Were Little Boat owners and civilian crew given monetary incentives or compensation beforehand and afterward. This is not to question their bravery and selflessness. It is to provide historical context for a discussion that I'm involved with on whether it is moral and effective to provide incentives to encourage owner/operators to put their lives at risk in a large scale crisis.

  • 1
    I understand they were paid the same rate as merchant seamen, but could be wrong.
    – TheHonRose
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 23:21
  • I cant see how they would be motivated otherwise.
    – D J Sims
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 16:42
  • 7
    They got to continue speaking English.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 19:09
  • 2
    @Bobb you'd be surprised at the motivation from patriotic duty or simply doing the decent thing to help people in need
    – user13123
    Commented Sep 25, 2016 at 11:47

1 Answer 1


I don't think they were paid anything, at least officially.

On the 14th day of May, 1940, the BBC made the following announcement: "The Admiralty have made an Order requesting all owners of self-propelled pleasure craft between 30' and 100' in length to send all particulars to the Admiralty within 14 days from today if they have not already been offered or requisitioned".

Although this may have sounded something like a request, it was, in fact, an Order.

The Mrs. Miniver story of owners jumping into their Little Ships and rushing off to Dunkirk is a myth. Very few owners took their own vessels, apart from fishermen and one or two others. The whole Operation was very carefully co-ordinated and records exist of most of the Little Ships and other larger vessels that went to Dunkirk.

One of the owners that sailed to Dunkirk was Charles Lightoller, who had been second officer on board the RMS Titanic.

When the Admiralty tried to requisition his yacht, the Sundowner, Lightoller insisted that

if anyone was going to take her to Dunkirk, it would be him and his eldest son, Roger.

They rescued 130 soldiers.

For that contribution, he received a mention in despatches in 1944.


  • 1
    Nothing there to say they weren't compensated. Any who actually sailed, liked Lightoller, would likely have been made entered into the Naval register - even though temporarily.
    – user13123
    Commented Sep 25, 2016 at 11:50
  • 1
    Thank you for your answer and the sources! In the context of my question, it is clear that boat owners were following orders in a state of war. Therefore, even if they were compensated, this particular case is not relevant to a discussion of providing monetary incentives to free volunteers (non-compelled).
    – rolfedh
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 11:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.