Type: Motor Yacht
Beam: 9ft 6ins
Draft: 2ft 9ins
Displacement: 8 tons approx.
Engine: Main - Perkins 4-107 Diesel, wing - Beta Marine BD
Construction: Pitch pine on oak
Builder: Rampart, Southampton
Listening to the stories of those who own Dunkirk Little Ships, again and again you find that they did not know of their involvement in 'Operation Dynamo' when they first bought their ship. When Len Jones saw a lovely 1936 Rampart cruiser advertised for sale in 'Exchange & Mart', he bought her just to potter about on the Thames with occasional brief excursions round the coast. When Len died, she became the property of his son Simon.
The ship's original name was Kitty when a Mr. Beech had her built in 1936 and she had already passed on to a Mr. Wilkinson when she went to Dunkirk to lift troops from the beaches and take them to the transport ships off-shore.
After the war her name was changed again to Zena and she had a number of owners, one of whom, Leonard Fierstone, restored her extensively in the 1960s. He replaced her two petrol engines with a 47hp Perkins and a 7hp Volvo diesel when he went through the French and Dutch canals to the south of France. There he opened a boat-building yard and chandlery business.
He always brought her back to the Thames and it was at Harleyford Marina that Mr. and Mrs. P.E. Caspari bought her in very good condition in 1975. They never went further than the Thames and had her kept in immaculate condition.
Soon after Len Jones bought her in 1979, he met the owner of the Dunkirk Little Ship 'Latona' who identified Aureol as a boat called Kitty, which also took part in 'Operation Dynamo'. Len was thrilled and got in touch with the late John Knight, the Hon. Archivist of the ADLS, to get the story verified.
John Knight took immense trouble to double-check the history of every boat against all information available in Naval and MOD records, the files in the Imperial War Museum and his own extensive library of war books. Only when he was convinced of their authenticity were ships allowed to join the Association. Aureol was admitted and Simon Jones now takes Aureol to most ADLS Rallies and events.
Sadly, when they were on their way to Dunkirk for the 45th Anniversary Rally, Aureol threw a tantrum and her main engine's gearbox broke just outside Dover. Nevertheless, she was given her brass commemorative plaque for effort! Since then, Aureol has successfully made the trip to Dunkirk on the 1990, 1995 and 2000 Returns.
Preparation for the 2000 Return took several years, beginning in 1997 when the cracked oak ribs on the port side of the hull were replaced, and an iron band was attached to the underside of the keel to stabilise the hull and improve ballast trim. At the same time, Aureol's wing engine was replaced by a modern three-cylinder 20HP Japanese diesel.
In 1999, remaining cracked ribs on the starboard side were replaced and Aureol's appearance was greatly enhanced by a new and improved design of wheelhouse. Modern epoxy glue boat-building techniques have allowed a taller, stronger wheelhouse with larger windows and much better visibility. The design is a happy blend of modern curvaceous styling with more traditional touches such as a V-shaped opening front window panel.
(Note that, when launched in 1936, Aureol would not have had not have had a wheelhouse. From the image gallery, you can see the developments in the design of the wheelhouse: from launch, through the 1960s to the most recent shot taken during the 2000 crossing to Dunkirk.)
As with all ADLS boats, maintenance is a constant process. Plans are already in hand for the 2005 Return and for more extensive coastal cruising in the meantime. The most important need is to upgrade the rapidly aging main diesel - although the engine itself is in good working order, it is becoming increasingly difficult to replace ancillary parts such as the cooling system and electrics. Simon is also finding that, as he puts it: "I need a more powerful engine".
Creature comforts are always last on the list. However, the plans do include a re-fit of the galley and the never-ending job of painting and varnishing inside.
Under the stewardship of the Jones family, Aureol has slowly moved down the Thames from Wallingford to Cookham and is now moored at Weybridge. She regularly cruises the Thames during the summer months, and appears at every Thames Traditional Boat Rally.
Simon is a member of the Rampart Owners Club, which was initiated in 1999 by the descendants of the family who founded the original Rampart business. Aureol is a "No. 8" design and as the first boat built in 1936, is one of the smallest and oldest boats represented in the Rampart Owners Club.