Type: Motor yacht
Length: 40 ft
Beam: 10 ft
Draft: 3 ft
Displacement: Not known
Engine: 2 x BMC Commodore Diesels
Builder: Timmer & Zoon, Holland
Although every one of the Little Ships of Dunkirk has a story, not all these are preserved in written records. The skippers and crews were too busy to keep a log and not all of them survived. The simple story of the Marsayru appears in Battle Summary 41 compiled by the historical section of the Admiralty and she is also mentioned in Walter Lord's book 'The Miracle of Dunkirk' and in A.D. Devine's book 'Dunkirk'.
The Marsayru went over to Dunkirk on 31st May commanded by her civilian skipper, G.D. Olivier, who received a DSM and her engineer C. Loggins who was Mentioned in Despatches. They sailed in company with three lighters: X217, X213 and X149, arriving off Malo beach at about 1600. During an air attack X213 and X419 were sunk. The X217 was beached and with the help of a cutter towed by Marsayru, embarked about 200 British and French troops, some in the motor yacht Llanthony and some in the Marsayru which was then towed towards England. Shortly after sailing, the Marsayru broke adrift and in the darkness could not be found. Her skipper had been taken home aboard the towing vessel. Next day, Sub-Lieut. T.E. Godman RNVR, in a Naval steam pinnace off La Panne, sighted the Marsayru drifting with the tide and unoccupied but in working order. He left a petty officer in charge of the pinnace and, with the dinghy in tow, took the yacht to the Western end of the beach where he anchored. The dinghy ferried 19 troops to her and at 2330 he made fast to a conical flashing buoy and waited for daylight. At 0430 on 2nd June a trawler took the Marsayru in tow to Ramsgate where, at 0800, she disembarked her 19 troops. Later, on 2nd June, the original crew took charge of the Marsayru and A.D. Devine reports that she was again working the beaches on that day. At one time, the nearest ship being about 21/2 miles away, she was attacked by four Messerschmitts who ineffectually machine-gunned her for half an hour from a height of more than 2,000 feet until three Hurricanes saw them off. Marsayru was credited in her various crossings with saving some 400 French soldiers. Built far more strongly than her size demands, the Marsayru was constructed of Swedish steel on steel frames by Timmer & Zoon in Holland.
Gareth Roe, her present owner, bought her 18 years ago and has lovingly restored her to her beautiful condition today. Marsayru was called Billowin when bought and her original name was restored a couple of years later.
For the last five years, Marsayru has been at La Roche Bernard in Southern Brittany, France where her owner Gareth and Yvonne have been living. During this time Marsayru has been in many son et Lumiere 'spectaculars' along with old French boats and barges. Her history is told to the audience as, late at night, she glides along to music, floodlights playing on her, with tremendous applause following her progress.
Sat, 27/02/2010 - 19:22
I was thrilled and delighted to read this review 18 months ago when visiting Dover Castle and the tunnels as research for Operation Dynamo.
The reason for the excitement is this was my grandfather's boat, and the requisition story for Dunkirk is known throughout the family. We didn't know the history of the actual rescue of troops but what a thrilling story it makes.
You may be interested to know the origin of the name Marsayru. My grandfather took the names of his three daughters: Marjorie, Sadie and Yvonne (my mother who was only 9 when war broke out. Her two sisters (my aunts) were grown up at the time. My grandfather remarried, and his new wife was called Ruby, so:
MAR = MArjorie
SA = Sadie
Y = Yvonne
RU = Ruby
I note that the boat was originally called Billowing and I am so pleased that it has been both lovingly restored by Gareth (which happens to my name) and Yvonne (which as I say above is my mother's name) and that the name has been restored.
It would be lovely to see the old girl as I have now learned so much. Apparently she was fitted with powerful engines to become a search and rescue boat for downed airmen in the Channel. This did not impress grandpapa as the cost of running them was colossal!
Thank you for this wonderful article.
Gareth Davies ()