A pleasure steamer that made a Channel crossing to save the lives of Allied soldiers surrounded by German troops at Dunkirk is to be refurbished and re-opened as a visitor attraction in Scarborough.
The town council has granted permission to the proposed new owner of the Regal Lady for the ship to remain in Scarborough’s harbour while it is renovated, ahead of its re-opening as a new year-round Dunkirk-themed attraction.
The ship, which can currently hold 150 people, was one of the 700 so-called Dunkirk Little Ships that made the trip across the Channel to France in 1940 to rescue soldiers who had been cut off by the advancing Nazi forces.
It made three crossings and was used to evacuate more than 1,200 people.
The historic vessel has been berthed in Scarborough since 1954 and its current operator, Scarborough Pleasure Steamers Ltd, is for sale.
A potential new company owner is behind the plans to reinvent the Regal Lady as a static, floating visitor attraction and they have been boosted after permission to use the harbour was granted by Councillor Mike Cockerill, Scarborough Council’s cabinet member for major projects.
Once the ship’s refurbishment is complete, the new Dunkirk experience will make use of the Regal Lady’s spacious interior. It will be free to board and will have a licensed cafe on board.
A second, smaller boat, similarly themed as a Dunkirk little ship, would be used to take up to 12 passengers on trips out of the harbour.
The attraction is expected to appeal to visiting groups of schoolchildren, special interest organisations, as well as to local people, holidaymakers and daytrippers.
Coun Cockerill said: “The Regal Lady is part of the heritage of England and I hope it will be a successful attraction to visitors. It has everything going for it.
“Dunkirk is such a landmark event in our country’s relatively recent history and so anything like the Little Regal has to be preserved, enhanced and made available to younger generations.”
The plans were also welcomed by town councillor Janet Jefferson who is president of Scarborough and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce.
She said: “It’s good for Scarborough, good for the economy of Scarborough and will be good for the harbour. It will bring a good attraction to the town and hopefully bring more people into Scarborough.”
The Scarborough Harbour Task Group was set up in September 2017 to forge a future for the port and Scarborough’s fishing sector by securing the harbour’s regeneration, and Coun Jefferson added: “Hopefully the plans for the Regal Lady will form part of the development of the harbour’s pontoons. It will also complement our visiting vessels and our festivals such as Armed Forces Day and Seafest.”
A report that went before the council to outline the plans stated that the visitor experience will benefit the economy by creating jobs, and visitors will be able to enjoy exhibitions and artefacts.
The ship is due to transfer to its new owner in September and will be renamed Regal Lady/Oulton Belle, as it was called when it was part of the Dunkirk fleet.