In light of the recent Covid-19 virus, it is regretful that the ADLS committee has taken the decision to postpone the 80th anniversary. Please read the below statement from the flag officers for further information.



As a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships (ADLS) has decided to postpone the Return to Dunkirk in May, 2020. 

We very much regret the decision but hope it will be understood that the scale of the pandemic makes it impossible to plan for the event and puts participants at risk.

Commodore Simon Palmer said “Not only do we have to consider the seaworthiness of our Little Ships, all of which are well over the age of 80, but also the safety of our crews. It became clear that the boats might be in better condition than some of our crews by the time we came to cross the Channel”.

The Association is actively looking at the possibility of making the Return in 2021.

The ADLS has organised Commemorative Returns to Dunkirk since 1965. This year up to 76 Little Ships planned to cross the Channel to Dunkirk from Ramsgate. The flotilla would have taken Royal Navy ratings and been accompanied by Royal Navy vessels. The Belgian and French would have had a military vessels in attendance.

In Dunkirk the City authorities had planned a number of memorial events to mark this important event in their calendar. It is hoped that the return in 2021 will attract the same interest and support both in the UK and with our allies in France and Belgium.

Ian Gilbert, the Rear Admiral ADLS said ‘It is extremely sad that we have had to make the decision to postpone Dunkirk80; a huge amount of work has already gone into the arrangements both here and in Dunkirk, and many hours have been devoted to the preparation of the Little Ships for this Commemorative crossing. It is only the second time we have not sailed since the first return in 1965’.

The ADLS is looking forward to events later in their calendar, especially the Annual Veterans Cruise weekend 12 & 13 September based at the Thames Motor Yacht Club at Hampton Court.

For further information regarding the ADLS please contact:

Mick Gentry

Public Relations Officer ADLS


Simon Palmer

Commodore ADLS




To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation the Little Ships will be returning to the city, as they do every five years.

It is expected that more than 70 Little Ships will assemble in Ramsgate from all corners of the UK. The furthest distance covered will be by Chico which is coming down from the Scottish Isles. Some vessels will travel to Dunkirk from France and Belgium.

The fleet will be accompanied by three Royal Navy patrol craft, the Ramsgate lifeboat and six Nelson safety vessels.

On 20th May visitors will be able to see the fleet assembled in the Royal Harbour from 1400 - 1600.

We hope to set off from Ramsgate from 0600 on Thursday 21st May. The fleet will turn to cross the shipping lanes and then run up to Dunkirk, arriving eight hours later.

Visitors to Dunkirk will be able to participate in events put on by the City and the Association. Highlights include:-

  • 22nd May at 1100. Commemoration at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in Dunkirk

  • 23rd May at 1100. Ceremony. 80th Anniversary of Operation Dynamo at Allied Monument on the beach at Dunkirk

  • 24th May at 1100. Dockside service in front of the Little Ships in the Bassin Du Commerce 

On the Bank Holiday Monday, 25th May, the Little Ships will depart from Dunkirk for their return to Ramsgate, arriving at teatime in the harbour.

As the vessels are all over 80 years old you will understand that they have to be treated gently and so the plans are subject to the weather being kind. If the departure is postponed on 21st May then it can go ahead on 22nd or 23rd May.





Q. How can I participate in the event if I do not own a Dunkirk Little Ship?

A. The Association is made up of a group of private vessels. The Association cannot  place members of the public onto any vessels.

Q. A family member (Father, Grandfather etc.) took part in Operation Dynamo, can they be a part of the Return events?

A. We love meeting new Veterans, especially as the numbers are dwindling rapidly, however, it has been decided that we will not take veterans on the crossing with the Little Ships this time for safety reasons. If any Veterans do come across of their own accord they will of course be welcome to visit the Little Ships. 

Q. Can I take my boat over to support the Little Ships? 

A. We are delighted that so many people would like to support the DLS, whilst the crossing itself is restricted to the DLS, Royal Navy, RNLI and Support Vessels a Spectator fleet is being organised by Thames Motor Yacht Club. Please contact them directly at dunkirk2020@tmyc.org.uk

Q. Where can I see the Little Ships?

A. The DLS will be arriving in Ramsgate several days prior to the proposed departure date of the 21st May. The fleet will gather in Ramsgate by Wednesday 20th May where you can view the fleet and speak to the owners and learn about their vessel. Ramsgate always put on a great day. Once in Dunkirk the Little Ships will be on display in the Basin du Commerce.

Please see above schedule for the full itinerary.



2020'S FLEET


©2020 The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships. All rights reserved.