Norfolk passenger boat becomes Dunkirk museum

A historic ship has been lovingly restored and transformed into a floating museum.

Owner Heath Samples has spent thousands of pounds to restore Regal Lady to her former glories, according to the Eastern Daily Press.

Samples has turned the passenger boat into a museum, which tells the remarkable story of how she joined the armada of ‘Little Ships’ in the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940.

Samples decided to turn her into a floating museum – the Regal Lady Dunkirk Experience – after he bought the vessel in September 2019. He’d skippered Regal Lady when its former owner offered pleasure cruises on her.

“I thought the heritage of the boat, including how she had gone to Dunkirk was just so interesting,” says Samples.

“Restoring her really has been a labour of love.

“We’ve taken off the whole top deck, replaced 16 tonnes of steel, replaced the windows, put in a 20-seater cinema and a bar.

“We’ve also gone for a more British red, white and blue for her colours.

“When I look at her now, I think ‘did we really do all that?'”

Samples told the Eastern Daily Press he has immersed himself in researching the boat’s history, particularly its role in the Dunkirk excavations.

“We’ve got displays with more than 300 items from Dunkirk – dog tags, bullets, gas masks, stretchers, cameras and if we haven’t got it, we’re trying to get it.”

The museum, in Scarborough Harbour, is looking forward to a full season when lockdown restrictions are lifted.

From the 1930s until the 1950s, Regal Lady, then known as Oulton Belle, was one of the Yarmouth-Gorleston Steam Packet Company’s fleet of pleasure steamers.

During that period, people used to be able to enjoy riverside cruises on the boat, when Regal Lady was moored close to Foundry Bridge, near Norwich Railway Station.

Images courtesy of Heath Samples.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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