Type: Motor Yacht
Beam: 9ft 6ins
Draft: 2ft 6ins
Displacement: 9 tons
Engine: Gray petrol
Builder: Sam Emms, Kingston
Latona, in Greek legend was the mother of Artemis and Apollo, fathered by Zeus, whose jealous wife Hera made Latona ceaselessly roam the earth.
The Dunkirk Little Ship Latona is a 30ft. single-engine motor boat built by Boats and Cars at Kingston-on--Thames in 1938. She had to change her name to HMS Hamford when she was purchased a year later, to avoid being confused with the 2,600-ton fast mine-layer Latona (later sunk by Italian aircraft off Libya in 1941 and sister to Apollo). She served mainly with the commandos putting them ashore in their endless exercises.
After the war she was sold out and went to the West Country resuming her career as a handy little pleasure cruiser. In the 1950's she was owned by the Chief Test pilot of Gloster Aircraft, W.A. Waterman, who lived aboard her. He disappeared mysteriously leaving the boat to deteriorate badly.
After this she became a hire boat on the River Avon being renamed Gay Goblin. In 1974 the Skinner family purchased her, initially naming her Senang (the Malay for happiness). They moved her from Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire to the river Thames. They built the new after cabin, and her Gray petrol engine was exchanged for a safer BMC 1.5litre Diesel.
In 1978 her Dunkirk history was discovered, and she reverted to her old name of Latona. At the 1980 return to Dunkirk she spent a week in Ramsgate inner harbour outboard of Ryegate II and Matoya. The owner of Ryegate II later owned Matoya and in 1994 bought Latona. Not long after the 1980 Return she went to Plymouth where she cruised until the late 1980’s. She then spent a long time out of the water in Plymouth where her present owner found her in 1994. She returned to Kent by lorry and then underwent a 3-year rebuild involving new frames, planks, decks and ribs. The wheelhouse was reconstructed and most of her upholstery was replaced. The engine was found to be excellent. She went back into the water in May 1998 and, by special permission of her insurance company, joined the ADLS Commemorative Cruise at Chatham as part of her sea-trials.
Cruised extensively, Latona crossed the Channel and reached Middelburg, Holland, and cruised to The British Kiel Yacht Club which is at the entry to the Baltic. In 1999 she reached Otterndorf on the River Elbe. She has attended the Dunkirk Returns in 2000 and 2005 and Sail 2000 in Amsterdam.
Now back in the UK, and last known as being owned by Lynn Fairman, Latona is a fine example of a ship wrights’ craft. The Association is heartened that talented individuals are still prepared to take ownership, renovate and maintain these ageing craft.
This vessel is one featured individually on a series of stamps called 'Little Ships of Dunkirk'. These were issued in Palau in 2015 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Dynamo.
Sun, 29/05/2011 - 16:09
I found the details of ADLS in an edition of the magazine "This England" and was interested as we had a friend who owned "Latona" in the 70s and 80s. We don't know the exact dates though. His name was Bill Williams and he lived in Bristol where he kept the boat in the City Docks. He eventually moved to Plymouth and kept her out of the water for some years. He died in October 1993.
Bill was a naval man and later became an air traffic controller at Filton Airfield, Bristol. I have some photos taken of Latona which I could e-mail or send to the current owner or the Association.
Christine Lillington, email@example.com