Date Posted: 31/Oct/2011 15:00
By: Tessa Hawley
By: Tessa Hawley
THE anchor of a Steam Packet ship that was lost to enemy action in Dunkirk has been returned to the Isle of Man.
Members of the Ellan Vannin Pipe Band serenaded the anchor from the Mona’s Queen as it disembarked from the Ben-my-Chree this morning (Monday).
The anchor was raised last year as part of the 70th anniversary commemorations of Operation Dynamo – the historic rescue of allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk by the British.
Mona’s Queen was one of three ships that the Steam Packet lost in the space of 24 hours on May 29, 1940.
Along with the King Orry and Fenella the Mona’s Queen was responsible for helping to bring 24,669 soldiers to safety during the evacuation. Of the 338,226 troops rescued one in 14 was brought out on a Steam Packet vessel.
The initiative to raise and bring back the Mona’s Queen anchor was spearheaded by the late Steam Packet captain Andrew Douglas and was carried forward after his death by Hamish Ross, the chairman of Sea Breezes Publications and former managing director of the Steam Packet Company.
Hamish said: “I think it is quite an emotional occasion. It’s wonderful that the anchor from the Mona’s Queen which was sunk way back on May 29, 1940, has returned to the Island.
“This is the next step really in establishing a memorial to the men and ships of the Steam Packet that gave so much in the Second World War.
“I think it is so important because the Isle of Man has a prime maritime heritage. The retreat from Dunkirk and the contribution of the Steam Packet ships is a huge part of that and it’s a story that should be told way into the future.
“It gives people an understanding, not just young people but people of any age, of the sacrifices that have been made to ensure that we enjoy the freedoms we have today.
“The late Captain Andrew Douglas did so much to initially drive this forward but there have been many people involved. We got tremendous help from the French authorities, French Navy, French civil authorities responsible for voyage and wreckage, the diving club of Dunkirk and indeed the Mayor of Dunkirk.
“What shouldn’t be forgotten in all this is that is the town of Dunkirk suffered terribly during Operation Dynamo – the town was virtually flattened. Dunkirk as a town was virtually the first French city to be bombarded by the Germans and the last French city to be liberated.
“So while we are marking this we should also remember the tremendous sacrifice made by the French and Dunkirk. I hope this will be the start of an on-going relationship between Dunkirk and the Isle of Man because we share so much.”
The anchor from the Mona’s Queen was transported from Dunkirk by Manx Independent Carriers and was restored by Cammell Laird in Birkenhead which is where the ship was originally built in 1934.
The anchor will be located at Kallow Point in Port St Mary to serve as a permanent memorial to all of the Isle of Man Steam Packet crew who took part in World War Two and the thousands of soldiers who gave their lives.
Hamish continued: “I think it could have gone to many places in the Island and many super sites. Of course many crew from all over the Island sailed in Steam Packet ships but there have been many Port St Mary men sail with the Steam Packet over the years.
“In many ways it’s very apt that it is going to Kallow Point in Port St Mary. It is a beautiful point looking out to sea and it will just be a very fitting place for such a memorial.”
Mark Woodward, the chief executive of the Steam Packet Company, said: “From the Steam Packet’s point of view and the Island’s point of view we should be proud we’ve got at least a part of the ship back that served the Island and indeed the wider part of the UK.”
Port St Mary Commissioners hope to have the anchor in place by May next year, subject to planning approval, and plan to hold an event each year to mark the anniversary of Operation Dynamo.
Mark continued: “We had to find a place for a permanent memorial. It could have been in Douglas but we are very conscious that there are already quite a few different memorials in Douglas. I think from our point of view, and certainly from my point of view, I felt Kallow Point in Port St Mary was a beautiful, scenic and very quiet spot.
“Port St Mary Commissioners have made it clear they would like an annual memorial service to be held and obviously Kallow Point would be a beautiful point at which to do that. I think that’s part and parcel of the celebration going forward. I know that the commissioners plan to involve school children in services of remembrance on an annual basis and for me that is very important.”