Ben & Lucy and Sarah Hide — Key Boats During the Dunkirk Mission

The last issue of the newsletter had a lot of Dunkirk-related information. Two of the boats that played a significant role in the Leigh boats' Dunkirk experience were the slightly larger vessels into which the cocklers were decanting the men they’d rescued from the beaches and the mole.

The Ben and Lucy was a wooden steam drifter, while the Sarah Hide was a steel drifter/ trawler. The boats had a fair amount in common.  Some digging by Rob Everitt and Fraser Marshall led to us finding photos of these boats and some more information. Drifting and trawling are similar techniques, hence the Sarah Hide being suitable for both, but in drifting, the deployed nets are carried by the currents and air, whereas in trawling, the boat is under engine. Drifting in the North Sea usually caught herring, trawling caught cod, plaice, skate and haddock.

The Ben and Lucy (above) was a wooden steam drifter, build in 1910 in Lowestoft for BK Reynolds. She was 38 net tons and 84 feet long.

Skipper William Whatling (right). Photo - John Greenacre

She was in Admiralty service during the First World War as a minesweeper and anti-submarine net vessel. She returned to civilian life in 1919. In 1939 she was again requisitioned for war service with pennant number FY 1511, and as we know, she ended up going to Dunkirk and is recorded as having taken 400 men back home, as well as towing Endeavour back to Ramsgate after her rudder had been smashed.

The Ben and Lucy's skipper at Dunkirk was RNR officer William Whatling, appointed to her the previous November, and who stayed in command until he was posted back to HMS Europa (Lowestoft central depot for the Royal Naval Patrol Service, which was responsible for minesweeping around the coast of Britain) in early 1942. Whatling's grandson is Dr John Greenacre, a history lecturer at the University of Suffolk, and John came down to Leigh in 2017 to see Endeavour.

The Ben and Lucy was sold to new owners in Norway. In 1956, she was scrapped. 


 The Sarah Hide LT 1157, a 68 net ton, 103  foot-long steel drifter/trawler, was build in 1937 by Duthie Torry in Aberdeen and was originally the Arthur Couldby, the name of the Lowestoft-based fisherman that commissioned her. She changed name in 1937.

She was requisitioned as a minesweeper by the Royal Navy in November 1939, and operated out of Dover.

It appears that the Sarah Hide only went over to Dunkirk on the one day—June 1st—that the Leigh boats were also there. Records show that she landed 90 troops at Ramsgate. However, like many smaller vessels, it’s entirely possible that she ferried many more to larger vessels in deeper water, and the 90 would be those on board when she returned to England.

After the war, she was returned to her owners and continued to fish from Lowestoft. In 1947 she was in a collision with a vessel named Strive, and in 1949, she became grounded between the entrance piers in Lowestoft. She met her end in 1955, just three years after her mortgage was paid off,  being sold to breakers in Antwerp.

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