Titanic hero’s ship to star in show

Sundower ship which Charles Lightoller used to rescue soldiers from Dunkirk
Sundower ship which Charles Lightoller used to rescue soldiers from Dunkirk
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A Titanic hero from Chorley will be remembered this Jubilee weekend when his war boat sails down the Thames in one of the largest ever-assembled flotillas.

Charles Lightoller, second mate on board Titanic and the highest-ranking survivor, sailed his motor Yacht, Sundowner, in the Dunkirk evacuation in World War II.

The vessel survived bombs, , and countless attacks, to come out completely undamaged and will be sailed as part of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on Sunday June 3.

Jim Harris, one of the people working on Sundowner, said: “It is a tribute to Lightoller, he was a real old sea dog. He was a true hero.”

Lightoller was originally from Chorley where his family owned a cotton mill.

Patrick Stenson, historian and author of Titanic Voyageur, said: “Sundowner has had a lot of problems over the years. It even had a murder on it.”

The boat shares its anniversary with the sinking of the Titanic, making it 100 years old this year.

Sunday will see 42 of the original ‘little ships’ take part in the flotilla along with over 1000 other boats including armed forces, fire police, rescue and other services.

Sundowner was built and commissioned for the Royal Navy in Chatham near to where Lightoller finally took her over.

The War hero bought Sundowner after it had been re-fitted and put on auction in 1929.

The boat was converted in to a motor Yacht and Lightoller used it travel throughout the world with his wife and five children until War broke out.

Mr Stenson said: “He went all around, just for the joy of visiting new places.

“There was something about the sea that got a grip on him.”

Lightoller once again became a hero at sea when he sailed Sundowner in to the Dunkirk evacuation as part of the 700 ‘little ships’ involved.

They helped to rescue over 338,000 British and French soldiers trapped on the beaches in 1940.

The little ships sailed from Ramsgate Harbour, where Sundowner has remained to this day.

Lightoller was sent to spy on the German coastline in preparation and he managed to bring back an impressive 130 officers on the 58ft yacht.

Mr Harris said: “We are doing a good job, it looks good. The engine looks great, and of course it is in a historical part of the harbour.” Mr Stenson added that the Sundowner is ‘absolutely fantastic and all set to go on Sunday.’