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Article by Sarah Hamilton-Walker | 28th June 2018

From Dunkirk to Darkest Hour

The owner of a vessel that helped retrieve stranded British troops from France during the Second World War has spoken of his filming experiences with a new movie.

Greg McLeish, from Conyer near Faversham, has for the past decade lovingly restored the New Britannic, which has become an unlikely star in its own right.

The 1930s day-tripper pleasure boat, which was used for holidaymakers in Ramsgate, was pressed into service by the Royal Navy, in their desperate bid to rescue 338,000 British soldiers during the Allied evacuation from the beaches of Normandy.

Following its appearance at the head of the fleet of Little Ships in the Christoper Nolan movie Dunkirk, New Britannic was selected to feature in the Gary Oldman wartime movie, Darkest Hour. The film, which focuses on Winston Churchill, has already been nominated for a clutch of awards.

As Mr McLeish explains, it was an easy decision to make in joining up for filming the wartime movie off the coast of East Sussex, near Eastbourne. “We were the only Dunkirk Little Ship to participate in the movie alongside other boats from various walks of life. And I thought it was going to take my 90-year-old wooden boat at least three days to get there, but together with my reliable crewmate Robbie, we had the most enjoyable trip, though we had to hide from bad weather for several days in Dover Harbour.

“When we did finally arrive, the make-up artists were on hand to remove anything that looked modern and replace it with 1940s furniture. Then we all motored to Beachy Head, where the sun came out, with a helicopter swooping back and forth to get the shots they were looking for. It was an excellent trip.”

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