Type: Motor Yacht
Draft: 3ft 6ins
Displacement: Not known
Engine: Perkins 4-236 Diesel
Construction: Pitch pine on oak
Builder: Gibbs of Teddington
Bob Hilton was commissioned into the army in 1936 but was badly injured soon after and medically discharged. When war began he volunteered again and was soon selected for officer training. But when he received his second commission they found out and discharged him once more. In May 1940 he volunteered to take any available ship to Dunkirk. But they insisted on crews of three and he only had one companion, a ginger-haired man by the name of Shaw. They overcame their difficulty by offering a drink or two, plus £1 in cash, to a longshoreman at Tilbury, just to sign on. After that, they told him, he could disappear, if he didn't feel like coming. They were given Ryegate II and found her laden with jerry cans, some, they were warned, containing water. The sealed ones, they found, had petrol in them.
On a lovely late May evening they reached Ramsgate where they went ashore to get some stores. The WVS had plenty of food but no implements. So, they pinched some glasses from a pub and set out for Dunkirk. "It was just like Piccadilly Circus" Bob recalls: "There were masses of ships going to-and-fro. There was no need to navigate, we just followed the others. We just got on with the job, which was to sail in as close as we could to the shore, pick up all we could carry and ferry them out to the off-lying ships."
"After some time, the engine seemed to be seizing up and the tide went out, so we tied up behind a ship called the Horst and used their lifeboat to row ashore to pick up soldiers. Several times we turned over when the men, who had waded out into the water up to their armpits, all grabbed our boat by the gunwales to climb aboard. In the end we were ordered home, packed like sardines, in a small steamer."
Ryegate II was towed home and up-river at the end of a whole line of Little Ships by a tug. After Dunkirk Bob Hilton joined up again, this time in the Navy, received the King's commission for the third time and won the DSC as Lt. Commander RNVR.
Ryegate II previously belonged to David and Elizabeth Pamment who took her to the Commemorative return to Dunkirk in 1985.
As of November 2016, she was sold to a new owner and transported by road to Hamburg, where she is subject of an extensive rebuild and the fitting of a new 90hp engine. Scheduled to be out of the water at least until August 2018, her owner hopes then to take her to the Royal Netherlands Yacht Club, near Muiden, Amsterdam.
We will be delighted to see her return to the fleet for the 2020 return.
Updated: April 2018
Fri, 11/06/2010 - 17:18
My father remembers being on the Ryegate II when it was moored in the river Crouch, Essex. Particularly the Dunkirk brass plaque in the wheelhouse(?). This was probably in the late '50's early 60's(?) His Uncle Jack ran the ferry from Burnham on Crouch.
It was great to see her at Dunkirk this year; I went over as part of the 'War and Peace Convoy' of Original British vehicles and watched from the dockside as she and her fellow craft passed by on their way into port.
Wed, 16/09/2009 - 12:18
My mums partner, Brian Woolven now part owns Ryegate II. She is currently moored in Rochester/Chatham area and is having a lot of work done on her including a complete refit of the Galley.
I have been on her a couple of time and she is a lovely craft. Not bad for 72 years old.
Brian is taking her to Dunkirk next year for the 70th anniversary.