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Statement from our Commodore 

Mr Simon Palmer


The 2020 Return was postponed with the hope that the fleet would cross instead in May 2021. The Association have been carrying out preliminary planning for the event and taking soundings from all of our friends involved in such a complex exercise.

Sadly, the ADLS have had to cancel the visit. The principal reason for this has been the effect of Covid on the plans of the authorities in Dunkirk. Bearing in mind the advice they have received they requested that the ADLS cancel the visit.

We will be welcome to return to Dunkirk in 2025 and we are determined to make this an even more memorable event in remembering the valour of the armed forces who had it far worse than us in 1940.



Simon Palmer




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



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

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.

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