Page 32 - July 2020
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  THE SALAMANDER | July 2020
On the 30th May 1940 the Chief Officer of the LFB, Major F.W Jackson, received a call from the Home Office requesting a fireboat and crew be made available to report to the senior Naval Officer, Ramsgate. Dunes, east of Dunkirk and
 The new fireboat Massey Shaw was chosen as she had the best firefighting capability and was the most reliable of the craft available. Volunteers from the LFB river service were asked to join the crew and all of them, in their entirety, volunteered for this voyage into the unknown.
Two things had be to be resolved before the Firefloat could leave Lambeth, firstly to find a River Pilot. The Port of London Authority regulations stated that a River Pilot must be in charge of a Fireboat as the LFB crews were not licensed to take the boat out of the Estuary. Fortunately, a retired River Pilot was found called Mr Pinches, who agreed to take the boat as long as he could bring her back on the return. Secondly, was the purchase of a compass as the firefloat did not require one on the Thames. Unfortunately, no time was available for it to be corrected to the magnetic pull of the boat, which caused some issues later when crossing the minefields off Dunkirk!
The crew were selected from
a mixture of LFB and Auxiliary Firemen consisting of a Station Officer, 2 Sub Officers, 4 LFB Firemen and 6 Auxiliary Firemen. Within two hours the craft was provisioned with extra fuel and supplies and the boat set sail for Ramsgate.
Massey moored at Holehaven, at the estuary of the Thames, for the evening where the crew received further orders not to progress overnight. Massey left early the following morning and arrived in Ramsgate at 11am on the 31st May and was ordered to sail for Dunkirk ASAP.
With additional fuel and food supplies taken on board, Massey left for Dunkirk in the early afternoon with Sub Lieutenant Lucey RN in charge, arriving at Dunkirk at 7pm. Her original orders were to assist with firefighting in the Dunkirk oil fields but on arrival it became clear that this was not possible due to the attacks from the air and heavy enemy gun fire.
The crew received orders to proceed to the beaches at Bray
assist with removing troops from the beaches. Massey’s shallow draught of 3ft 9 inches allowed her to get close to the sandy foreshore with her skiff. Unfortunately this was soon lost as soldiers swamped the boat in their haste to leave. After several attempts to get a line ashore, Fm Richard Helyer (Dick) swam ashore with a floating line and managed to secure it to another vessel so that the soldiers could pull themselves on to the boat.
Some sixty troops were taken off the beach, mainly Royal Engineers, and the fireboat headed back at 0400 Sunday morning 1st June. The journey home was eventful as the boat had been tailed for most of the trip by a German aircraft. Most of the injured troops were placed in the engine room where they were warmed by the engines and given food and first aid. The remaining troops found a resting point in the crew space, hose room and main deck.
Ramsgate was reached at 06:45 am and the vessel and her crew were given a brief time to re-supply and prepare for the next crossing of the channel. On the second trip the boat was crewed by a mixture of Royal Navy and LFB personnel commanded by Lieutenant Walker RNVR. An additional 20 ratings from a Naval Landing Party joined the vessel and their number was increased by a further 40 ratings who came aboard from a Sun tug off Ramsgate. Due to the increase in enemy activity two Lewis guns
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