Defender College



College Leader - Mr. Schmid


Student wellbeing managers - Mrs Gates & Mrs Baker

History of Defender

Defender was built in 1920 by Haywood, of Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, gaff cutter rigged, with a short mast, bowsprit, three foresails and a powerful diesel engine. Traditionally, the Leigh cockle boats were only 36 feet long and not only had a shallow draft, but were also light, so that they could be beached as the tide went out, allowing their crews to collect the cockles before the tide came in to refloat their craft.

Defender was the first of a new design, which was heavier, so that she could carry a crew of up to ten. This was to enable her to be more productive. But they soon discovered that her greater weight meant that she had to be beached further out, with a longer walk for her crew and a shorter time before the tide refloated her. Only two of the new design were ever built.

On 31st May 1940, she and her sister ships left for Dunkirk. Defender carried one RNVR officer, Sub Lieut. Soloman - later to receive the Navy's Distinguished Service Cross for valour - in charge of the Leigh cockle boats Letitia, Renown, Endeavour, Reliance and Resolute. Between 1820hrs and 1840hrs the flotilla had scattered during an enemy air attack. By 1850hrs RAF Spitfires had driven off the attackers and 5 Dorniers had crashed into the sea. At 1915hrs the flotilla, now reunited, reached Dunkirk Roads but found it impracticable to work off the beach. At 2130hrs they therefore started embarking troops from outside the jetty and transferring them to the schuyt Tilly and other ships. By 2240hrs the strong swell made work from the outside of the mole difficult, so they entered the harbour in formation and loaded troops to be transferred to other ships, including the Sarah Hyde and the Ben & Lucy.


At 0300hrs it was time to return to Ramsgate where Defender arrived in company with Resolute, landing her load of soldiers, including the Colonel commanding the Royal Worcestershire Regiment, several officers of the Cameron Highlanders and 60 men. In all, the Leigh Cockle ships had rescued about 1,000 soldiers.