Dozens of boats are expected to take part in a parade this Sunday to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the evacuation of St Malo.
The Evacuation 80 Parade will replace St Helier Yacht Club’s annual race and rally to the French port which has been cancelled due to travel restrictions.
The parade will feature a procession of boats across St Aubin’s Bay and it is hoped islanders on the shore will join in the celebration, while adhering to social distancing.
‘It is very sad that we are unable to travel to St Malo this year but at least this parade will enable members to commemorate the events of June 1940 in a suitable manner,’ said the club’s Commodore David de Carteret.
‘Sadly, none of the islanders who took part in the evacuation of St Malo are still with us, but that does not diminish our enthusiasm in paying tribute to all those who were involved in what was undoubtedly the club’s finest hour.
‘Only 14 yacht clubs around the world are entitled to fly a defaced Red Ensign and St Helier is the only one to have been granted this rare privilege as a Battle Honour. This is a source of great pride for us and will never be forgotten.’
The participating boats will gather close to St Aubin at 1.15pm on Sunday 14 June and then proceed eastwards across the bay, around Elizabeth Castle breakwater and into the harbour, ending the parade by passing in front of the clubhouse.
It is hoped that the States’ tug, the Duke of Normandy, will take part as well as Fiona, one of the surviving evacuation craft, which is now part of Jersey Heritage’s historic fleet.
Boat crews will have to come from the same households or, if the vessel is large enough, practise social distancing.
The evacuation of St Malo
On Sunday 16 June 1940, Jersey’s Lieut-Governor, Major-General J M Harrison, received an urgent telegram from the Admiralty asking that ’Jersey send all available craft to St Malo to help the evacuation of British troops from there’.
That evening, the first convoy of five club boats – an ex RNLI lifeboat, Klang II, Teaser, St Clement and Clutha – left Jersey, arriving at St Malo early the next morning. The second group of 13 craft left Jersey the next day.
At St Malo, the Jersey craft soon engaged in ferrying men and equipment to larger vessels waiting outside the port. As they left the German forces were just five miles away.
This act of heroism is recalled every time a member hoists St Helier Yacht Club’s defaced Red Ensign and is normally also remembered each summer with a race and rally to the French port.