The Ensign from the Auxillary Ketch “Cygnet” – One of the Dunkirk Little Ships



Built in 1930, Cygnet was another example of the great variety of Little Ships that made up the flotilla which answered the call for help by crossing the Channel, in those last days of May, 1940. The wind and weather were kind to her when her Royal Navy crew made the crossing and on that occasion she returned to Ramsgate safely.

With her 6ft draft she was not the ideal vessel for work in the shallows at Dunkirk. The 42ft Hillyard ketch leaked by the keel bolts and her bilge pump was inadequate. She did not handle well in a strong breeze and was reluctant to go about in certain conditions.



Her final owner was John Hurrell, a design draughtsman who kept her in South Wales. From there he set out in October 1984 with a crew of three, with poor equipment and very limited experience, to sail to South Africa to attend his daughter's wedding. Many people, including Dennis Fairfield, the Swansea Coastguard, tried to dissuade him.
Crossing the Bay of Biscay in autumn can be a severe test for a well-ordered yacht and an experienced crew. The Cygnet was never seen or heard from again. Having survived her brave war-time exploit, she apparently succumbed to the merciless sea.


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