Dunkirk 'Little Ship' Destroyed In Island Fire

26 January 2016, 19:29 | Updated: 26 January 2016, 19:38

A Dunkirk ``little ship'' was one of dozens of boats destroyed in a major fire at a boatyard on the Isle of Wight.

Firefighters and police have begun investigating the cause of the fire at Medina Village, Cowes, on Monday which created huge plumes of smoke which could be seen across the Solent on the mainland.

Seven fire engines from the island fought the blaze and four further appliances from Hampshire were brought in to assist.

Nobody was injured in the blaze, although nearby residents were evacuated from their homes.

One of the casualties of the blaze was the Vere, one of only about 100 remaining vessels of the operation to rescue servicemen from Dunkirk in the Second World War.

The 1905 cruiser, which was used to rescue 346 men from the French beaches in 1940, was undergoing restoration work at the boatyard.

Jason Carley, spokesman for the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships (ADLS), said: ``To lose a Dunkirk little ship in circumstances like this is terribly sad.

``Vere survived two world wars and was one of the few little ships skippered by her owner at Dunkirk. With only just over 100 little ships still remaining and even fewer afloat, the loss of any of them is a real tragedy.''

Also destroyed in the fire were racing yachts being stored for a regatta in the spring.

On Facebook, Etchells regatta chairman David Franks said: ``Approximately 14 Etchells appear to have been destroyed in the fire. We have already sourced equivalent replacements for nearly all of them.''

Clothing firm Rapanui posted on Twitter that its warehouse had been destroyed in the fire, saying: ``Team safe and well, building just about standing but contents gone.''

The organisers of the Cowes Carnival wrote on Facebook that its floats built to mark its 120th anniversary had been destroyed.

They wrote: ``The fire started in the unit right behind us, so our unit did not stand a chance. We did not just lose the float.

``We lost tools that have been collected for 15 years. Boat batteries that run our electrics. Chairs, lighting, trailers. The list goes on and on.

``Yes, insurance will pay out, but it could take months of investigation.

``Are we going to give up in our 120th year? The answer is no.''

An Isle of Wight Council spokeswoman said: ``Fire investigation crews are on site today and will undertake investigations alongside police colleagues throughout the day.''