Published: 12:00, 20 July 2017
One of the heroes of the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940 is featured in a movie destined to be the blockbuster of the summer.
New Brittanic was among the flotilla of Little Ships answering the desperate call to speed across the Channel and rescue Allied troops under fire on the beaches of the French port.
Captain Walter Read, his son Joe, 15, and a deckhand took the most men – some 3,000 of the total 338,000 saved – away to safety.
The 54ft craft has been lovingly restored by her owner of nine years, Greg McLeish, and is moored at Swale Marina on Conyer Creek, near Teynham, where he lives on a boat.
The 56-year-old skipper joined other veterans to “audition” for the film Dunkirk, which goes on general release on Friday.
There was great interest in his boat from writer-director Christopher Nolan and his film crew.
“There was a buzz on their walkie talkies, with them saying New Brittanic will be a lead boat,” said Greg. “It was manna from heaven. I could hardly believe it.
“I was at the helm and given instructions as I steered the boat around the waters off Dunkirk, taking on soldiers.
“In 1940, New Brittanic took 200 on board at a time. Captain Read was ordered to stay for three days because she was so useful shuttling the troops to bigger boats.”
Greg was invited to the London premiere of the film last week alongside the film’s stars, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy and 1D’s Harry Styles making his acting debut.
“It was an amazing evening – very surreal,” he said.
New Brittanic will also have a starring role in another hotly anticipated war film Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldman as Churchill, Lily James and Kristin Scott Thomas, due for release in November.
Greg is also hoping a song called Operation Dynamo, the code name for the evacuation, he has written for a forthcoming album will be featured in the movie.
He has been working on his CD Hooked On You at London’s Air Studios with top session musicians.