Type: Motor Yacht
Beam: 7ft 9ins
Draft: 2ft 10ins
Displacement: 5.71 tons
Engine: Beta 35hp. Diesel
Boat Construction: Carvel - Pitch pine on oak
Boat Builder: Cole and Wiggins Ltd
Boat Year: 1923
Just twenty-six feet overall and with a 2ft 10in draft and a minimum-sized single engine supplemented by a couple of sails, Firefly is one of the tiniest and one of the loveliest of the Little Ships.
Built in 1923 for an RAF officer (Philip Stuart Jackson-Taylor) she was owned throughout her early years by a series of First World War heroes, most notably from 1930 to 1931 by Engineer Cdr. William Archibald Bury (DSO) who had been responsible for scuttling HMS. Vindictive at Ostende in May 1918, for which he had been balloted for the award of a VC. (See also ADLS vessel 'Eothen' - probably the last of the surviving 'ML's).
From 1931 and at the time of Dunkirk she was owned by William George Bowen (ex-RNVR Commander). A keen member of the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, it transpires that he had been decorated in 1918 for his 'anti-submarine activities' as the commander of small Elco motorboats whilst serving in Tunisia. She was known to have been kept at the end of his cottage garden on the Quay in Burnham-on Crouch, directly alongside Priors boatyard. (Recent work inside the wheelhouse revealed the word 'Priors' crayoned onto a timber and then painted over).
By the late fifties and with a change of owner she acquired her first Dunkirk plaque, her then owners proud of the (unsubstantiated) story that she had been taken to Dunkirk during Op. Dynamo. When asked directly, Bowen's terse reply had been, "Anything that could have gone to Dunkirk should have gone to Dunkirk". The name 'Firefly' had however been recorded in the earliest written accounts of the evacuation.
Purchased in the mid -seventies, she was restored (a jar of shrapnel being taken out of her port quarter) and through written evidence, then accepted as an ADLS boat in 1977.
No wonder the Greens, her owners at this time, loved her dearly. They kept her in immaculate order at Walton-on-Naze on the East Coast and rarely went further than 15 miles, to Woodbridge, on the beautiful river Deben, "to get a few oysters and see the bird-life and seals."
She was however a capable sea-boat and was subsequently taken back to Dunkirk on the 1980, 1985 and 1990 returns.
Then in 1995, a Dunkirk Veteran approached Brian Green and described clambering aboard Firefly on Thursday 30th May 1940.
Denis Kinnell was then a Corporal serving in the RASC. and had been waiting on the beach, under fire, for two days. Firefly, manned by a crew of two (described as "an older, ex-naval man and a lad") approached the beach, but refused to go too close, so Denis and 3 or 4 colleagues swam out to Firefly pulling a seriously wounded casualty. It was their desperate struggle to board over the transom which was so vivid in Dennis' mind and which enabled him to recall with accuracy features of Firefly's interior. Firefly took them out to HMS Anthony, a destroyer offshore, where it was a relatively quiet morning as mist hampered enemy operations. Indeed, they were helped up the gangway as though it were peacetime, before travelling back to Dover. Dennis finished the war in Italy with the rank of Major and passed away in November 2008.
We are proud to remember him.
Firefly's story continues to be a happy one: she is in an idyllic place and in good hands, with a history to be proud of.
Additional Information from current owner Mark Webb
Firefly has recently been out of the water in Rochester having a new Beta 35hp engine fitted.
Her old BMC 1.5, an ex GPO engine which had been restored and fitted in the seventies has been 're-purposed' and is to be used in an Essex fishing boat named 'Spirit of Firefly'.
A fitting tribute to Brian and Valerie Green who owned her for 36 years.
A new mizzen mast and she will be ready for a full 2018 season, her 7th return and her centenary in 2023.
Mon, 11/11/2013 - 17:48 — Mark Webb
Firefly has recently moved to The Swale in Kent under the ownership of Mark and Penny Webb.
She is a credit to her previous owners Brian and Valerie Green and remains a source of great pride to all of us