A ‘Little Ship’ finds a family run boatyard who had a connection with her rescue mission in Dunkirk, 1940
Wilson’s boatyard is a family owned business, managed by two brothers David and Barrie Wilson who are the third generation of the family. Their boatyard is situated on the eastern side of Hayling Island within the Chichester Harbour Conservancy Area and fronting on to Mengham Rythe and they provide a skilled boat care service both ashore and afloat.
The yard also undertakes restorations and is currently doing a complete restoration for a client of an Admirals barge called ‘Count Dracula’. The incredible story that transpired was Count Dracula who was originally built in 1913, was one of the ‘Little Ships’ that went to the aid of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940 and took part in Operations Dynamo, Cycle and Aerial and rescued a number of soldiers one of which was David’s own father, Sgt William Wilson. David recounts “My father only spoke a few times about Dunkirk but he told me Count Dracula was the boat that rescued him”. So when the boat arrived at the yard and the story was told, on realisation that they matched with a story he had heard as a boy it was quite a miraculous reunion from one generation to the next. It seems only fitting now that he is in charge of her restoration, having brought his own father home safely.
Count Dracula is a member of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships and she has already returned to Dunkirk in 1980, 1985 and 1990 so David is hoping for her to be restored in time to take part in the Dunkirk 80th anniversary which was originally due to take place in May 2020 but due to the coronavirus pandemic has been postponed to 2021.
Rebecca, from Tribe, was visiting David with a view to discussing the company’s existing research and development project, however when hearing this story about the Dunkirk boat, she took the opportunity to take her son along, who is a battle enthusiast. “We were privileged to hear the story from David firsthand and then to see the boat itself. It was quite something to place your hand on its wooden hull, knowing where it had been and what she had been part of, but only able to imagine the war time scenes as they are portrayed in the movies”