Boat Specification
Boat Name: 
Boat Type: 
Auxiliary Cutter
Boat Length: 
Boat Beam: 
8ft 2ins
Boat Draft: 
5ft 7ins
Boat Displacement: 
Not known
Boat Engine: 
Hylland 4cyl petrol
Boat Construction: 
Boat Builder: 
Cockerel Cruisers
Boat Year: 

In the 1930s they built some beautiful simple sailing boats, with none of today's gadgets to go wrong. But these craft demanded true sailing skills and fortitude from the people who sailed in them.

Polly had not been found when the book about the Little Ships of Dunkirk was written in 1989, but soon after it was published we had a letter from the son of one of Polly's crew. His father appears as part owner in the 1936 Lloyd's Register of Yachts, but that was later disputed by the other listed owner. The letter told us all about Polly's exploits before she was taken to Dunkirk.

Peter Berlanny sent us the logs of their 1932 voyages. One of them describes how Berlanny senior and his friends met at Paddington to catch the train to the West Country, the Skipper, Leslie Knopp (Methusalah) had a book on navigation to his credit. His son David (called Slops - I don't know why), S. Berlanny (nicknamed Slushy, in reference to his cooking) was an accountant and P. Saunders, a lawyer was given the name Stinks, because of his interest in the engine, which didn't always work and was frowned on by true sailors, even for manoeuvering in harbour. It was November and the passage from Falmouth to the Solent was eventful, to say the least. There was a Northerly gale and apart from seasickness and a recalcitrant paraffin stove, which produced an evil tasting form of tea, they lost their dinghy and eventually the rudder. Undeterred they trimmed the sails to hold a course clear of the Portland Race and were eventually towed into Weymouth by Hanna of Poole, owned by the famous Capt. O.M. Watts. By then the press had got hold of their story and they featured in next morning's paper.

Leslie Knopp sold Polly in 1938 and she belonged to J.D. Shanahan when she was called to serve her country at Dunkirk in May 1940. Then, because of her wooden hull, she was used as a minesweeper until, one day when she was tied up on a jetty, a Naval vessel ran into her and smashed her to pieces. So Polly is no more. And in the time it took for her story to reach us, all her delightful and gallant crew have gone with her. But, at least, these lines and her slightly blurred photograph will keep alive the memory of the pleasure she gave in peace and the part she played in the darkest days of the war.

This vessel is one featured individually on a series of stamps called 'Little Ships of Dunkirk'. These were issued in Palau in 2015 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Op. Dynamo.

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

Updated April 2018