The Teddington boatyard of Tough Brothers played a prominent part in the story of Dunkirk. Here some of the hastily requisitioned boats from the upper Thames were collected, and from Teddington they set out in convoy on the first part of their journey. Tough's files record, in Douglas Tough's handwritten notes, the civilian crew, - boatmen from around London - who were assigned to individual craft and whose names crop up again and again as they served on different boats under naval command. Afterwards, some of the vessels which survived Dunkirk were towed back by Tough's watermen from Ramsgate and Margate harbour and stored, pending either requisition by the Admiralty for auxiliary service or return to the owners - if they could be found! There were some angry owners, whose boats had been used without their knowledge and they sometimes found them but could not take them back until the Admiralty decided on their future. In other cases, Tough's had the problem of tracing the owners of boats which were no longer required by the Navy. And to cap it all, the Admiralty set a deadline after which they would no longer be responsible for storage charges. The owners of Mount's wharf, where the boats were stored on behalf of Tough's, had to employ a night watchman in case of fire, caused by incendiary bombs and this prompted them to increase their charges. It took months to sort it all out.
Tough's also had many damaged vessels to repair. Some of those very same boats, perhaps with changed names, are today looked after by Bob Tough and his men, and many of the surviving Dunkirk Little Ships in the area come regularly to Tough's for maintenance. Two which came back in 1940 for repair were Tigris I and the motor yacht Minnehaha, at one time called Tigris IlI, which now belongs to Bob Tough, re-named Thamesa.
Minnehaha was designed by William McMeek for J. E. Tanner and built at Cowes in 1936. It was a conservative, businesslike design; the report of the trials did not use the complimentary adjectives like 'comfortable' and 'spacious', but instead conservative descriptions 'like 'obvious restraint' and 'sound common sense' and 'every comfort that is really seamanlike and reasonable is provided'. Her owner based her on the Solent and used her for summer cruising.
After Dunkirk, Minnehaha was found in Ramsgate harbour with her wheelhouse badly burnt and the charts used by her crew still in her chart drawer. Tough's took off the cabin and used her as a tug until 1944, when Douglas Tough bought the boat and re-converted her to a motor cruiser. With the necessary Naval clearance obtained and re-named Tigris IlI, she was one of the first yachts to visit Calais after the war. Just ten years after the evacuation, she returned to Dunkirk for the first reunion ceremony in 1950. An extensive cruiser, powerboat racer competitor and trophy winner, Thamesa once helped 'The Beatles' to avoid the crowds at the height of their popularity by taking them to Thames Television studios on the river. She had a moment in politics, when she conveyed an anti-VAT petition to Parliament, and has been used in television programmes. Bob Tough was Commodore of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships in 1986/87.