A historic former Appledore lifeboat and one of the Dunkirk ‘little ships’ has finally returned home thanks to a dedicated group of people.
The Jane Hannah MacDonald III arrived back at Bideford Quay on Wednesday, June 3 almost 110 years after she was launched from there in 1910.
Former Bideford resident John Vistuer rediscovered the four ton vessel in a French boatyard where it had been for 25 years and enlisted the support of Westward Ho! Holiday park owner Rob Braddick to try and bring her home.
Mr Braddick recruited his friends, estate agent Simon Morris and holiday cottage provider James Morris and between them they agreed to split the £7,500 cost of purchase and transportation.
The JHM is now stored at Mr Braddick’s Bideford yard and working with the Appledore Maritime Heritage Trust it is planned to restore her to create a maritime attraction for Appledore and the surrounding area, although it’s uncertain if she will ever sail again.
They plan to launch a crowd funder to pay for her restoration, with more details expected soon.
Mr Braddick said Mr Vistuer had called him out of the blue and asked to meet for a coffee. He said: “He told me the story about the boat and it’s history locally and the Dunkirk part, which was really exciting.
“James and Simon both live in Appledore and said they would come in on it.”
The boat has had a long and varied career – she was in RNLI service in Appledore from 1910 to 1922, launching 22 times and saving 23 lives.
She was transferred to the Eastbourne lifeboat station briefly and ended service as a lifeboat in December 1938 at Flamborough, Yorkshire, before being purchased for commercial fishing and leisure fishing trips out of Norfolk.
In May 1940 the JHM became one of the ‘little ships’ of Operation Dynamo that rescued more than 300,000 British and Allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk after the fall of France to Nazi Germany.
She even sank for a time at Dunkirk but survived thanks to her buoyancy self-righting aids and recovered back to the UK. The lifeboat was owned by many other successive owners around the UK ending up with Simon Evans of Evans Marine International in Migennes, France.
The vessel was the third gift of Mrs Jane Hannah MacDonald of Brighton, an endowed socialite of London and Brighton, to the RNLI in the late 19th century.
She was built at the Thames Iron Works and Ship Building Company in Blackwall, East London, in 1909 at a cost of £931.
It was the last self-righting lug sail lifeboat to be used by Appledore Lifeboat Station, before the RNLI moved into motorised vessels in Appledore and across the RNLI fleet.