Work on war hero boat Willdora gathers at a pace of knots ahead of Tall Ships honour

Willdora's cabin was added after her Dunkirk heroics.
Willdora's cabin was added after her Dunkirk heroics.
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A milestone has been reached in the revamp of a Wearside boat which played a part in the Battle of Dunkirk.

Tomorrow, Sunderland City Council leader Councillor Paul Watson will nail the final plank - also known as the shutter or whiskey plank - into place to complete the deck of Willdora. This fascinating vessel was built with two sister vessels in Scotland in 1901.

Willdora during her trawler days.

Willdora during her trawler days.

She was originally owned by a man called Will who had a wife, Marie and two daughters; Anne and Dora.

He joined the names with his own to christen the three sister boats; Willmarie, Willanne and Willdora.

The Willdora started her life on the seas a fishing trawler and was commandeered to help rescue more than 200 men from the beaches of Dunkirk during the Second World War.

After the war she was finally returned to the UK and an ex-soldier from Sunderland who recognised her made an effort to rescue and restore her.

It is great to see how the work is progressing on Willdora.

Councillor Paul Watson

In 1993 based in Tyneside, she was given the honour of leading out the Tall Ships Races out of Tynemouth.

Sunderland Maritime Heritage aim to have the Willdora ready in time to lead out the fleet for The Tall Ships Races 2018.

Coun Watson said: “It is great to see how the work is progressing on Willdora.
“It’s been quite a while since I was a shipwright and even longer since I finished a wooden deck but I can still appreciate the skill and patience required to bring a boat like this back to pristine and as far as possible original conditional.

“Helped with funding by the East area Committee, when she is ready I’m sure she will be a great added attraction when the Tall Ships Races start from Sunderland in 2018.”

Chris Carolan of Sunderland maritime Heritage with the Willdora.

Chris Carolan of Sunderland maritime Heritage with the Willdora.

At Dunkirk more than 300,000 British, Commonwealth and Allied troops were cornered at the French coast.

Operation Dynamo was launched in a bid to rescue them with a flotilla of small vessels lifting the men from the beaches and taking them to warships offshore.

During the operation Willdora rescued over 200 British servicemen.

After lifting the troops, she was struck by shellfire and was forced to beach herself, remaining in France after the evacuation was over.