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P22 gunboat takes wreaths from Sandwich to 75th anniversary D-Day commemorations

ByEleanor Perkins

Wreaths from Sandwich will be transported across the Channel to be laid in honour of the the fallen at the 75th anniversary D-Day commemorations.

People gathered along The Quay at 10am this morning to wave off the historic USN P22 American patrol boat which had been invited by the Mayor of Ouistreham in Normandy to take part in the events from June 1 to 6.

It was carrying wreaths given by Sandwich Town Council, Sandwich Local History Society, Sandwich Chamber of Commerce, the Sandwich branch of the Royal British Legion, the town's Rotary Club and East Kent Freemasons.

Representatives from Sandwich Town Council, Sandwich Local History Society and the Rotary Club attended
Representatives from Sandwich Town Council, Sandwich Local History Society and the Rotary Club attended

More wreaths were expected to be collected from Ramsgate before the vessel and six crew departs for the 18-hour voyage at 5am tomorrow - with calm seas predicted.

Operations co-ordinator and captain, Barry Field said: "There was a struggling time where we found it hard to get the funds to take it over - it's about £2,000 in fuel - but thanks to the Mayor of Ouistreham who gave a gift of€1,000 and some local businesses in Sandwich all pulling together, the money's there and we're off to do our bit and say thank you to those who gave their lives in the war.

"We're going to go to harbour near Omaha beach where the Americans landed on D-Day.

"We're taking the wreaths over for people who would like to send messages to France.

"I believe there are four and a half million people coming to the beaches at Dunkirk so we'll be joining in with all the festivities and events going on."

People gathered on the Quay to wave off the P22
People gathered on the Quay to wave off the P22

It's the first long journey for the vessel since 2016 when it spent five weeks filming across the Channel for the 2017 blockbuster war film Dunkirk.

Mr Field said there has been a big build up ahead of the voyage, including repainting the boat and carrying out checks on the engines which were built in 1952.

Among those who waved the gunboat off was John Hennesey from Sandwich Local History Society.

Wreaths from Sandwich will be transported to the 75th anniversary D-Day commemorations
Wreaths from Sandwich will be transported to the 75th anniversary D-Day commemorations

He said: "I think it's wonderful that our town is being represented at a commemoration of such an important event.

"It's also wonderful that the boat is moored here in Sandwich. The P22 took part in out Heritage Open Day last year. They gave a fantastic performance, with people singing on the deck. They really livened up this part of the town. They've been really got involved with the town and its events and are very accommodating in letting people have a look around."

USN P22 is a United States Navy gunboat, built by a German shipbuilder shortly after the Second World War for the American military to patrol the river Rhine during the Cold War era.

It is the only one still afloat out of a fleet of 23, and has been moored in Sandwich since June 2017.

P22 captain Barry Field will be joined by five other crew on the trip
P22 captain Barry Field will be joined by five other crew on the trip

Policing the River Rhine in Germany, the P22 helped to keep the U.S.S.R (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) within the agreed boarders of West Germany following the end of the Second World War, helping to avoid future world conflicts.

After a number of years she was then decommissioned and bought by a Scottish-based private company where she fell into disrepair and partially sank, only to be saved by a private individual for her posterity and historic value.

The vessel is now open as a working museum and has charitable trust status with a passenger certificate for cruises for up to 12 passengers on the historic River Stour.

Read more: All the latest news from Sandwich

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