LETITIA

Type: Motor Sailor
Length: 30 ft
Beam: 10 ft 6 ins
Draft: 5 ft
Displacement: 7.09 tons
Engine: Ford 4D Diesel
Construction: Carvel, utile on oak
Builder: Johnson & Johnson
Year: 1938

Letitia's rudder was damaged while she was close inshore at Dunkirk and she took a tow from the drifter Ben and Lucy. The Renown's engine had also broken down and she made fast to Letitia's tow. Half-an-hour later Renown struck a mine and a shower of splintered wood came down on Letitia's deck. The Renown was lost with skipper Noakes and her crew - Frank and Leslie Osborne and Harry Noakes - all cousins - and Harold Porter, a naval rating from Birmingham. A.J. Dench, the Letitia's skipper said: "In the pitch dark we could see nothing and could do nothing - except pull in the tow rope, which was just as we had passed it to Renown three quarters of an hour before." Today Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, has its own memorial to those brave men.


The Resolute and Letitia made it back to Ramsgate, as did the Defender. There they were told by the Navy that they now wanted only ships that could do 10 knots or more, so they returned to Leigh-on-Sea. "On the lighter side," Eric recalled, " we went to Naval Head-quarters to collect our pay - I think mine was just under £4 and the deckhands' just over £3 each. Waiting for the train at Southend Central Harold King, the deckhand on Reliance suggested a game of cards. Ten minutes later, on arrival at Leigh-on-Sea, he had one shilling left. As Eric put it with his characteristic humour: ". . . . easy come, easy go, they say! "


Letitia retired from full-time fishing in 1990 and has now been repaired and restored with a sailing rig for cruising and occasional fishing.


In the poem, poet Bob Rawlings describes the expedition, and the fateful destruction of the Renown by a mine, as follows.


Letitia LO 220 at Dunkirk.


The Letitia was put out to sea

From the little old fishing town of Leigh

On an errand of mercy, she didn’t shirk

To the hell loosed beaches of Dunkirk


To a place they’d never been before,

The fisherman left their homely shore

Five boats did sail with them that day

On the fateful remembered end of May


When the shores of Dunkirk were in sight

The ferries came bombing with all their spite

Into the harbour they found their way

To save our Army for a better day


Man upon man they saved that night

From the jaws of death and sorrowful plight

With shells and bombs almighty near

They stayed at work without a fear


With rescue finished, back home did go

The boat Renown they took in tow

Their course was on a Nor-West Line

When Renown was struck down by a mine


To Ramsgate they did wend their way

In the early morning of Saturday

Into that harbour it was thought

Was best to make their sad report

Back home at Leigh they safely reach

To their loved ones waiting on the beach

Maybe again they’ll sail their way

But for a cruise I hope to say

 

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