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American gunboat used in Dunkirk film may have to leave Sandwich to make way for yacht harbour

ByEleanor Perkins

Plans to make Sandwich Quay an international yacht harbour could see a historical gunboat pushed out of town.

The American P22 wartime vessel has just renewed its two-year mooring lease securing its place as a tourist attraction along the riverside until June 2021.

The American Cold War P22 Gun boat in the quay at Sandwich
The American Cold War P22 Gun boat in the quay at Sandwich

But its future after that has been thrown into jeopardy after Dover District Council outlined its vision to regenerate the area for visiting yachts and tourists.

Keen to protect its position in the town, P22 trustee Cllr Paul Graeme asked Sandwich Town Council to support the charitable trust which has welcomed thousands of visitors since its arrival in June 2017

It also represented the town by sailing to 75th anniversary commemorations of D Day in Dunkirk in June

A motion of support put forward by Cllr MJ Holloway was passed with only Cllr David Wood voting against the idea, at Monday night’s full council meeting.

It was to “recognise the P22’s visitor potential.”

It also asked DDC to “consider this in its review of mooring fees and wider vision for the Quay”.

"Please help recognise that the P22 is an asset to our town..." - Barry Field, P22 Operations co-ordinator

Operations co-ordinator of the boat, Barry Field, addressed members at the beginning of the meeting.

He said: “We need your support.

“The USN P22 has called Sandwich home for the past two years.

“People have travelled miles to visit us and over the past year we’ve welcomed 5,000 visitors.

“The P22 is an integral part of the successful 1940s event and we’ve been taking part in as many Sandwich events as possible."

Captain Barry Field
Captain Barry Field

He added: “Dover District’s scheme is to develop the Quay as an international yacht harbour which could prove difficult because of access.

“But we’re 20m long, surely there’s enough room for both projects?

“Please help recognise that the P22 is an asset to our town.”

Cllr John Bragg said: “I think it’s a good idea to have the vessel here.

“We should bring this in for discussion with DDC.

The P22 Gunboat on Sandwich Quay was used by the US Navy
The P22 Gunboat on Sandwich Quay was used by the US Navy

“Sandwich Town Council should take a more proactive role in the Quay.

“DDC is only interested when something happens, we’re interested in it when nothing happens!”

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 was used in the 2017 blockbuster war film Dunkirk, starring Tom Hardy and One Direction’s Harry Styles.

Cllr Paul Graeme, who declared a pecuniary interest and left the meeting during the discussion alongside fellow trustee Cllr Dan Friend, said: “I’m very happy that Sandwich Town Council have supported the P22 which is a fantastic tourism attraction for Sandwich and has been of great assistance in re-generating the Quay.”

The floating relic was on show during the Sandwich Salutes The 40s event
The floating relic was on show during the Sandwich Salutes The 40s event

A spokesman for DDC said: “DDC is currently formalising short-term mooring arrangements for the USN P22 Trust on Sandwich Quay.

“At the same time, as part of the review of the Local Plan and the emerging tourism strategy, DDC is looking at the potential of developing Sandwich Quay to attract more visiting yachts.

“These proposals are at a very early stage.

“Any future changes to mooring arrangements on the Quay will be discussed with individual licence holders.”

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