which was organised by Raymond Baxter of Tomorrows World and was the instigator of the Dunkirk Little Ships Register. Every 5 years the Little Ships return to Dunkirk and on one of Brian’s trips an elderly veteran, Dennis Kinnell, came aboard. Brian thought he was rather quiet but a few days later Brian received a letter. Dennis said as soon as he saw the stern of Firefly he remembered her as the boat that had rescued him from the Beach. He had been waiting for 2 days with no food or water. He was up to his chest in the sea in one of the long lines of men which you see in photos. A naval beach master told him and 3 others to take a wounded man on a stretcher out to Firefly and that if they could get on they could go. They all sat on the same side and nearly capsized her! Once the “skipper” [ We think William Bowen] sorted them out he pointed to a cupboard and said there was bread, butter, and water. Dennis said it was the best food he’d ever tasted. He was taken to HMS Anthony and then Dover. By the evening he was home in Dorset. We don’t know how many men Firefly rescued. Dennis died in 2007 and Mike and Penny bought Firefly in 2013. They made the trip to Dunkirk in 2015 and continue to cherish and care for Firefly, not as her owners but as her custodians. 100 years old next year, she is still giving huge pleasure and educating new generations about the events of those days, even now the last of the Dunkirk veterans have passed away.


Saturday, 12 March 2022 - QUIZ NIGHT

Included a fish and chip supper and an excellent new quizmaster (Lloyd Bowen) testing the teams. This was a very enjoyable evening supported by some wonderful raffle prizes. Generated £400 from the raffle and a further £1,065 from anonymous donations.
The Charity: The Faversham branch of the St Vincent de Paul charity, part of an international Christian voluntary network dedicated to tackling poverty in all its forms by providing practical assistance to people in need of all backgrounds. The Faversham Branch covers Swale and can be approached for help through https://www.whitefriarsfaversham.org/


Sunday, 27 March - "Calving Day" at Kingsdown Farm.
Followed by tea/coffee and biscuits in the barn.
Wellies were recommended! More than forty people joined Neil Anderson to meet and learn about his cows and calves. Very touching and great to be together again!


Wednesday 27 April - "Stephen and Matilda. One woman's quest for the throne of England in the 12th century".
An illustrated talk by James Dickinson, who told the story of one woman’s quest for the throne of England in the 12th century.

Matilda was the only legitimate heir of her father, King Henry I, when he died in 1135. But rather than proclaiming her as their Queen, the barons acclaimed her cousin Stephen as King. The talk showed her determined quest to correct this wrong. Matilda was a formidable personality, and had to be to prevail in a wholly male-dominated age.

Initially she had been married to the Holy Roman Emperor and was known throughout her life as the Empress. She crossed to England to challenge Stephen for the throne. She rallied forces to her side and Stephen was defeated and captured in battle. On the verge of becoming Queen the people of London refused to accept her, since they thought she was an unduly arrogant and over-bearing woman. The tables were quickly turned in Stephen’s favour. He cornered Matilda in Oxford. She was only just able to evade capture herself by crossing the snow and ice at night to rejoin her own forces.

She then withdrew to the continent, but ensured that her cause was carried on by her eldest son, Henry of Anjou, who, on Stephen’s death became King of England and founder of the great Plantagenet dynasty.


 

 

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