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Manx National Heritage Secures War Hero’s Medal 10 March 2008

‘The Medal and certificate awarded to Mr Allen by DunkirkManx National Heritage has secured an important piece of the Island’s wartime history. The medal presented to Arthur James Allen by the town of Dunkirk, and the ‘Mention in Dispatches’ certificate which he was awarded for his part in the evacuation of British troops from that port in May and June 1940 were recently offered for sale, and were obtained by Manx National Heritage.

Mr Allen was a ‘Donkeyman’ (responsible for the auxiliary power plant or ‘Donkey’ engine) aboard the requisitioned Isle of Man Steam Packet Company [IOMSPCo] vessel Tynwald when she sailed into Dunkirk to rescue British and French troops in the late spring of 1940.

The town was filled with British and French troops who had fallen back in the face of Germany’s blitzkrieg onslaught, and who were awaiting rescue. A number of Steam Packet vessels made the perilous crossing to evacuate allied troops, braving dive bombers and mines to complete their task. One vessel, Mona’s Queen, was sunk with great loss of life. Tynwald however, lifted more than 9,000 men in the course of the evacuation, more troops than any other vessel engaged in the rescue.

‘The Despatch’s certificate awarded to Mr AllenMatthew Richardson, Curator of Social History for Manx National Heritage commented:

“This was unquestionably the finest hour in the history of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. The Steam Packet fleet, which don’t forget the previous summer had been ferrying tourists back & forth to the Island, were pitched into one of the most ferocious battles of the Second World War, as Hitler tried to crush resistance around Dunkirk. The crews acquitted themselves with great bravery and the heroic rescue of a large portion of the British army in France undoubtedly kept Britain in the war, and helped ultimately to defeat Nazi Germany”.

Matthew Richardson continued:

“We know Mr Allen came from Douglas, and if there are any members of his family still on the Island we would be pleased to hear from them, as it would be nice to obtain some further background information about his life and career”.

The medal presented to Mr Allen, and the ‘Mention in Dispatches’ certificate is now on display in the Steam Packet Gallery at the House of Manannan. The House of Manannan is open daily from 10 am to 5pm.

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