Elizabeth Green

Boat Specification
Boat Name: 
Elizabeth Green
Boat Type: 
Motor Yacht
Boat Length: 
43ft 6ins
Boat Beam: 
12ft 6ins
Boat Draft: 
3ft 6ins
Boat Displacement: 
18.18 tons
Boat Engine: 
2 x Morris petrol
Boat Construction: 
Pitch pine on oak
Boat Builder: 
H Milland, Twickenham
Boat Year: 
1935

Elizabeth Green was one of the first of the privately owned rescue ships to help in the evacuation of Dunkirk and on her second trip she was one of the last to leave. Her role is exceptionally well documented. Not many of the skippers - especially the young naval crews hastily detailed to command these unfamiliar and unarmed civilian vessels, kept a detailed log. But Sub-Lieutenant E. T. Garside, RNVR, compiled an hour-by-hour account of his first nine days of active service. Not that he was ever likely to forget it.

It all started at 1805 on 28th May 1940 when he left Sheerness Basin with a crew of one seaman and two stokers, towing a whaler and bound for Dover. He lost touch with his convoy when his engine failed but they were able to repair it. Next morning they refuelled and left for Dunkirk, where they arrived at 1530 amid heavy enemy bombardment. They were sent on to La Panne beach where they began towing whalers full of troops to off-lying ships. At 1600 they saw the paddle steamer Crested Eagle go down. At 1800 the Viewfinder was dragged ashore by Belgian troops and she was never refloated. At 1900 the Hanora fouled her propeller and was abandoned. Elizabeth Green picked up her crew and transferred them to the minesweeper Lydd. Finally, at 2120 they left La Panne with a full load in company with the motor yacht Advance.

They encountered thick fog on the way and anchored in Pegwell Bay before entering Ramsgate at 0650 having spent thirty-six hours at sea and off the beaches without rest. Sub-Lieut. Garside then made another journey to Dunkirk in the RAF launch Andover II. But on 4th June he was again assigned to Elizabeth Green and, at 1600, left Ramsgate with a crew of four seamen and an interpreter, sent to rescue some of the remaining French soldiers marooned at the end of Dunkirk jetty. The tug Rania, towed Elizabeth Green together with the Clacton lifeboat. By 2150 the tow-rope had parted and they proceeded under their own power.

This was the last night of the evacuation and conditions were appalling. Officers and men on the ships not only had the hazards of constant air attack, shelling and mines to contend with, but they went for days without sleep and proper food. Near the French coast the water was full of debris, stranded and sinking ships and bodies. Vessels of all sizes, some of them with their steering disabled, were coming and going, often manoeuvering dangerously to evade attacks from the air, from German E-boats and each other. Collisions were frequent and were followed by a frantic scramble to pick up survivors.

Elizabeth Green got through to the Quai Jules Faure in Dunkirk harbour. She carried with her from England a 30-rung ladder which, as one of her crew, stoker D.R. Nichol reported, they placed from their deck to the sea wall to help twenty or so Frenchmen to climb down to them. On the way home their engine seized up but they succeeded in restarting it and shaped course for Ramsgate. The sea conditions deteriorated a little and the French officer in charge of the troops announced that they wished to be sick. "I handed them a plate each and hoped for the best. My hopes were ill-founded and I had a ghastly time clearing up the mess!" But their troubles were not yet over. Within an hour their engine died again off Broadstairs. They repaired it and finally arrived at Sheerness at 1530, twenty four hours after they set out for Dunkirk, with virtually no food or sleep. Lieutenant Garside, whose third trip this was, 'behaved with exemplary courage and coolness' and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Elizabeth Green ended her war on mine-spotting duties and was often berthed in Sheerness at the same pier that was used by HMS MMS 41, a minesweeper commanded by Lt. Commander E. T. Garside DSC. After the war Elizabeth Green was bought by the late John Knight, then the Hon. Archivist and a past Commodore of the A.D.L.S. and appeared in a TV programme about Dunkirk.

Source: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 11 & 19

Updated: 28/09/99