Town's involvement in Operation Dynamo and Battle of Britain honoured
- Credit: Mick Howes
The patriotism and personal sacrifice of Lowestoft’s servicemen has been commemorated alongside the town’s involvement in a major operation.
Two new plaques have been unveiled in Lowestoft to mark the 80th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation and it being 80 years since the Battle of Britain.
With the Lowestoft Heritage Open Days Festival offering almost 120 free to explore events across town between September 10 and September 19, two special ceremonies were held during the festival.
As Lowestoft Town Council formally commemorated "wartime events which affected our town", a civic ceremony took place on South Pier as a specially commissioned plaque was dedicated to mark the 80th anniversary of evacuation of Dunkirk and the involvement of Lowestoft’s servicemen in Operation Dynamo.
A plaque was also unveiled during a separate ceremony at the Lowestoft Heritage Workshop Centre, which commemorated the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain as the loss of life of Lowestoft civilians and serviceman during air raids on the town was recognised.
Both ceremonies - held on September 11 and September 15 respectively - had been delayed from 2020 amid the continuing coronavirus crisis.
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The plaque on Lowestoft’s South Pier commemorates the town’s involvement in the nation's rescue of 338,226 members of the allied forces stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk in Operation Dynamo in May and June 1940.
Waveney MP Peter Aldous, the Mayor of Lowestoft Alan Green, Danny Steel, vice chairman of South Pier Lowestoft Ltd, Christopher Brooks, chairman of the Jack Rose Old Lowestoft Society and Lowestoft town councillor Andy Pearce were among those who spoke.
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The mayor described the wartime situation in 1940 that led to the need to evacuate allied forces from the beaches of Dunkirk and the logistical problems of bringing small boats to the French coast to achieve the rescue.
Mr Green said: “A call went out for shallow draught vessels to join the Royal Navy in a mass evacuation attempt and the legend of ‘Little Ships’ was born.
"Over 930 ships took part in the 10-day Dunkirk evacuation - 50 of these little ships came from Lowestoft.
"These included the Motor Vessel Elvin which rescued 33 soldiers at Dunkirk.”
Danny Steel recalled that his father Private Steel, a despatch rider, was evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk as part of Operation Dynamo.
He said: “There is no better place for a memorial plaque than on Lowestoft South Pier because it was through the pier heads that many of the local vessels bound for Dunkirk would have passed.”
Mr Brooks said: “I had the honour of researching the history of, and information for the plaque, and found that there was so much that one plaque was not big enough to contain all the details.
"So, another which contains the names of the vessels from Lowestoft that were involved, and a booklet have been created with further details.
"Lowestoft lifeboat ‘Michael Stephens‘ was another of the vessels involved in the evacuation.”
Cllr Pearce spoke on behalf of Robert Durrant as he told the story of Mr Durrant’s grandfather Robert Samuel Durrant, who skippered HM trawler ‘The Lord Rodney’ based mainly at Ramsgate that was noted for heroic actions at Dunkirk.
After the mayor unveiled the plaque, Gemma Eglington played ‘Last post’ before a minute’s silence was observed.
Phillip Turner, chairman of Lowestoft Royal British Legion, led the Kohima Epitaph and the ceremony concluded with prayers from Senior Superintendent Tim Jenkins.
Representatives of the ex-forces, two standard bearers, Lowestoft Town councillors, historians and the public attended the ceremony at The Heritage Centre in Wilde Score, where there were speeches before a wartime parachute - covering two plaques - was removed by the mayor.
One plaque lists the local vessels that took part in the Dunkirk evacuation as part of an Operation Dynamo Roll of Honour, while the other forms a memorial to the Lowestoft people who died in air raids during the Battle of Britain.
Mr Green said: "Sadly the Battle of Britain did not leave Lowestoft unscathed.
"In five air raids on our town between July and September 1940, 19 people lost their lives and 15 more were injured and it is those people whose names are on this plaque that we remember."