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Neutral Ireland and Dunkirk

by Ken Kingston

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Contributed by 
Ken Kingston
People in story: 
Irish Marine Service Crew
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
27 September 2005

Towards the end of May, 1940, a crew of the fledgling Irish Marine Service arrived in Hampshire to collect the second Vosper Motor Torpedo Boat ordered from Thornycroft by neutral Ireland.
As Operation Dynamo had just been instigated, signing over the craft was delayed until after the evacuation. Thornycroft personnel operated the boat to and from Dunkirk, with a volunteer Irish naval crew on board. The sailors wore a blue and yellow thread version of the Irish Defence Forces badge, the centrepiece being the interlocking letters "FF". The cap tally did not yet bear the current Irish Navy title "Eire" and evacuees are said to have interpreted the badge as the initials of the Free French. After the evacuation, the first (though unofficial) action by neutral Ireland's navy completed, the Irish crew obtained possession of the craft and sailed it to Ireland, where it served with the Irish Navy until 1952.
The members and crew are all deceased but the Irish National Services Museum Association is really eager to contact any surviving Thornycroft personnel or evacuees who were on this boat, descendants of either or anyone who may have more information on the part played by this crew in Operation Dynamo.

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Message 1 - Ireland and Dunkirk

Posted on: 07 January 2006 by sgt_george

Interesting story Ken. Check out this site, which appears to be a discussion forum on "Neutral Ireland's" pro-allies involvement in WW2. links

I have a good quality photo of MTB 1 that may interest you.
Best of luck with your research.


Message 2 - Ireland and Dunkirk

Posted on: 09 January 2006 by Ken Kingston

Dear D.G.,
Thanks for the info on the site--extremely interesting. Had not heard of it before.
The photo of MTB1 would be greatly appreciated, if you could send it to
me at
Failing that, a copy to me at 6 The Windings, Middlewich, Cheshire CW10 9GW.
Thanks, again.
Ken Kingston.


Message 3 - Ireland and Dunkirk

Posted on: 09 January 2006 by sgt_george

Glad to learn you find the link interesting, I discovered it by chance when net surfing. Will be only too happy to send you on the MTB 1 picture. I know I have it somewhere but it will take a short time to find it again. I have copied your contact details for reference, so if you like to edit them out to preserve your anonymity you can do so.
In the meantime you may like to read my other contributions to this archive, some of which are Ireland based.
David G.


Message 4 - Ireland and Dunkirk

Posted on: 16 January 2006 by sgt_george

Hello again Ken,
Methinks you are going to find this interesting!
I was in casual conversation recently with an acquaintance who has an interest in matters WW2 and told him about your story regarding the presence of Irish Naval personnel at Dunkirk. He related to me as follows;
‘On or about the time of Operation Dynamo crews of the Irish Naval Service were co-incidentally sent to England to collect 3 MTBs, which had been ordered previously by the government of Ireland. The company from which they were to be collected did not release the vessels as they were to be used as part of the evacuation fleet. Two of the vessels were crewed by staff from the manufacturers and evacuated servicemen from France. The third was crewed by all or some of the Irish sailors who succeeded in making two evacuation trips in uniform and under the green-white-orange tricolour. They were interviewed on their eventual return to Ireland and a record of the interviews is on record in an archive somewhere’
I will make some further inquiries as to this archive and let you know the outcome.


Message 5 - Ireland and Dunkirk

Posted on: 16 January 2006 by Ken Kingston

Dear David,
Thanks for your latest info. Yes, I am extremely interested in the fact that there may be something on archive. The Irish Military Archives do not have anything on file, as it did not officially happen, so I'm told, though people there believe that it did happen. I was told it would be difficult to find anything and the person who started me off on this was correct. If your contact can remember anything further, it could be the break-through I have been waiting for.It is nice to know I am not on a trip nowhere with this.
Further info. on this would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks, again.

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