Elvin

Boat Specification
Boat Name: 
Elvin
Boat Type: 
Motor Yacht
Boat Length: 
35ft
Boat Beam: 
9ft
Boat Draft: 
6 ft
Boat Displacement: 
14.5 tons
Boat Engine: 
2 x 25hp Ford
Boat Construction: 
Pitch pine on oak
Boat Builder: 
Clapson and Sons, Barton-on-Humber
Boat Year: 
1937
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Lieut. Commander Buchanan had been invalided out of the service when war began, but on 29th May 1940, he heard on the 9 o'clock news that the Admiralty wanted enginemen for yachts and he applied at once. Next day, he went to Robinson's yard at Oulton Broad and took charge of the engines in the estuary cruiser Elvin. Her two 25hp Highlander petrol/paraffin motors needed all his skills! The crew, when they set out for Ramsgate, consisted of himself, a young Sub-Lieut. RNVR, a retired fisherman from Aberdeen, a Lowestoft longshoreman and Hackforth-Jones, a writer of yachting stories, who had served with Winston Churchill's battalion in the 1914-18 war.

They got to Ramsgate but, through some muddle, were sent back to Lowestoft, where they got fresh orders to set out for Ramsgate once more. At the second attempt they left for Dunkirk, though the authorities were very reluctant to let them go: 'civilian crew, ship too slow, flying the red ensign' - but they lost patience and cut the mooring lines when they heard a CPO say: "they're going, Sir". The Commander on the dock shrugged his shoulders and there followed a shower of first aid kits into their cockpit.

It was late in the evening on 2nd June when they left and they arrived at Dunkirk at first light. They had no charts, but simply followed the traffic and steered for the glare of the fires and the shell-bursts. The starboard engine failed on the way, but Buchanan repaired it. As soon as they could see, they went alongside the eastern pier, where a column of soldiers was drawn up. A French officer called out "combien des soldats?", but since Buchanan could not remember the French for '25', he shouted "trente", which was more than they could comfortably hold! But another was admitted when one of the French pleaded: "mon ami!" They followed an open boat, grossly over-loaded, with a whaler in tow, making for a Destroyer. The Elvin was a bit top-heavy and they were worried about capsizing. By the time they had negotiated the wreckage which littered the approaches, the Destroyer had gone, so they chased some French minesweepers, but they were too fast for them. So, in the end they headed for Ramsgate. They did not know the swept channel but, with their shallow draft, they were less concerned with mines then with flotsam. They landed 25 French and 8 British troops on the North-East wall at Ramsgate.

After the war, Elvin went to Portugal. At one time, she belonged to the Marquis of Pombal and to the chairman of a cement firm in Lisbon.

in August 2008 Elvin returned to he UK and underwent extensive restoration at a yard on the lower Thames. Elvin is now a regular attendee at ADLS events on the River.

Source: 2, 3, 4, 5, 11 & 19

Updated May 2008

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For more recent developments please see new website www.elvindunkirk.com Hywel