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The Little Ships of England

About the film

A look at the traditional craft of wooden boatbuilding, and the important roles those little ships play.


Release year
Production company
Spectator Films
Michael Hankinson
Jack Common
Cyril Bristow
Ken Hughes
Norman Shelley
Ralph Kemplen
Sound recording
W.S. Bland
Running time (minutes)
12 mins 42 secs

Original Description

Boatbuilding in Britain
‘From the woods of Britain comes timber–oak, ash and elm–for the little ships. The scene shifts to skilled shipwrights at work in a West- country shipyard, and shifts again to the exciting rescue of a fighter pilot by a launch on patrol. At Dunkirk the little ships sailed into the pages of English history.‘
(Films of Britain - British Council Film Department Catalogue - 1942-1943)


  • Filmed in Looe, Cornwall with opening shots in the Cornish fishing village of Polperro.
  • In response to the film, Sir Harry Lindsay wrote, “Quite good in conception and design. But for goodness' sake let the boats which saves soldiers from Dunkirk... Be a tribute to British efficiency of boat building... Not just a defeatist tribute to the accuracy of German dive-bombing... Far more boats survived the Dunkirk rescue than were lost. We should make the most of that point.”