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Since the small ships requisitioned for the evacuation of Dunkirk were selected by the Royal Navy or a branch of the Admiralty, there must be a list of vessels so requisitioned. I ask for this information since various figures are given from 700 small ships to 1300. How can we find the truth?

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    There's a link in the answer to this question to a (partial) list of the known small ships. I'm guessing that the variation in numbers is due to the different ways that these boats can be classified (i.e. some vessels were specifically requisitioned for Operation Dynamo while others a had been previously requisitioned for general wartime use.) – Steve Bird Oct 4 '17 at 8:39
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    Relevant: Little Ships of Dunkirk – NSNoob Oct 4 '17 at 8:39
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    It seems you have done some preliminary research so it would be useful for people who might be able to answer question if you stated your sources for the numbers you have quoted. – Lars Bosteen Oct 4 '17 at 8:55
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Immediately after the Dunkirk evacuation was completed, Lt. Col. G P Orde compiled a list of all the vessels involved, using all available sources (remember that some of the 'Little Ships' were privately owned vessels that were not officially requisitioned, but which had had just "followed the fleet" to help out with the rescue). Even so, he acknowledged that there may still have been omissions.

Many of the original sources that Lt. Col. Orde consulted were subsequently lost or destroyed, so that list is generally considered to be the most authoritative, and is the primary source on which subsequent lists have been based.

The list is often referred to as The Dunkirk List or The Orde List (officially: Dunkirk Withdrawal: Operation Dynamo May 26–June 4, 1940: Alphabetical List of Vessels Taking Part, With Their Services. 940.542.1'1940). I don't think it has ever been published online, but the original copies are available to consult at the Caird Library at the National Maritime Museum.

The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London has published a research guide to the Dunkirk List which you might find helpful.


Subsequent research has added to the Orde list. Notably, Richard Collier identified some further examples which were included in the list in his 1961 book The Sands of Dunkirk, as did Walter Lord for the list in his 1981 book The Miracle of Dunkirk. Most recently, Russell Plummer has been able to add yet more names to the list included in his 1991 book The Little Ships that Saved An Army.

  • +1, but perhaps ought to give a bit more emphasis to the parenthetical in the first sentence, as it speaks directly to the question's stated motivation for asking the question. – T.E.D. Oct 4 '17 at 13:41

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